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Debbie Mauldin Cottrell

PURCELL, MABELLE AGNES UMLAND (1892–1978). Mabelle Agnes Purcell, author, educator, and historian of Texas education, was born to Edwin Charles and Mattie (Carroll) Umland on January 15, 1892, in Waller, Texas. As a child she attended South Texas Baptist College in Waller, which offered lower-level classes in addition to college courses. After the Galveston hurricane of 1900 the family moved to the East Texas town of Jewett, where Mabelle graduated from high school. Soon thereafter she took the state teachers' examination and received temporary certification. After a brief teaching job near Walburg and some coursework at Southwestern University in Georgetown, she enrolled at Southwest Texas Normal School in San Marcos and graduated in 1910 with a permanent teachers' certificate. She then moved with her family to Edinburg, where she taught school for two years before entering the University of Texas. From 1912 to 1916 she alternately taught in the Austin public schools and attended the university, planning to graduate in 1917. However, because the university discontinued its German department during World War I, her classwork was disrupted and she did not complete her degree. On June 12, 1917, Mabelle married Stuart McLeod Purcell, a student she met while attending the University of Texas. The Purcells soon moved to Robstown, where they farmed and raised their three children. She and her husband worked as freelance reporters during the Great Depression, while Mrs. Purcell commuted to Kingsville to continue her college work. In 1936 she received her bachelor's degree from Texas College of Arts and Industries (now Texas A&I University). Two years later the family, still recovering financially, moved to Austin, where their children could attend the University of Texas, and began rehabilitating the Red-Purcell House, a family estate, which they later purchased.

Mabelle Purcell continued her own education in the 1940s. In 1951 she received a master's degree in educational psychology from the University of Texas. Her thesis for this degree, directed by Frederick Eby, was a history of two nineteenth-century female schools in Texas, Live Oak Female Seminary near Gay Hill and Stuart Seminary in Austin. The thesis was published in book form as Two Texas Female Seminaries. During this time Mrs. Purcell also taught at the Texas School for the Deaf in Austin and commuted to Anahuac for six years to teach special education. In 1960 she retired from teaching but remained active working on her collection of historic memorabilia and traveling with her husband and grandchildren. In the 1970s she and her husband compiled a collection of biographical sketches of about eighty Texans and their educational endeavors; these were published in 1977 as This Is Texas. In 1974 the Purcells received a certificate of commendation from the city of Austin for their efforts in preserving the historic Red-Purcell House. Mabelle Purcell died in Austin on December 11, 1978, and was survived by her husband, one son, two daughters, and numerous grandchildren. Her funeral was held at the University Presbyterian Church in Austin.

Austin American, March 12, 1953. Austin American-Statesman, January 6, 1952, March 7, 1954, June 11, 1972, December 13, 1978. Mabelle Umland Purcell Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Debbie Mauldin Cottrell, "PURCELL, MABELLE AGNES UMLAND," accessed September 23, 2018,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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