Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920

Biography of Bell M. Purdy, ca. 1869- ?


By Megan Steinke, student, University of Wisconsin Green Bay, Green Bay, WI

Secretary, Minneapolis, MN, League of Women's Voters

Bell M. Purdy was born in Minnesota around 1869. Her father was born in Ireland and her mother was born in Ohio. She had a sister named Catherine T. Morin. She attended college at the University of Minnesota where she met her husband, Milton D. Purdy. She graduated in 1891. She also attended law school. After getting married around 1897, they had a daughter named Florence. Milton was the U.S. Assistant Attorney General from 1908 to 1909. Due to this, the family moved to Washington D.C. during this period. The family moved back to Minneapolis permanently in 1910, where Milton Purdy was briefly a U.S. District Court judge and then a practicing attorney. There is no mention of Bell Purdy after 1922.

Bell Purdy was very active in women's rights. The two main organizations she was affiliated with were the Minnesota League of Women's Voters and the Women's Club. While being one of the main hostesses for the Club's regular parties, Purdy was in several leadership positions. She was the Head of the Committee of Hospitality for the League of Women's Voters in Minnesota. She also had a part in solicitating new members to join the League of Women's Voters. She was also the Director of Home and Education for the Women's Club. She was the director of Home and Education in the early 1910's. Lastly she was elected Secretary for the League of Women Voters for the 5th District. In 1918, Purdy posed in a “living tableau” that was staged at the Hennepin County Suffrage Association. She represented as a “colonial dame” in the “Woman Without a Country” picture. The event was meant to publicize suffrage and political questions. Purdy also spoke at the event.

Purdy was known for throwing parties and playing bridge. As members of many different clubs and organizations (non-suffragist related), Mr. and Mrs. Purdy entertained frequently. Some of these clubs included the Minnesota Alumni Club and the fraternity Phi Kappa Psi. The couple traveled to the Philippines, California, and Washington. Purdy was also a part the Red Cross Refugee Department, and sewed garments for refugees.


“150 Dance at Party for Virginia Guests,” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, December 9, 1914, 6.

“Class Reunions,” Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, June 14, 1908, 18.

“The Coming Week,” Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, September 29, 1912, 20.

“Fair Minneapolis' Portias: Women Who Study Law Because Their Taste Inclines Them in that Direction,” Minneapolis Journal, February 11, 1899, 5.

“Flower Garden Forms Setting for Cotillion,” Minneapolis Tribune, December 28, 1907, 8.

“Many Visitors Will Spend Yuletide Holidays in City,” Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, December 3, 1922, sec. 15, 1.

“Senior Girls to be Honored at Alumnae Tea Next Saturday,” Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, May 31, 1914, sec. 15, 2.

“Suffrage Tableaux Posed by Hennepin County Women at Mrs. Ueland's Home,” Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, September 15, 1918, sec. 11, 10.

“Suffragists Here See Sure Victory for Equal Rights,” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, January 11, 1918, 1.

“Ten Units for Refugee Sewing to be Started at Lake Minnetonka,” Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, April 7, 1918, sec. 11, 1.

United States Federal Census, 1910.

“Washington Guests,” Minneapolis Tribune, December 24, 1907, 5.

“Women Voters Plan Welcome of Mrs. Maud Park,” Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, November 12, 1922, sec. 15, 11.

“Women's Club Prospering,” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, April 13, 1910, 2.

“Women's Voter League to Hold All-Day Meet,” Duluth Herald, July 6, 1920, 8.

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