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Who Was That Woman?

Members of UAW Local 848 in Grand Prairie can be proud of Elnora Purcell, who was a union activist during the period when the company, then known as Consolidated Vought Aircraft, was first organized (1949). Eventually, the union became Local 848 and the company was known as Vought. Purcell went on to run for top union offices, several of which she won, and served as Chair of the Grievance Committee for two terms. Eventually, she served our union for many years as an International Rep.

In 2005, I located this legendary union woman in Kansas City, where she continued as an activist retiree. I recorded an interview for KNON Radio. At first, she agreed to send a great deal of invaluable material to our local union archives, but reconsidered when she looked her photos and documents over and decided that the union movement would be better served if she kept them and wrote her own memoirs. Eventually, she sent an envelope with copies of some materials documenting her life in the union movement.

In 2006, we received the sad news that Elnora Purcell had passed away. We have had no word as to her memoirs or the original documents of her great contribution to our union movement.

We already had several photos of Elnora Purcell, including this one, which was donated by former President Everett Day (wearing cowboy hat). The man to Sister Purcell's left is Walter P Reuther, International President of the UAW-CIO and of the CIO. According to the November 30, 1955, union newspaper that Purcell copied for us, Reuther was in Grand Prairie to help kick off an internal organizing drive. He also explained the merger of the Congress of Industrial Organizations and the American Federation of Labor.

Rather than try to detail Purcell's contributions, let us look at a campaign statement that she wrote when she decided to run for President of UAW-CIO Local 893. These are the words she handed out to the membership around 1956:

Dear Brother and Sister Union members:

Several months ago members of Local 893 started asking me to run for the office of President of our Local Union. At that time I refused. As election time has drawn nearer, many many more members have asked me to run for this office. The volume of requests has caused me to reconsider. After thorough consideration and consultation with my family, I have consented to accept nomination.

Now that I have consented to run, I want to win by the greatest majority of votes possible. My reason for this is that I want to be the President of the majority, not the few. I want the majority to feel that I am their President, and this is our Local Union. Since I cannot see all of you personally, I hope you will accept this letter as a personal request for your support.

I promise to give you the same diligent and conscientious service in this office that I have given you as Chairman of your Shop Committee and other offices to which you have elected me. I will give you my program at a later date. However, at this time, I want to give you some of my background in aircraft and union activities, which I am sure you will agree, has a very great bearing on one's qualifications for this important office.

I have been a member of the UAW-CIO since 1942, which was my first opportunity to belong to this great union. I have held many offices since that time. I helped negotiate the 1942 contract. I was Committeewoman and Vice President in UAW-CIO Local #350.

I helped organize Local 893, and was terminated for organizational activities during the drive. I managed to keep my job and continued to help organize for UAW-CIO. I was elected and served as your observer in the election here at CVA. I was the first Committee Person elected in Zone 2, and have since served 4 terms in that capacity. I was elected Chairman of the Shop Committee last year after Roy Evans resigned from that office. I was re-elected for the term I am now serving.

I have been a delegate and attended most of the UAW-CIO International conventions since the 1944 UAW Convention. I have been your elected delegate to the State Convention three times and have attended many others. I have been delegate to several summer Educational Conferences, Aircraft Conference, County Council and etc.

As far back as 1946, I declined to accept a position as a Representative. Since my husband is an International Representative, I felt two in the same family would not be conducive to a satisfactory home life, as we would both be away from home so much. I am still of that opinion. However, it would be a pleasure to serve this Local Union in the position of President.

I have had some 15 years of union activities and aircraft work. In actual aircraft work, I attained "A" class riveter, "B" class loftsman, and "A" class inspector. I was a sub-assembly Production Leadwoman, and later worked in Engineering. Now, I am in Production Control. I believe you will agree that all this aircraft experience, as well as union experience has helped to equip me for this top position of president. I don't believe any other candidate for this office can claim a comparable background.

In giving you this information, I request your serious consideration of my qualifications. I know all of you want Local 893 to be the best union possible. To have a strong union, you must have qualified officers. I beg of you, do not take lightly your obligation to weigh the facts before you vote. Examine the qualifications of each candidate. Divide the truth from the slander. Don't be swayed by impossible gimmicks! Go to the polls and Vote.

I will run as an independent candidate. I am not part of any clique or faction, therefore, if elected, I will remain free to service all the members without discrimination or partiality.

Fraternally yours,
Elnora "Terry" Purcell

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