MARY PERCIVAL MAXWELL
BA. Hons. (Trinity, Toronto) B.A. MA. (New Hall, Cambridge) Ph.D. (Cornell)
May 16, 1937 - December 24, 2023
Mary passed away peacefully in Toronto, after a year’s stay at Isabel and Arthur Meighen Manor and following a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in 2014. For sixty years the loving and loved wife of James (Jim) Douglas Maxwell. Dear mother of Peter-John and Kim Maxwell (John Thomas). Loving Grandma to William Patrick and Laura Lucy Claire Thomas and Milana (Mila) Karolina Maxwell. Predeceased by her parents Peter (F.W.) Percival and Dorothy Warren Percival and by her two oldest brothers, James Warren O’Hara and William Seymour O’Hara. Survived by her brothers Robert Henry O’Hara and Peter Warren Percival (Christy).
Born in Toronto, Mary attended Whitney Public School and Havergal College before starting her university and academic career. She was presented at Court in 1955, “the last of the debutantes”. Her studies and degrees were in the fields of social anthropology and sociology. She taught briefly at the University of British Columbia, before taking a position along with her husband at Queen’s University, the university her brothers had attended.
Surprised at the widespread institutional discrimination against women at Queen’s and the climate of sexism, Mary was dedicated to initiating and facilitating the effort to address all aspects of the discrimination. She took on the challenge of co-founding the Association of Women Teaching at Queen’s on D-Day 1973 (the first such organization in a Canadian university) to press for the elimination of discrimination in hiring, salary, workload, promotions, and fringe benefits.
As well as being among the founding members of the Department of Sociology in 1969, and later one of the drafters of the departmental constitution, Mary cofounded and taught the first two courses in Women’s Studies (in Sociology) as well as the first course in Anthropology at Queen’s. In 1985, with a summer research grant and the strong support of the Chief Librarian, Mary’s efforts to increase the collection of feminist literature paved the way for the further development of Women’s Studies. She served on numerous committees including the executive of the Queen’s Faculty Association, committees of the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association and was the second president of the Ontario Association of Sociology and Anthropology. She chaired the University’s International Women’s Year events in 1975. A sometimes childbirth educator, Mary’s commitment to childbirth education to enhance the quality of birth and to empower women through knowledge and practice was lifelong.
For several years Mary was a guest speaker in Medicine, Engineering and the School of Business. In the early 1970’s she was a member of a group of colleagues who offered the first non-credit course on human sexuality at Queen’s.
Mary researched, published and co-authored, with Jim, professional articles on the Canadian Association of Independent Schools, and its member schools; on women and the elites; a report on the profession of occupational therapy in Canada; and flea markets and garage sales. She loved teaching, especially in women’s studies and anthropology. She was honoured to be nominated for the Queen’s teaching award, the establishment of which she had played an instigating role. Her career was cut short by illness in 1986.
Mary was always an avid traveller. She spent time at the Warren house in Penticton as a teenager and worked at Jasper when she was at university and in the Arctic as an anthropologist. Her study of private schools took her across Canada. She visited her father’s family in England, close family friends in Greece, as well as travelling in Europe with friends and children at various stages. In 1997-98, when Jim was a visiting professor in Japan, they travelled to Hong Kong and Thailand. In 2001 they bought a home on Sanibel Island, Florida where they spent the winters in what was in some ways an international community. In 2004 they moved from Kingston to Glen Warren, her family’s waterfront property at Shanty Bay. There she continued with the development and restoration of the gardens which had been a retirement project of her father as well. Jim and Mary have an apartment in Toronto close to both children and grandchildren. Much of the hosta on the grounds come from Glen Warren, sometimes known as Hosta Hollow!
Mary’s feminist spirit and contribution will live on in the memory of her family, friends, former colleagues and students. Funeral and burial arrangements are private. Memorial donations may be made to the Alzheimer’s Society, or the charity of your choice.