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Announcing the Mercy Otis Warren Cape Cod Woman of the Year 2020

The Mercy Otis Warren Cape Cod Woman of the Year Selection Committee in partnership with the Barnstable County Commissioners is proud to announce that the winner of the 19th Annual Mercy Otis Warren Cape Cod Woman of the Year Award is MARION “MIMI” McCONNELL of Cotuit.


Mimi McConnell’s name was placed into nomination by the Barnstable County Commissioners and was approved by that body on July 8, 2020.

She was originally nominated by Nancy Meagher as President of the West Barnstable Civic Association; by Nancy Shoemaker, 2018 Mercy Otis Warren Cape Cod Woman of the Year, and by Mimi’s daughter Newbery Honor-winning author Lauren Elizabeth Wolk.

Despite COVID-19, the Mercy Otis Warren Cape Cod Woman of the Year Selection Committee was privileged to receive many outstanding nominations this year.  Mimi rose to the top in this turbulent year as a modern-day Mercy Otis Warren, who, in the words of her daughter has served the people of Cape Cod “without fanfare”.

Soft-spoken as Mimi is, her tenacity, when it comes to the preservation of the environment, delivers a powerful punch. Before moving to the Cape in 1982, she helped create the Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland and worked with Save the Bay projects in San Francisco and Rhode Island. In Cape Cod, she quickly became involved, serving as a Board member of the Cotuit-Santuit Civic Association with whom she led a grass roots village effort to preserve a 35-acre parcel of land to protect the water quality of Popponesset Bay. This parcel is known as part of the Crocker Neck Conservation area, purchased by the Town of Barnstable in the early 1980s.

Mimi was co-founder of the Coalition for Buzzards Bay, serving as its first Executive Director from 1988-1995.  During this time, she also was a Cotuit Water Commissioner, a Barnstable Town Meeting member, and elected to the first Barnstable Town Council, serving as its first woman president. As an activist in the Cotuit Fire District, she created the Citizen Handbook, which explains the workings of local government.

In 1997, then Governor Jane Swift created a Community Working Group to address concerns arising out of hazardous waste materials plumes emanating from the Massachusetts Military Reservation (now Joint Base Cape Cod).  Mimi was appointed Chair of the group and guided the legislative process to create the Master Plan codified in Chapter 47 of the Massachusetts Acts of 2002.  This Master Plan is now a national model for military-civilian relations. Today she serves as the Chair of its offshoot, the Environmental Management Commission Community Advisory Council, which oversees activities at the Base’s 15,000 acres and on the Military-Civilian Council of Joint Base Cape Cod.  Camp Edwards is now a designated water preserve.  In the words of Nancy Meagher, “without the guidance and commitment of Mimi McConnell, this vital protection of water that we drink would likely never have come into being.”

Mimi has served on the Board of the Cape Cod Foundation, created the annual Jane Eshbaugh Community Service Award, served on a Cape wide Special Commission on County Governance (2012) and was an active Board member of Barnstable Land Trust (winning the Barnstable Land Trust Founders Award in 2018.).  Currently she is active in movements to replace the Canal bridges, and to decommission the Plymouth Nuclear Facility.

In nominating Mimi, 2018 Mercy Otis Warren Cape Cod Woman of the Year recipient Nancy Shoemaker said: “Over 250 years ago, Mercy Otis Warren …discovered in her life of service that government and the voice of the people were essential ingredients in getting things done.  Mimi, too, has used the public forum…She shares many of the passions and interests of Mercy Otis Warren (who)…would have approved of Mimi’s tenacity and willingness to work for what is right.”

ABOUT MERCY OTIS WARREN  Mercy Otis Warren, born in West Barnstable in 1728, was a playwright, a historian, a pioneer in women’s causes, a champion of liberty, an advocate of the Bill of Rights and a patriot.  In an era where it was unusual for woman to be educated, much less to emerge as a leader, her advocacy for the cause of patriotism and a central role in the Revolution was remarkable.

ABOUT THE AWARD  The Mercy Otis Warren Cape Cod Woman of the Year Award was established in 2002 to annually recognize a woman who exemplifies the traits of leadership in the community and has made significant contribution to the arts, education, business, community involvement and/or volunteerism while embracing the ideals of patriotism. Past recipients have been: Marion Vuilleumier (2002), Jean Gardner (2003), Eugenia Fortes (2004), Felicia Penn (2005), Bonnie Snow (2006), Lynne Poyant (2007), Josephine Ives (2008), Mary LeClair (2009), Gloria Rudman (2010), Susan French (2011), Judy Walden Scarafile (2012), Dorothy Savarese (2013), Mary Lou Petitt (2014), Michelle DeSilva (2015), Ann Williams (2016),  Dolores DaLuz (2017), Nancy Viall Shoemaker (2018) and Juliet Bernstein (2019).

ABOUT THE CELEBRATION Due to the uncertainties of COVID-19, plans for the 2020 celebration are on hold.  Organizers hope to host the event in the fall. They will also be honoring Mariah Pillsbury, of Wareham, the winner of the 2020 Mercy Otis Warren Freedom of Expression Award.

The Committee thanks our sponsors:   Cape Cod 5, Barnstable County, Tales of Cape Cod, Barnstable Village Association, West Barnstable Civic Association, Cape Cod Media Group and the Cape Cod Writers Guild.