Today on “7 Questions,” we welcome … Elisabeth Crum, the Public Programs & Outreach Manager at The Sewall-Belmont House & Museum, which celebrates women’s progress toward equality and explores the evolving role of women and their contributions to society.
1. What was your most interesting recent project, initiative, partnership, or event?
On September 22, 2010, The Sewall-Belmont House & Museum presented the Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, with the Alice Award in recognition of the barriers she broke for women in becoming the first female leader of a major political party and the first female Speaker of the House. In front of more than 200 women and men, Speaker Pelosi underscored Alice Paul’s enduring commitment to achieving equality and encouraged all who were present to uphold her legacy until we meet the goal. It was inspirational to see Speaker Pelosi with her daughter and granddaughter and know that generations of women can look up to the Speaker and truly believe that women can fill the ranks of power in politics.
2. What else are you up to?
I am thrilled to say that we have a very exciting workshop in our career skill-building series coming up on October 11, 2010. Titled ‘Yes, Please! The Art of Etiquette,’ this event will highlight Amy Zantzinger, former White House Social Secretary under President Bush, and Laura Schwartz, former White House Director of Events under President Clinton. I cannot wait to learn tricks of the trade and maybe catch a few White House social secrets as well.
3. Is there a moment, person, or event that inspired you to do this particular work?
I was raised by a single woman who put herself through undergraduate and graduate schools after I was born. My mother showed me the challenges that women in society face and instilled in me the passion to work for equality so that no woman or family would have to struggle as we did.
4. Who is your hero in the nonprofit/philanthropy world?
Terry O’Neill, President of the National Organization for Women, is one of my personal heroes. Terry’s breadth of knowledge on everything from the state of the industry to the specific behaviors and expectations of direct mail and issue-based campaigns is awe-inspiring to me. She knows the history and boldly forges a path for the future of women’s rights activists, and I am grateful for her courage and conviction.
5. What is the single greatest (and non-financial) challenge to the work that you do every day?
The single greatest daily challenge for me is facing blatant historical inaccuracies. There are so many important stories to be told about this House, the women who lived and worked here and the National Woman’s Party, and so often the stories are presented inaccurately if at all. It saddens me that Alice Paul is not one of the main historical figures we learn about in public schools. Correcting these inaccuracies and sharing the inspiring message of the National Woman’s Party motivates me every day to do all that I can to ensure that women’s history is not forgotten and that we continue to learn the lessons of the past.
6. What advice do you have for other people who want to work in your field?
I got my start in nonprofits interning in development, which was a smart idea because every organization relies on fundraising and usually these are the available jobs. I would encourage people to figure out what issues they are passionate about and look for work in organizations with missions that align with their passions. It helps if you are always willing to help out, learn a new skill, and take on a new challenge — plus these practices make you invaluable to the organization.
7. What’s next?
I am so thrilled to be responsible for celebrating women’s progress toward equality and educating the public about the history of women’s suffrage and equal rights. We have a great deal of work to do, but I am proud to be a part of the organization that will ensure that Alice Paul’s legacy is written back into American history and that her dream of women?s equality is achieved.
EXTRA: If you could have a power breakfast with any three people (living, dead, or fictional) who would they be?
My three companions at a power breakfast would be Alice Paul, Queen Elizabeth I, and my mother. Alice Paul and Queen Elizabeth I were a couple of the strongest, smartest, and most capable feminist women in history; passionate about their missions and dedicated ceaselessly to the achievement of their goals. They are among the strongest historical female role models I can imagine, and it would be an honor to speak with them. As my personal inspiration and most trusted mentor, my mother would have to be present as well, especially for her ability to bring laughter and a love of life to any situation.