Friday, July 23, 2010

Support women’s history (by Suzie)

A purple guitar. A dozen cookies. An original T-shirt from the 1977 National Women’s Conference. An elegant booklet containing the poem Maya Angelou wrote for Bill Clinton’s inauguration.

These are some of the goodies in an online auction for the National Women's History Project in Santa Rosa, Calif. Please pass the link to others who may be interested, and don’t hesitate to bid against me. The auction started on the 19th, in honor of the first Women’s Rights Conference in Seneca Falls, N.Y.
Our auction ends on July 28, which is the birthday of Lucy Burns, a passionate suffragist who worked tirelessly to secure women's right to vote. Lucy Burns demonstrated her commitment throughout six arrests and imprisonments for picketing the White House on behalf of Woman Suffrage.
Molly Murphy MacGregor, a co-founder, had been a high-school social studies teacher before becoming executive director of the educational nonprofit. She says it’s looking to merge with a nonprofit partner to continue its mission: “to recognize and celebrate the diverse and historic accomplishments of women by providing information and educational materials and programs.” She writes about this in a letter on the website, which includes current partners, an interesting list of women’s organizations.

The end of the NWHP would sadden me, but if I’ve learned anything from women’s history, it’s that other women will carry on. I asked Molly to write something for this blog, and she sent the following:
In 1980, five friends founded a grassroots organization, which, with some audacity, we named the National Women's History Project. Our goal was to add the week that included March 8, International Women's Day, as Women's History Week in the school calendar. Our purpose, in addition to encouraging teachers to consider women as a topic, was to promote a view of women's history that was multicultural and international, and recognized women's work, both inside and outside the home.

In the intervening years, the week has been expanded to a month, and the National Women's History Project has grown into a national institution that promotes women's history throughout the year.

Teachers, librarians, historians, publishers, workplace managers, and other interested individuals -- women and men -- helped build, not only a national institution, but more important, a national movement. The history of the National Women's History Project includes countless stories of angels who arrived just in time to help us write a business plan, do a video series, design a poster set, write a press release,* and share their skills with us. It has been the extraordinary generosity of thousands that have allowed us to establish a Women's History Resource Center as well as to design and distribute our Women's History Resource Catalog and our award-winning website.

Our latest challenge has been the same as that of all nonprofit organizations. How do you survive such a deep recession? For us, the recession caused an extraordinary drop in sales, which are the major source of our funding. Of course, donations were also dramatically reduced as everyone struggled just to pay their bills. There is no question that 2009 was our most difficult financial year, but with the help of our auctions, the Bickford Foundation, the nonprofits who joined us as partners as we prepared to celebrate 30 years of "writing women back into history," and the angels who continued to volunteer and donate whenever and whatever they could, this year is much better.

In the thank-you notes I write to people who send us donations, I really try to let them know that we would not be here without their support. I know this is also true for most nonprofits. When I open a note from an elderly woman, who is apologizing because her donation is only $5, I want to cry with gratitude. To know that even on her limited income, she still considers the work we do important enough to make the sacrifice she is making, so that she can send us a check, is the ultimate validation of our work.
*That’s where I fit in.