Women. Fraternities. Ferguson. – Leadership Lesson from Prudence Crandall
Three words when clumped together infer only negative press and someone being victimized. It feels like someone is stirring the pot of all things that are uncomfortable and undesirable. These are the stories featured at the top of the news. Yes, it can be depressing and demoralizing. The issues seem so enormous.
Leadership lesson of Prudence Crandall — When you are wrong, find a way to make it right.
Waiting for my children to check out books at the public library offers some time to read titles and admire beautiful book covers. One title – Forbidden Schoolhouse – caught my attention. I checked it out and read it in one sitting. What a remarkable story full of leadership lessons of Prudence Crandall (1803-18)
Prudence was raised a Quaker and felt the importance of social justice. She ran a successful boarding school to educate young women when it was not the norm. This school was regarded as one of the best places to send young women. Prudence could have been comfortable continuing as the owner and Dean of this school. That would be easy.
Instead, she chose another path. She closed her current school and opened a boarding school for African-american girls to be educated. It was the same curriculum but for different students. This was such a risky personal and professional venture. Her case was ultimately heard by the Connecticut Supreme Court and the same arguments were offered by Thurgood Marshall a century later in Brown v Board of Education.
One woman made a difference by following her instincts at every turn. Despite the threat of prison; attempted arson; and bullying tactics from the majority of people, she was tenacious.
One woman created a legacy by educating young women who became educators for many others. The last chapter of the book lists many of the students educated and their contributions as educators and community leaders.
One woman who built a network of friends and allies who shared her principles of fairness and justice.
One woman who made her convictions and intentions heard, even though she was not allowed to speak in public forums because she was a woman.
One woman’s actions gives me hope for what we can collectively do to face the horrific news stories and real oppressive behavior of others.
The real, hopeful story — the leadership lesson — is found at the end of the book. Ultimately, the townspeople and descendants of those who so openly and harshly opposed her school were regretful. They petitioned the Connecticut legislature to pay restitution for the financial hardship the community and state had inflicted upon her. The legislature awarded her a $400 annual pension at the end of her life. She has also been named the Connecticut State Heroine.
Those who were so adamant that she was doing something wrong, realized they were wrong. They took action to make it right. Each person’s actions matter. Do what you know to be true and right.
When you are wrong, find a way to make it right.
Prudence Crandall’s life inspires me. Her words in the face of adversity ground me.