How Crones Counsel came to be
by Ann Kreilkamp
When I began Crone Chronicles, as a small photocopied newsletter back in 1989, there were two younger women who were drawn to the project. These women were very enthusiastic, especially about the idea of gathering old women together for a few days. Where would we do this? I asked, and they tossed off the idea of camping in the woods. Needless to say, I wasn’t too excited about the idea, as I couldn’t imagine many old women wanting to rough it in order to be together. But they were adamant. So I gave in, and let them have a half-page ad in the upcoming edition of Crone Chronicles. But, I warned them, you are going to have to be responsible for putting this thing on. It’s not going to be my job.
Well, wouldn’t you know, by the time that issue came out, both those women had left town. So I tried to forget the idea, but it wouldn’t go away. I knew that gathering women together was a wonderful idea, if we could do it in a more civilized manner so that more women would want to participate.
Around that time a subscription to Crone Chronicles came in the mail from a woman who included her calling card. On it were the words:
(Crone Empowering Others)
Needless to say, I was intrigued. This woman lived in Salt Lake City, so the next time I was there I called her up and arranged to meet. (Shauna died in 1998. Click here to read our Tribute to Shauna Adix.) Over dinner in a Chinese restaurant Shauna told me that she had been retired for three years from her 20-year position as Director of the Women’s Center at the University of Utah. She said that ever since then she had been sitting at home mulling over the question, What Is Crone Work?
So I said, “Well, I’ve got a project for you, if you want it.” She asked me what it was, and I told her. Would she like to be in charge of a gathering of old women? She didn’t even hesitate before saying yes.
Shauna gathered a group of Salt Lake City women around her and started planning. We decided to hold it in the town where I live, since I know a man who owns a hotel, and maybe he would give us a good deal. Shauna and her group came up to check out the hotel, and the hotel manager asked them how many participants they were expecting. Shauna looked at the other women, shrugged her shoulders, and said, “Well, we have no idea.There’s ten of us, so at least ten!” But the hotel needed some kind of guarantee for a certain number of rooms. So the group went out on a limb, put up their own money for the initial down payment, and guaranteed, I think it was, 50 rooms.
By the time that first Counsel rolled around, there were 107 women registering, from 16 different states, who ranged in age from 42 to 76.
From the Program Notes for Crones Counsels
The term “Crones Counsel” was a deliberate choice as the title to signify the intent of the gathering as a place where older women could share their histories and counsel with each other. Needless to say, many people, hearing the name, think it is “Crones Council;” but the idea from the outset was to have a meeting with no stars, no keynoters, and no hierarchy of organization. Basic to the design is the notion that we learn most, and probably best, as older women by sharing the wisdom borne out of our life experiences in an environment which promotes equality, encourages diversity, and supports personal empowerment.
From the beginning, the time allotted for sharing of personal stories has been a centerpiece of the gathering. Participants are encouraged to ask for what they need and want, including requests for personal standing ovations as part of the empowering process. Workshops are suggested and led by participants, further demonstrating our belief that our personal and collective wisdom helps us grow and learn through discussing our similarities as well as our differences. The focus is upon creating an atmosphere of trust and giving opportunities for participants to meet in small groups as well as the group as a whole. Time is also allowed for spontaneous requests. Ritual and entertainment are also included in the four days of meeting.
Crones Counsel, Inc.
In 1995, that procedure changed when the original planning group from Salt Lake felt that the time had come to incorporate as a nonprofit organization. The idea of incorporation had been raised at earlier gatherings. The impetus was to ensure continuity and long-range planning as well as an adequate financial base. Prior to this time, planning committees had had to come up with their own money to carry organizational costs until sufficient income from registrations was available.
Crones Counsel was incorporated in the state of Utah in October, 1995. The original governing board, called the Cadre for Responsible Oversight and Governance (CROG) was made up of seven members representing different planning groups. CROG developed policies and procedures for operation, written by-laws, amended the original Articles of Incorporation, achieved provisional 501-c-3 (nonprofit) status from the Internal Revenue Service, and took on the role of receiving and acting on requests to host meetings for the future.
Expanding Our Vision
At the April 2001 meeting of the Board, it was decided that the time had come to reach out beyond Crones Counsel itself and promote national and international contacts with other organizations which serve older women.
Upcoming Crones Counsel
The next annual gathering of the Crones Counsel will be on September 21-25, 2016. Click on the Registration link for more information.