Last week, one of our Exponent II founding mothers and longtime board member, Carrel Sheldon, died after a heartbreakingly swift cancer diagnosis. Next week, we will be sharing some memories of her from our community. If you would like to share something, please email us at exponentblog[at]gmail[dot]com.
The first thing we noticed about Carrel Shelden is her beautiful skin. She glows. When we met her two decades ago we were baby feminists, eager to learn and make a difference. Carrel has been such an amazing guide in our journeys. One memory that stands out is from the early 2000s. We were in Robin Baker’s living room trying to rework Exponent II’s mission statement. To newbies like us it all seemed a little esoteric. We could not understand why every word mattered. All these years later we get it and have referred back to the mission statement that was largely crafted by Carrel, and shared it to feminists investigators like Mormons share the Thirteen Articles of Faith. It reads:
The purpose of Exponent II is to provide a forum for Mormon women to share their life experiences in an atmosphere of trust and acceptance. This exchange allows us to better understand each other and shape the direction of our lives. Our common bond is our connection to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and our commitment to women. We publish this paper as a living history in celebration of the strength and diversity of women.
As a Founding Mother, she knew this statement would impact our legacy.
We love that “atmosphere of trust and acceptance” is front and center because hundreds, maybe thousands, of women were blessed over the years to sit in a circle around Carrel at the Friday night introductions. It was her job to set the tone and intentions for the weekend and she did it so well. She outlined for us the principles of trust as a gift, the problematic nature of expectations, and the power of acceptance–of ourselves and others. As long as there are Exponent retreats, someone will do their best to “channel Carrel” and promotes these principles.
On a personal level, when Carrel asked how you were, we knew she meant it. She didn’t just want to hear the happy superficial stuff, she wanted the truth. The truth mattered to Carrel. She in turn was always willing to tell her story in an unflinching manner. Whether the story involved Mitt Romney in a hospital room, or plucking a prickly hair off Judy Dushku’s chest so the baby will nurse, or the pain of losing her beautiful Victorian home on Pleasant Street, Carrel shared honestly and without ego or shame.
Even after she left Boston, she never left the Exponent community. Many a time at a board meeting when we were discussing some problem, Judy would chime in and say, “If Carrel were here, she’d say ‘What are we going to do about it?’ Ladies, what are we going to do?” We don’t know how many issues we worked through over the years using Carrel’s voice as our conscience. She’s Exponent’s Jimminy Cricket.
As we learned about Carrel’s illness, our hearts broke. As members of her Exponent II community, we take comfort as we see how her influence permeates every aspect of this organization: the retreat, the magazine, the blog, the Facebook page, and our individual lives. Thank you Carrel, for your beauty, wisdom, and the foundation you created. We love and honor you.
Aimee Evans Hickman, Emily Clyde Curtis, & Heather Sundahl
This is beautiful. Carrel is a legend.
So sorry for your loss! I don’t know Carrel, but I have benefitted greatly from the fruits of her labors and her vision…having been raised in a stifling patriarchal Mormon culture, I can’t tell you how much I suffered with feeling unheard, worthless, and alone until I discovered Exponent II. Carrel’s service has richly blessed my life, even though I never met her.