Elizabeth Stafford Hutchinson, 1920-2010
“She has the rare ability to say or to
do the very thing needed to sustain.
Her help in the development of the
museum has been invaluable.”
When Elizabeth Stafford Hutchinson met Wilhelmina Cole Holladay in 1956, neither had any inkling of the bond they would one day share over the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Born in 1920 in Palestine, Texas, Hutchinson was a Texan through and through. Her unwavering enthusiasm and spirit had been among the museum’s most valuable tools in its efforts to become a reality and success. Hutchinson was a founding member; trustee, past secretary, and vice president emerita of the museum.
In 1983, Hutchinson came upon a cover story in the Washington Post about Mrs. Holladay and her vision for a women’s art museum. Remembering Mrs. Holladay from their work together entertaining American Field Service students in Washington, she called up her old friend to congratulate her. At the request of Mrs. Holladay, Hutchinson was invited to tea at the British Embassy, where the ambassador’s wife was honoring Mrs. Holladay. Over tea, Mrs. Holladay explained their plans for the museum, to which Hutchinson offered to begin a state committee in Texas. Mrs. Holladay responded with zeal, leading Hutchinson to say: “Clearly she knows that letting a Texan show off her home state is like writing a contract without a termination clause."
Over the next three years, the Holladay-Hutchinson team traveled throughout Texas to gain support for the new museum. On the itinerary were Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Lufkin, McAllen, San Antonio, Tyler, Hutchinson’s hometown of Palestine, and many more. At each luncheon, tea, or dinner Mrs. Holladay would speak for just twenty minutes on the museum’s purpose and plans. Hutchinson described the response as “just overwhelming,” and remembers, “Women and men signed up to be members of the museum.” Their dedication and networking paid off: the Texas Committee was chartered in 1985. Since that time, Hutchinson has been known as ‘Billie Holladay’s right arm.’ Elizabeth’s ability to be a loving best friend was unparalleled. She had the rare ability to say or to do the very thing needed to sustain. Her help in the development of the museum was invaluable. “I cherished our relationship,” says Mrs. Holladay.
Hutchinson was educated at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, The University of Texas at Austin, the University of Colorado and the University of Maryland. She had real estate licenses in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Texas, and was an active member of more than thirty national and international organizations, including the Pi Beta Phi and Pi Lambda Theta sororities; the Woman’s National Democratic Club of Washington D.C.; the Palestine, Texas Chamber of Commerce and Industrial Foundation; the American Association of Museums; and the Texas Association of Museums. As president of Washington’s Texas State Society in 1969, Hutchinson commissioned Felix de Weldon to create a bustof President Eisenhower for permanent display in the Eisenhower Theater at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Hutchinson attended every presidential inauguration from President Eisenhower’s in 1953 to President Obama’s first term, a feat for which she was interviewed by Fox News and National Public Radio.
Her legacy of dedication to women artists and to the national museum that houses their extraordinary work in the NMWA collections continues. The Elizabeth Stafford Hutchinson Endowed Internship (ESHEI) is offered once each summer. This 40-hour per week, 12-week internship pays a $1,650 stipend to help defray the cost of living in Washington, D.C. The internship was established by the National Museum of Women in the Arts Texas State Committee in April 2010 to honor Elizabeth Hutchinson, long-time board member, Texas Committee founder, and vice president emerita of the NMWA Board. Her daughter, Ann Hutchinson Slattery, has joined her mother as a member of the Texas Committee.
This article was adapted from “DONOR PROFILE | Elizabeth Stafford Hutchinson” Women in the Arts Magazine Fall 2009.