There are, perhaps, as many stories about Jean Marshall Crawford as there are people around to tell them.
Marj Signer passed along a good one, dating back 30 years when Crawford was leading the fight to convince the conservative Virginia General Assembly to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment.
Crawford relished her days fighting for the ERA, Signer wrote in an e-mail, and when women's-rights supporters were arrested during a 2012 rally on the steps of the Virginia Capitol, she recalled being arrested there herself back in 1982, after the legislature narrowly defeated the Equal Rights Amendment, a move that help kill its inclusion in the U.S. Constitution.
Being among the first to be arrested on the steps of the Capitol in Richmond was a badge of honor for the feisty Crawford, Signer told the Sun Gazette.
Crawford, long a fixture on the Arlington and Virginia political scene, died on the afternoon of Feb. 5 – just hours before the Arlington County Democratic Committee, on which she served for years, held its monthly meeting. It was Crawford who sat at the check-in table at those monthly meetings, making her, for many, the face of Arlington Democrats. A decade ago, when a twentysomething Kip Malinosky attended his first Democratic gathering, Crawford was the first to greet him. Today, Malinosky is party chairman.
"We dearly loved Jean," a visibly moved Malinosky told Arlington Democrats on Feb. 5. "She was an absolutely amazing person – such a gracious heart, dedicated to service. We will dearly miss her."
On the local Democratic committee, Crawford also served as deputy treasurer and was a veteran precinct captain. Crawford had something that can't be replicated: An institutional memory of local, state and national politics dating back two generations. And she had passion.
"Jean motivated others to work hard for the cause of equality – she remained to the end someone who inspired and motivated others to work hard for the causes they cared about," Signer said.
Crawford's work for the National Organization for Women (NOW) included serving in a staff position focused on abortion rights, winning election to its nation board and serving as president of the Virginia chapter. Signer, who is legislative vice chairman for Virginia NOW, called Crawford "a tireless warrior."
And a scorekeeper, too: Crawford once regaled a reporter on how a certain likely presidential candidate wasn't going to get her support, because – decades back – that individual "didn't lift a finger" to further the cause of the ERA. While a political partisan, Crawford also was something of a force of nature, said County Board Chairman Jay Fisette, a friend of long standing.
"She exuded positive energy, loved Arlington and acted on her deeply held Democratic values every minute of every day," said Fisette, who praised Crawford's "smile, warmth and her infectious laugh."
Long a member of the staff of the county commissioner of revenue's office, Crawford in recent years served as legislative counsel in the office of County Manager Barbara Donnellan.
Crawford "was a dear, special person who was full of life and shared her joy with all of us, every day," Donnellan said. "She made enormous contributions to Arlington and leaves a big void in our community, in our office and in our lives."