History

The mission of Rosie’s Place is to provide a safe and nurturing environment for poor and homeless women to maintain their dignity, seek opportunity and find security in their lives.

In the early 1970’s, Rosie’s Place founder and social justice activist Kip Tiernan volunteered with St. Philip's/Warwick House, a Boston-based Catholic civil rights and anti-war movement ministry. Her work took her into housing projects, jails and hospitals where she saw the needs of poor and homeless people. Kip was particularly struck by the sight of women who tried to disguise themselves as men in order to get a meal in men-only Boston shelters, as there was no shelter for homeless women. Kip envisioned a place where poor and homeless women would have a bed, a meal and somewhere other than the streets to meet, where they would be loved unconditionally.

On Easter Sunday 1974, Kip, with four other volunteers and $250 donated by friends, opened the doors to Rosie’s Place in the empty Rozen’s Supermarket on Columbus Avenue in Boston’s South End. It was the first women-only shelter in the United States. They chose the name Rosie’s Place because it held no connotations and sounded like it could be a women’s coffeehouse or favorite aunt’s kitchen; “Rosie” is no one in particular, yet all the women we serve. A decision was made at the outset to accept no city, state, or federal money to ensure Rosie’s Place’s independence from outside demands, policies or prejudices. 

On opening day in 1974 there were more volunteers than guests. Small, pink notices that read, “If you need a meal, come here and we’ll help you” were distributed among women in the neighborhood. From that day, the word about Rosie’s Place spread and the number of women who came by began to grow. Four decades later, Rosie’s Place has evolved from providing meals and shelter at that former supermarket to a multi-service agency that works to create answers for 12,000 women a year through wide-ranging support, housing and education services.

Timeline

  • 1974 — Rosie’s Place opens on Easter Sunday.
  • 1977 — Rosie’s Place moved into a five-story row house in Washington Street in Boston’s South End, and purchased a triple-decker on Columbia Road, Dorchester not long after, which became our first permanent housing for nine formerly homeless women.
  • 1984 — Shortly after Rosie’s Place’s 10th birthday on April 24, 1984, fire destroyed the top two floors of the Washington Street building. Staff, volunteers, guests and neighbors came together to offer assistance and support and, with the help of the Boston community, all services were restored within 24 hours. Plans started on renovating the former location of St. Philip’s Church at 889 Harrison Avenue, Boston, where Kip had volunteered earlier.
  • 1986  — Rosie’s Place’s new home was dedicated on June 2, 1986. The previous location on Washington Street was then converted into a lodging house that provided a permanent home for 13 women.
  • 1995  — Rosie’s Place converted a triple-decker in Dorchester into a home for women living with HIV, after starting a pilot program on one floor of the Columbia Road, Dorchester house.
  • 1996 — The Women’s Craft Cooperative was formed and this social enterprise, which gives job training and permanent, part-time employment to Rosie’s Place guests, began “turning buttons to brooches.”
  • 1998  — A capital campaign was launched to expand and rebuild Rosie’s Place. Commitments of more than $3.2 million were made for the reconstruction.
  • 2000  — Rededication took place in June. New services in the renovated building included a dining room that seats 150, new showers and laundry facilities, and new space for the Rosie’s Place Groceries food pantry.
  • 2010  — A new Women’s Education Center was completed in the space adjacent to Rosie’s Place at 887 Harrison Avenue. In classrooms on four floors, women could attend free onsite ESOL and Literacy classes.
  • 2015  — Rosie’s Place continues to grow, in recent years adding Self-Advocacy and Legal departments and enhancing community outreach with the launch of Outreach services, as well as a presence at Boston Public Schools and Franklin Field housing development.