Best known for founding Rosie’s Place, Kip Tiernan was at the center of the fight for economic and social justice for nearly three decades. Kip advocated, protested and lobbied for affordable and accessible housing, health care and education as well as jobs, civil rights and peace. Drawing from her early roots in the radical Catholic left movement, Kip personified the underlying philosophy of Rosie’s Place that together we can change the world if we are only willing to care enough and, in her own words, “to take the risk of being human.”
Born in West Haven, Connecticut, Kip lost both her parents by the time she was eleven and was raised by her grandmother. Always unconventional, she took flying lessons at age 16 and began her interest in jazz. She arrived in Boston in her early 20s and met up with writers and reporters who encouraged her to pursue a career in advertising. For the next twenty years, Kip enjoyed writing mail order catalogues, direct mail and advertisements, including musicals. She received a McGraw/Hill award for a public relations campaign for a corporate insurance company. She also ventured into writing and producing musical reviews. Kip was in the process of rewriting a play about housing, hope and humor that she wrote twenty years ago.
Kip also used her writing skills to pen articles for the Catholic left, which appeared in the Boston Phoenix, Boston Globe and Boston After Dark. Through her parish, Kip came in contact with St. Philip’s/Warwick House, which was involved in the civil rights and anti-war movements. In 1967, she was asked to help coordinate a press conference at St. Philip’s and soon thereafter joined the team ministry because “poor people need advertising, too.” Her work took her into housing projects, mental institutions, jails and hospitals where she saw first hand the effects of de-institutionalization and the lack of a coherent public policy to address the needs of poor and homeless people.
In 1974, Kip founded Rosie’s Place, the first drop-in and emergency shelter for women in the United States, in response to the increasing numbers of women throughout the country. Rosie’s Place provided poor and homeless women with warmth, pots of piping hot coffee, nutritional meals, a safe place to rest from the dangerous streets, and perhaps most comforting - companionship. Kip’s vision has helped Rosie’s Place evolve from simply providing shelter to offering solutions: a drop-in center, extended stay housing, permanent housing, meals, and a multitude of on-site opportunities for our guests.
Kip’s legacy also includes her role as a founder of the Boston Food Bank and co-founder of the Boston Women’s Fund, Health Care for the Homeless and Community Works. In 1980 she co-founded the Poor People’s United Fund, a “spare change” funding source for grass roots community groups involved in issues of homelessness, hunger and access to justice. In 1990 she established the Ethical Policy Institute, a multi-disciplinary community of people engaged in political analysis, economics and community activism and taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Massachusetts. A vibrant public speaker and social commentator, Kip lectured at hundreds of high schools, colleges, churches and conferences and wrote articles in local as well as national publications.
Kip Tiernan passed away on July 2, 2011.
Kip Tiernan Papers at the Schlesinger Library:
Watch Executive Director Sue Marsh on FoxNews Morning Show reflecting on the life of Kip Tiernan.
Each year, Rosie's Place awards a year-long fellowship to an eligible applicant to honor the life-long work of our founder. Fellows are paid a $40,000 stipend. Read more about the Kip Tiernan Fellowship.
Doctor of Human Services, Simmons College, 1986
Doctor of Human Services, Anna Maria, 1987
Rogers Fellow, Andover, 1988
Bunting Fellow, Radcliffe, 1988-1989
Doctor of Humanities, Holy Cross, 1989
Doctor of Humane Letters, Harvard University, 1989
Doctor of Law, Northeastern University, 1990
Doctor of Social Sciences, Salem State College, 1991
Doctor of Humanities, Regis College, 1993
Doctor of Social Sciences, Bentley University, 1997
Doctor of Human Services, Suffolk University, 1997
Doctor of Humane Letters, Newbury College, 1998
Doctor of Humane Letters, Emerson College, 1998
Doctor of Humane Letters, Pine Manor, 1998
Doctor of Humane Letters, Boston College, 2000
Currently: Adjunct Professor, University of Massachusetts, 1990-present
Awards (Partial Listing):
South End Redevelopment Authority Closeout, 1979
Isaac Hecker Award (Paulist Center), 1979
Mass. Association of Mental Health, 1981
Boston NOW, 1983
Boston League of Women Voters, 1983
Boston Fair Housing Award, 1984
Eleanor Roosevelt Award, 1985
National Association of Social Workers, 1985
Woman of the Year, Boston TAB Newspaper, 1986
Action for Boston Community Development, 1987
Martin Luther King Lincoln/Sudbury Regional High, 1988
Social Action Ministries, 1988
Woman of the Year Political Award, Boston College, 1989
Noetic Sciences Natural Award, 1991
Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus, 1992
New England Women’s Leadership Award, 1995