Who We Are

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. Fifty years later, Rosie’s Place has evolved from providing meals and shelter at that former supermarket to a multi-service community center that works to create answers for 12,000 women a year through wide-ranging support, education and outreach services.