Our History

Founded in 1974, Women’s Advocates was the first shelter in the nation for women and their children escaping domestic violence.  When we were formed as a collective in 1972, Women’s Advocates operated out of the founding volunteers’ homes, then in a rented office space. Our organization began essentially as a crisis line—a number for women to call to get legal information and advice.  Soon, volunteers realized that the biggest obstacle for these women who were trying to escape domestic violence was a safe place to stay.  Thus, they decided to write letters asking friends, family and members of the community for funds in order to purchase a permanent shelter for women.  Within two years, they collected enough funds to purchase the house at 584 Grand Avenue.  Here, they were able to house all of the administrative and advocacy offices plus the residential rooms and kitchen for residents. Over the next 30 years, Women’s Advocates purchased the two adjoining properties and connected them via links.

Today, Women’s Advocates provides shelter and services to an average of 50 women and children daily, helps dozens of callers to the crisis line daily, and educates students and professionals about domestic abuse prevention and services.

Women’s Advocates was instrumental in establishing a strong foundation for the legal protection of women and children experiencing domestic violence in Minnesota.  We were also an active leader in the passage of some of the first domestic violence legislation in the country.  Our agency lobbied for and achieved passage of the Shelter Appropriation Act, providing state financial support for shelters and safe homes, and the Domestic Abuse Act, allowing individuals to obtain an order for protection without having to file for a divorce or legal separation.

Over our 44 year history, Women’s Advocates has provided emergency services to tens of thousands of women and children primarily from the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area and beyond.

Media coverage of some of Women’s Advocates’ founders:

Sharon Rice Vaughan (The Guardian)

Dr. Ellen Pence (Huffington Post)

Val Kalei Kanuha (International Examiner)