Our History

We are celebrating our 50th anniversary as the first shelter in the nation for victim-survivors of domestic violence this year. We began in 1972 as a divorce rights information line—a number for women to call to get legal information and advice about leaving their marriages. Soon, volunteers realized that most of their callers were being abused by their husbands and had no safe place to go. They wrote letters asking friends, family and members of the community for funds in order to purchase a permanent shelter. Within two years, they collected enough funds to make a down payment on the house in Saint Paul, which became the first domestic violence shelter in the country. Later on, Women’s Advocates purchased the two adjoining properties and connected them.

Today, Women’s Advocates provides shelter and services for up to 50 victim-survivors and their children daily, conducts crisis interventions and safety referrals via the 24/7 crisis line, and educates our community to stand with victim-survivors and end domestic violence.

Women’s Advocates collective members were instrumental in establishing a strong foundation for the legal protection of victim-survivors and their children in Minnesota.  We were also an active leader in the passage of some of the first domestic violence legislation in the country, including The Shelter Appropriation Act (which funded emergency shelters like ours) and the Domestic Abuse Act, allowing individuals to obtain an order for protection without having to file for a divorce or legal separation.

Coverage of those involved in the women’s safety movement:

Sharon Rice Vaughan (The Guardian)

Dr. Ellen Pence (Huffington Post)

Val Kalei Kanuha (International Examiner)

Women’s Advocates:  Grassroots Organizing in Saint Paul, Minnesota (a dissertation by Amanda Jo Dennison)

1976 Article on Women’s Advocates (Minneapolis Tribune)