Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Kip Tiernan
Kip Tiernan bio, founder of Rosie's Place

The Awesome Woman for Wednesday, July 6, 2011, is Kip Tiernan, Social Justice Activist, Boston, MA (died Saturday, July 2, 2011 at the age of 85).
Kip Tiernan was a local heroine around the Boston area. She founded Rosie's Place in 1974 (, a sanctuary for poor and homeless women, after noticing that women were coming to a shelter in drag in order to be fed. Tiernan mobilized a handful of volunteers and opened the doors of an old, abandoned grocery store as the first drop-in emergency shelter for women in the United States.**

From her obituary in the Globe: Born in West Haven, Conn., Ms. Tiernan was 6 months old when her father died and 11 when her mother died. Raised by her maternal grandmother, she learned during the Great Depression to help others.

“Her grandmother always had soup or stew on the stove,’’ Froehlich said, “and when people came to the house who were down on their luck, she always had bowls of soup or stew ready for them.’’*
By her teens, she was learning to fly a plane and play jazz piano. She also was expelled from a Catholic boarding school, telling the Globe she had failed math and asked too many difficult moral questions....*

She worked as a newspaper reporter and moved to Boston in 1947 to attend the Boston Conservatory on a scholarship, only to be expelled for drinking. “I was raped once,’’ she told the Globe in 1988. “I was 19. Drunk.’’*

Speaking of the women she served at Rosie’s Place, she added: “I’ll tell you one thing. It helps me identify with what some of these women have been through.’’*

Ms. Tiernan joined Alcoholics Anonymous, learned from recovering street drunks how to stay sober, and became a successful advertising copywriter with her own agency. In 1968, she did some free work for priests who had invited activist Daniel Berrigan to speak at a church.*

Listening to him, she later recalled, it was as if a voice inside her head said, “I have just passed through a door, and there is no going back.’’

Leaving the affluence of her advertising life, she moved into Warwick House, an urban ministry center in Roxbury. Using her copywriter’s facility with language, she became one of Boston’s most quotable advocates for the poor, coining phrases such as “from the Great Society to the Grate Society.’’ *

At Rosie's Place, thousands of women have found an oasis of hope and nourishment. Tiernan's vision has helped Rosie's Place evolve from a simple shelter to a critical resource providing a wide range of services. In addition to feeding nutritionally balanced meals to 150 women twice a day, every day of the year, the shelter now offers an advocacy center, grocery program, adult education, public policy support and a multitude of other on-site opportunities for guests and their children. **
She was nominated in 2005 for a Nobel Peace Prize.*** 

Tiernan was also a founder of the Boston Food Bank (see the Greather Boston Food Bank) and co-founder of the Boston Women’s Fund, Health Care for the Homeless and Community Works (see Police and Community Youth Club). 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, and she currently serves as the co-director. In 1990 she established the Ethical Policy Institute, a multi-disciplinary community of people engaged in political analysis, economics and community activism. Tiernan also taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Massachusetts. A popular public speaker and social commentator, Tiernan lectured at hundreds of high schools, colleges, churches and conferences and wrote articles in local as well as national publications.***