March is Women's History Month

Jane Wagley, Executive Director/Client Advocate

March is Women’s History Month which gives us an opportunity to really reflect on the women we have known that have made a major impact on our lives and choices. Some of us think about our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, teachers, etc. that have shaped, guided, supported, and helped us become the women we are today.

While the famous women who have contributed so much to our culture, history and society are particularly showcased this month, I would like to tell you about two women who impacted my life and the path I chose. They have also changed our culture, history and society but they are not household names and may never be but their contributions have helped our country to understand domestic violence, its impact on our communities and how protecting women from abusive partners has evolved.he first battered women’s shelter in the United States opened in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1973. Before then, women in communities throughout the United States sheltered abused family, friends, colleagues and even strangers in their homes, apartments, dorm rooms, motels – anywhere they could find to keep a victim safe from their partners. The laws were almost non-existent in domestic violence cases and the stigma was so shameful that too many women remained silent. Police would rarely arrest an abuser and in many cases would lecture the victim on being a better wife or girlfriend.In 1976, Pennsylvania established the first state coalition against domestic violence and became the first state to pass legislation providing orders for protection (restraining orders) for battered women. Oregon became the first state to legislate mandated arrest in domestic violence cases.Ellen Pence and Dr. Lenore Walker are the two women I had the pleasure of learning from for a short time and who influenced me to advocate for victims of domestic violence. Their hard work, research, diligence, and positive attitudes taught me that the safety, dignity and integrity of all women are the keys to a society that values all its members.

Ellen was a co-founder of the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project in Duluth, Minnesota with a group of other social activists in the early 1980’s. They went on to pioneer key domestic violence innovations, including the power and control wheel, mandatory arrest, batterer intervention programs and the coordinated community response to domestic abuse that is paramount in addressing this issue. In 1997, Ellen founded Praxis International (praxisinternational.org) to join with other progressive social change organizations and programs to work toward the elimination of violence against women and their children. Specifically, Praxis focuses on the many ways that violence is used to subjugate women. The Advocacy Learning Center at Praxis is where I trained and met Ellen. She inspired us all and instilled in us the importance of our work and the need for advocates to join together to make institutional and systemic change.Dr. Lenore Walker wrote The Battered Woman in 1979 and introduced us to the Cycle of Violence. It was a groundbreaking book that inspired women and men to understand domestic violence, its impacts and how the cycle of violence was an important tool in defining the reasons women stayed in abusive relationships. Dr. Walker inspired me to continue learning and advocating for victims. She helped me with a curriculum I co-authored and she has continued to be a major force in the movement to end violence against women.

You can find more information about these two remarkable women on-line or in the library.

These two women shaped, supported, guided and impacted my life and choices. Who are your choices? Who made you the woman you are today? Reflect on their wisdom and gifts to you during this month especially. Honor them as you continue on your own special and unique path.