Women Pioneer Series - Kip Tiernan, Co-Founder of Rosie's Place

author/source: Cathie Briggette

October 6th, Rosie's Place is having a street fair to celebrate the dedication of a memorial to their founder Kip Tiernan on Dartmouth Street, between Boylston and Dartmouth.  Please sign up (for Free) to come and join us:  CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP


Kip Tiernan - Photo Courtesy of the Boston GlobeKip Tiernan dedicated her entire life to helping those who were overlooked by society.  She spent every day helping the poor and homeless of Massachusetts by feeding, sheltering, and advocating access to justice for them.  “In her relentless crusade to help poor and homeless people she has protested, lobbied, advocated, fundraised, rabble roused and made a general nuisance of herself with a degree of conviction and commitment rarely seen.”1

Kip was born Mary Jane Tiernan on June 17, 1926, in West Haven, Connecticut.  She was 6 months old when her father passed away, and 11 when her mother died.  She was then raised by her maternal grandmother.  Her grandmother was where she first learned to take care of the less fortunate, during the Great Depression.  When she was 16 she was already learning to fly and playing jazz on the piano. 

In 1947 she moved to Boston to study at the Boston Conservatory on a scholarship she received for piano, although she was expelled when she was 19 for drinking.  She then joined Alcoholics Anonymous and learned from recovering street drunks how to stay sober and became a successful advertising copywriter with her own agency. During this time, she also met with legendary Catholic activist Dorothy Day, from whose life she drew inspiration and spiritual sustenance for the decades that lay ahead. 2   In the late 60’s she left her successful public relations firm and became involved in civil rights activities. “She began writing articles for the "Catholic Left" which appeared in The Boston GlobeThe Phoenix, and Boston After Dark. In the 60's she discovered St. Philips/Warwick House, a Boston-based Catholic civil rights and anti-war movement ministry. She eventually joined their "team" because, as she says, "Poor people need public relations, too."3

Women-Pioneer-Series-Kip-Tiernan-Co-Founder-Rosies-PlaceIn the mid-1970’s single men constituted the vast majority of homeless people and shelters served men only; women literally had no options.4 While working as a volunteer for Warwick House in Boston and witnessing women disguising themselves as men to get food at the Pine Street Inn, a men’s only shelter, Kip founded the nation’s first homeless shelter for women – Rosie’s Place.  Rosie’s Place was established on Easter Sunday in 1974.  Created specifically to address the issues confronting the homelessness of women.  Kip felt there was a need for separate, safe, and secure shelter for women.  Rosie’s first address was an abandoned supermarket in Boston’s South End.  The name Rosie’s Place came from the notion that Kip had that everyone needs a rose in their life.  In the beginning, the mission of the shelter was to hand out coffee and used clothing and to offer a few women a place to spend the night.


A tribute video to Rosie's Place Founder Kip Tiernan 
This video was first shown at the annual Funny Women Serious Business fundraiser for Rosie's Place on 10/25/2011.

Get-Tickets-Funny-Women-Serious-BusinessKip passed away in June of 2011 from Cancer at the age of 85.   Rosie’s Place continues to provide the poor and homeless women with warmth, pots of piping hot coffee, nutritional meals, a safe place to rest from the dangerous streets, and perhaps most comforting - companionship.  Kip’s vision helped Rosie’s Place evolve from simply providing shelter to offering solutions.

Now, with its slogan “Diapers to Detox,” Rosie’s Place tries to meet an array of issues. While the shelter has only 20 beds, it serves lunch and dinner to 150 women a day. Its pantry provides food to about 800 women a month. It helps women find housing and avoid utility shut-offs. There are 300 students in its literacy program and Rosie’s place offers drug and alcohol abuse counseling.5


Kip Tiernan and Fran Froehlick Photo Courtesy of the Boston GlobeKip Tiernan along with her partner in advocacy for over 35 years, Fran Froehlich, helped create multiple agencies that assisted the disadvantaged in Massachusetts:

  1. The Boston Food Bank Boston
  2. Boston Healthcare for the Homeless
  3. Finex House
  4. John Leary House
  5. My Sister’s Place
  6. Transition House
  7. The Greater Boston Union of the Homeless
  8. Boston’s Emergency Shelter Commission
  9. Community Works
  10. Aid to Incarcerated Mothers
  11. Poor Peoples United Fund in Boston which provides financial and advocacy support to grassroots organizations in the greater Boston area

Herself360, this year is a proud media sponsor of the "Funny Women... Serious Business"

Event on October 16th, 2018 at the BCEC  You can get your tickets HERE