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Rosie’s Place
Offering Women Shelter and Hope
by Andrea Cleghorn

From the Author’s Preface

I first came to Rosie’s Place in January of 1994 on assignment for the Boston Herald to write a Sunday magazine piece. It was for the anniversary of the founding of Rosie’s Place, Easter Sunday twenty years before. I knew that Rosie’s Place was the first emergency shelter for women in the country, but like many people in the Boston area, I had only a hazy idea of the work being done or even of the population being served. Was Rosie’s Place for homeless women? Yes, but not only. Was it for battered women? Too many times, yes, but thankfully not always. What I found was that Rosie’s Place is dedicated to women who need help. The mission statement says it simply: to provide a safe and nurturing environment for poor and homeless women to maintain their dignity, seek opportunity, and find security in their lives.

In the end, much of my research took place in the dining room at Rosie’s, where I worked the Friday lunch shift for two years, and in coffee shops where I met women to talk. The symbol of Rosie’s Place is a coffee cup with a rose. The coffee I knew about. The flower came later.
One sunny June morning, I picked up a Rosie’s guest at her apartment and we headed out to have lunch. We had spent enough time together that at this point, my needing to do more research for her story was just an excuse to get together with someone whose company I enjoyed. Along the way, she asked me to stop the car at an apartment building where she knew the custodian. He had been putting in flowers and had let her know he had some extras. He said she could give the plants to her landlady, who might give her a few days’ grace on the rent.
She put a couple of pots in the back of my car, then handed one to me. I initially refused, thinking she should use all the plants she had for goodwill at home. She insisted, saying, “I never have anything to give to you. Please take it.”
Over the months we had known each other, I had seen her thrown into situations that would defeat most people. I was in awe of how she managed, as her courage and resiliency were tested over and over again, but she kept going—and with an amazing sense of humor. She never had much money, and funds were particularly tight that morning when she wanted to give something to me. It was important for her to be able, for once, to do that. The plant grew and eventually blossomed on my front porch, a gentle reminder of the desire to nurture as well as to be nurtured.
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