While reading Sanctuary: Kip Tiernan and Rosie’s Place, the Nation’s First Shelter for Women, I kept thinking, “How can this be the first time I am learning about this?” This picture book, written by Christine McDonnell and illustrated by Victoria Tentler-Krylov, is a remarkable story of persistence and love for humanity. It is also a reminder of how much work this country still has to do to make sure that there is a home for everyone.
Kip Tiernan was a child during the Great Depression and lived with her grandmother who fed the hungry men who would come to their home looking for food. Even though their family did not have much, they always had enough to share with others. As an adult, Kip worked at Warwick House in Boston, where men could come for assistance with food and rent. Women had nowhere to go for help and would have to disguise themselves as men to get any assistance. This was something that Kip did not feel she could allow to continue, so she opened her own women’s shelter.
Rosie’s Place was a sanctuary for women (hence the title), a place where people would listen to them and where they could relax and feel safe. Rosie’s Place gave them access to food, shelter, and clothing, but it was also a place of peace. Kip Tiernan believed every human being was valuable and deserved to feel like it, too. That is a feeling that has been inaccessible to so many people for such a long time.
Sanctuary tells a wonderful story, but it is also a beautiful picture book. The watercolor illustrations are soft and warm, making the reader feel comfortable, even while immersing oneself in a book about a difficult topic. The book also never brings up the fact that Kip Tiernan does not dress or appear like many of the other women in the pictures, because how Kip dressed made her no less of an advocate or a representative of her gender. Something else that is important for all of us to remember today.
— “Bigotry kills. It kills the spirit, the initiative, the ego, the mind, the body, and eventually the soul.” — Kip Tiernan
Learning for Justice Social Justice Standards:
Diversity 8: I want to know more about other people’s lives and experiences, and I know how to ask questions respectfully and listen carefully and non-judgmentally.
Justice 14: I know that life is easier for some people and harder for others based on who they are and where they are born.
Action 20: I will work with my friends and family to make our school and community fair for everyone, and we will work hard and cooperate in order to achieve our goals.