History Ph.D. Dissertations


Women's Advocates: Grassroots Organizing in St. Paul, Minnesota

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Rebecca Mancuso (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Ellen Berry (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Jorge Chavez (Other)

Fourth Advisor

Michael Brooks (Committee Member)


This dissertation overviews the creation of Women’s Advocates in St. Paul, Minnesota, one of the first shelters for battered women in the United States. Following the tradition of grassroots organizing and coalition building of the women’s movement in the 1970s, organizers of the Women’s Advocates collective overcame numerous obstacles to find allies for the creation and maintenance of the shelter. Identifying wife abuse—the term used in the 1970s—in their community, Women’s Advocates helped initiate community and state policy changes to help abused women and their children. As a part of the larger social movement that raised awareness of and helped those affected by abuse, Women’s Advocates’ work was groundbreaking and contributed to the nationwide discussion of wife abuse. Women’s Advocates’ successful grassroots organizing contributes to the historiography of U.S. Women’s History as well as social movement theory and potential activism.