Remembering Ellen Pence

In 1986 or ‘87, Ellen Pence came to Los Angeles, where I was working at the time, and did a training for advocates. I remember she asked us: “Are we trying to domesticate these women, or liberate them?” From there, she talked about how shelters should and could create space for women to claim their power, dignity, and visions for their own future.

That was the first time I met Ellen and it impacted me profoundly. I have always remembered that question and it has informed much of what I have done since then. The other gift Ellen gave was to always be so clear that if we wanted to know what would be helpful to battered women, we needed to ask battered women, not think it up in a separate room. So simple, so profound, and so right.

Over the years, I have seen Ellen speak at various conferences and gatherings. Each time, she led me to think deeply, and offered such substantial insight that it shifted and shaped my work. The humor, compassion and loving-kindness she brought to everything she did and said was completely disarming, breathtaking and delightful. Ellen’s life was a blessing for all of us who knew her, and had the privilege to learn from her. And it was a blessing for so many people across the world who don’t know her or of her, but whose lives are better because of all she did.

I am so, so, soooo sad she is gone; she has always been one of my heroes, ever since that first time I saw her speak.

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