Remembering Ellen Pence, Women’s Abuse Crusader

On Jan. 6, Ellen Pence, the “mother” of domestic violence intervention, died after a long battle with breast cancer. Her advocacy efforts for victims, however, live on.

Pence was a co-founder of Duluth’s world-renowned Domestic Abuse Intervention Project and is also credited with establishing the Duluth Model of intervention in domestic violence cases, which uses an interagency approach involving police, probation, courts and human services with the goal of protecting victims from ongoing abuse.

Her work changed the lives of many women. “In short, there are women alive right now that statistically wouldn’t have been if Ellen hadn’t done her work,” said state Sen. John Harrington, DFL-St. Paul, and a former St. Paul police chief, in an article published in The Star Tribune.

Pence’s advocacy began in the 1960s, as an activist in the housing, antiwar, civil rights and feminist movements. In 1975, she turned her focus to the battered women’s movement, which remained the primary focus of her work throughout her lifetime.

Pence is an example of a woman who blazed a trail and woman whose shoulders many women and men stand on today. Remember her efforts and remember to thank those you know who are making a difference in the lives of women today.

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