Back in the mid 1800’s on a farm in Worcester, Massachusetts lived a woman named Abby Kelley Foster. For many years, Abby traveled around the country, speaking publicly and promoting freedom for people who were enslaved. She did this during a time when society demanded that women be submissive, quiet and obedient. She opened public platforms to women, and by her very presence, awakened many women to a consciousness of their own power. Her anti-slavery views, along with her public presence as an outspoken woman, were not always welcomed by the people in the towns she visited, and Abby sometimes found herself receiving threats and without a place to sleep for the night.
During her remarkable life, Abby helped develop plans for the first National Woman’s Rights Convention held in Worcester, MA, which was attended by thousands of people including other luminary abolitionist leaders like Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth. She was also an organizer of the founding convention of the New England Woman Suffrage Association and under the auspices of the American Anti-Slavery Society, undertook the effort of organizing and financing passage of the 15th Amendment. Back on her farm in Worcester, she, her husband, Stephen and daughter, Alla helped shelter runaway slaves as a stop along the Underground Railroad.
As our Founder, Annette Rafferty wrote in her first memoir, Wearing Smooth the Path,
“…the stubborn stand taken by our shelter’s namesake, Abby Kelley Foster, in giving her life over to ending slavery, has been a strong force in our determination to end homelessness for as many women and children as possible in one lifetime. Our daily work is her living legacy…”.
Annette chose to name our shelter after this remarkable woman because of her tenacity and resilience in standing up to the injustices of the time and her drive to put forth solutions to make the world a more just place for everyone. She spent her life giving humanity to those being discriminated against and brutally mistreated, and in being named after this famous abolitionist and women’s rights activist, we are called to follow in her footsteps to ensure that every woman who comes through our doors has her voice heard and has access to resources to help her move her life forward and live with dignity and independence.
In celebrating Black History Month, we take pause to reflect on our namesake and recommit to following in her footsteps to ensure equity for all women who come through our doors seeking safe shelter and affordable, supportive housing. Our country has faced many recent challenges and has been faced with a global health crisis and the magnification of racial disparities and racial violence in the U.S. In response and to ensure we are doing all that we can at Abby’s House in living our values, we formed a Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Anti-Racism Task Force. The Task Force, which is comprised of staff and board members, will engage the Abby’s House community to evaluate our current practices and programs to make sure that every woman, no matter her race, ethnicity, age, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, educational background or gender identity, has the same level of opportunities and resources she needs to rebuild her life and thrive.
Together, we can and will make positive changes in the ways we help women move out of homelessness, just as Abby Kelley Foster made positive changes in the the abolition of slavery and helping to pave the way for the eventual passing of the 19th Amendment.