The Women's Center supports victims/survivors of domestic and sexual violence in Marquette and Alger Counties through programs that Protect, Educate, Advocate, Counsel and Empower! (PEACE).
The Women's Center believes that every individual is entitled to dignity and respect, and that women and men should be treated equally under the law and by society in general. No individual should be discriminated against or limited by society based on age, sex, career choice, sexual orientation, or other circumstances of legitimate life choices. The Women's Center provides services in a non-judgmental and supportive manner to individuals as they make decisions for their lives.
The Women's Center advocates for change in the larger society to eliminate bias and to enhance the ability of all individuals to be fully functioning members of society.
There is no charge for shelter or support services. All services are paid for
though fundraising, grants and donations from our community.
When the book, The Feminine Mystique, hit the newsstands in 1963, it raised troubling questions. Local women began to gather in homes for consciousness-raising meetings. For the first time, many realized they were willing to fight for the rights of all women and encourage each other to be all they could be.
The inspiration was contagious. A group approached Northern Michigan University about establishing a Women’s Center on campus. The first step was hosting a women’s conference on campus: “The Changing Role of Women in the 70s.”
An outcome was the establishment of a Women’s Center as a department in the Division of Continuing Education in 1973. Holly Greer was the part -time director, and June Easton served as a part-time counselor. An immediate focus was career advisement to help women enter nontraditional, high-paying jobs.
The Women’s Center remained on the NMU campus until 1980. During those years, programs were established with collaborative and community partnerships that included the Joan Curto Halfway House for Chemically Dependent Women, the Spouse Abuse Shelter, and the Sexual Assault Response volunteer team. Before there was a physical Spouse Abuse Shelter, women in the community took domestic violence victims and their children into their own homes.
Before the Sexual Assault Response Team was established, rape victims had no advocates to help them through the hospital and legal system. Hospitals had no rape-evidence kits for use later in court.
The 1980s saw a move from NMU to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Guild Hall and the welcoming of Sally May as executive director. The focus broadened to a community-based center and nonprofit status was obtained. Programming expanded to include school-age prevention and education, self-defense training and continued career advisement. Women’s Center counselor Barbara Belew established support programs for child survivors of sexual assault and incest.
In 1986, the current administrative building was purchased on Front Street in Marquette. State Representative Dominic Jacobetti and the Marquette Labor Council provided significant support, and a weekly on-site bingo game generated financial support. The 1990s welcomed Suzanne Kensington as executive director. A notable achievement was national recognition for refusing to turn over a rape survivor’s file that was subpoenaed. The refusal went all the way to the State Supreme Court. Advocacy and education services were expanded into Ishpeming and Munising. Funding was received from the federal Centers for Disease Control to support a Community Coordinated Response to Domestic and Sexual Violence initiative. New programming included Teen PEP, or peer-to-peer domestic violence and sexual abuse education and awareness through skits and role-playing.
The 2000s saw the transition of leadership to Gail Nelson. The Women’s Center PakRatz Resale Shop—a profit center within a nonprofit organization—was relocated within the building. Each person from Harbor House receives a PakRatz voucher for clothing, shoes and household goods. PakRatz accepts donations of clothing, accessories, household goods and furniture. The resale shop is open to the public and all proceeds support the Women’s Center programs and services.
Tremendous community response and support allowed Harbor House to relocate to 245 West Baraga Avenue in 2007.
Today, with the leadership of director Phyllis Loonsfoot, the Women’s Center remains a valuable community asset that restores hopes and dreams. Harbor House annually provides approximately 4,000 shelter nights serving 800 women, 200 children and ten men. The average shelter stay is from forty-five to ninety days at an average cost of $2,500 per person. Harbor House is at capacity from seventy-five to eighty percent of the time, and some services extend beyond the physical shelter.
Outreach advocacy and education services are provided each year to more than 3,000 nonshelter residents affected by stalking, domestic, sexual and dating violence. Partial financial support is provided through state and federal and local grants. Revenue is generated from building space rental and resale shop sales. Community donations play a critical role in assuring Women’s Center and Harbor House services are accessible to all seeking support and assistance.
All organizations go through difficult times and the Women’s Center is no exception. Recent challenges have been met, and throughout the transition, women and children have continued to receive shelter from domestic violence, and sexual assault victims have received crisis response and support.
Women’s Center’s new board members and exceptional staff are looking to the future with optimism and enthusiasm. So much has been accomplished, so many women and children have been helped, yet the need is still there and the work continues.
from the Marquette Monthly, September 2011
To Start a New Women's Center...
We are in for a very, very long haul...
I am asking for Everything you have to give.
We will never give up...
You will lose your Youth, your Sleep,
Your Patience, your Sense of Humor
And occasionally...the understanding and support
Of people that you Love very much.
In Return, I have nothing to offer you but...
Your Pride in being a woman, and
All your Dreams you've ever had for your daughters,
And nieces, and granddaughters...
And the certain Knowledge that
At the end off your days
You will be able to look back and say that
Once in your life
You gave Everything you had
-from a speech by Jill Ruckleshaus
(read by Mary Soper at the Women's Center Organizational Rally to begin anew (after leaving NMU) as a private non-profit, community-based Women's Center in October 1980, Marquette, Michigan.
Serving Marquette and Alger Counties
1310 S. Front Street
Marquette, MI 49855
Office Hours: 8-5 Mon-Fri
245 W. Baraga Street
Marquette, MI 49855
Open 24 hours/every day
906-226-6611 or 1-800-455-6611
Alger County Satellite Office
101 Court Street
Munising, MI 49862
Office Hours: 7:30-4:00 Mon-Fri
906-387-4554 or 1-800-455-6611