Based on extensive research in women’s archives in Amsterdam, Berlin and London, this work in progress tells the history of the first shelters for women and children fleeing domestic violence in western Europe.
The shelters in this paper, founded by radical feminists in the early 1970s, began to enact feminist theory whilst second wave intellectuals were still writing it. Based on principles of “self-help” and consciousness-raising, they provided alternative, anti-family and anti-state modes of living for women and their children. The often anonymous women operating the shelters pioneered feminist definitions of domestic and sexual violence that have transformed the boundaries between the state and private life, paving the way for the creation of “new” crimes such as marital rape and coercive control. I analyze the transformations of the shelters through gradual processes of accepting subsidies and concurrent de-radicalization up until the early 1990s. I consider their interactions with local police, doctors and academics, as well as the complexities of daily life in close quarters between mothers and their children. Finally, I recover the position of migrant women in shelters and shelter activism against what they described as the “homicidal alliance” of asylum law and violence against women. As usual, we will convene in OIH/BH E1.02 from 15:30 to 17:00, followed by drinks. All are welcome!
Lotte Houwink ten Cate is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of History at Columbia University, and a Visiting Fellow at the Freie Universität in Berlin. She holds MA degrees in European and Middle Eastern history from Columbia, the London School of Economics, and the University of Amsterdam. Her dissertation is an intellectual history of the classifying and criminalizing of domestic and sexual violence across western Europe since 1970. Her research on Hannah Arendt has appeared in New German Critique, and she has been awarded Fulbright, DAAD, Chateaubriand, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds and Columbia International Travel Fellowships. Lotte recently received the Jerrold Seigel Fellowship for Intellectual and Cultural History.