When faced with recounting the legacy of Ellen Pence the inadequacy of the written word is stark. She loved deeply, thought brilliantly, worked tirelessly, gave generously, and laughed so beautifully in every realm of her life. There is not one who met her, even for the briefest of time, that could leave her presence without a smile and an insight into some aspect of themselves or others.
Pence co-founded the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP), an inter-agency collaboration model used in all 50 states in the United States and more than 17 countries. A leader in both the battered women’s movement and the emerging field of institutional ethnography, she was the recipient of numerous awards including the 2008 Society for the Study of Social Problems Dorothy E. Smith Scholar Activist Award for significant contributions in a career of activist research.
Known for her generosity, quick wit, and sense of humor, Ellen learned from battered women and has worked with and trained thousands of professionals in the domestic violence field. Her work with men who batter is the basis of DAIP’s Creating a Process of Change for Men Who Batter.
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Pence graduated from St. Scholastica in Duluth with a B.A. She was active in institutional change work for battered women since 1975 and helped found the DAIP in 1980. Pence received her PhD in Sociology from the University of Toronto in 1996. She used institutional ethnography as a method of organizing community groups to analyze problems created by institutional intervention in families.
Pence is credited with creating the Duluth model of intervention in domestic violence cases, Coordinated Community Response (CCR), which uses an interagency collaborative approach involving police, probation, courts, and human services in response to domestic abuse. The primary goal of CCR is to protect victims from ongoing abuse.
In 1998 Pence founded Praxis International and was the chief author and architect of the Praxis Institutional Audit, a method of identifying, analyzing, and correcting institutional failures to protect people drawn into legal and human service systems because of violence and poverty.
Pence dedicated her life to ending violence against women. She led, supported, and enlisted so many of us in that struggle. Her confident guidance, keen wit, and relentless vision that such violence could and would be ended will be missed. In honor of Ellen Pence, they will also serve as an inspiration and charge to each of us to continue on until that vision is achieved.
Ellen Pence died of breast cancer on January 6, 2012 surrounded by the love and company of close friends and family.
May the life, work, love, and legacy of Ellen Pence be long remembered. A Woman’s Place is honored to be part of that movement.
Thank you to Praxis International and Peg Dierkers of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence for their words shared here today.