Historic data suggests that the first shelter for abused women was in Istanbul - in the late 1600s. Women escaping abusive husbands or fathers were allowed sanctuary at the Hatuniye convents (otherwise known as the Karılar dervish convent) on the grounds of a religious complex that included a mosque. The convent operated as a sanctuary for such women to live independent from men until at leas the 1850s. According to Fatma Sedes, the researcher who found the complex: "There is a misperception that everything starts in the West. But we see that the Ottomans also had similar institutions." It's sad, though, that they remain necessary after all these years. Maybe we could all work on that together? [The F Word]

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"I counter: the first shelter for women was started in Paluxi, in 1901. Grammy said so."

Both of you are incorrect. Though I do not know if this was the first such institution globally, in Japan, there was a long tradition of "kakekomidera" sometimes called "refuge temples" for wives fleeing their husbands beginning in at least the 13th century:


"In the olden days, a woman could not initiate a divorce unless her husband agreed, even though he might have been rough, violent, or inconsiderate. Thus, many women had to endure misfortune all their lives. To improve the situation, the temple was built so as to enable a woman to part from her husband on the condition that she stay here for three full years (later reduced to two) and observe the temple's rules to the letter."

"As soon as a woman entered the temple she was questioned about her entire situation by temple officials, and then her husband, father, and brothers were summoned through the headman of their town or village. All the parties concerned were questioned within the temple. When all present agreed that the couple should part, the husband wrote an oath to the effect that they were no longer husband and wife. Because many women fled to the temple to escape husbands in hot pursuit, the temple came to be called Kakekomidera or Kakeiridera, literally, Run-in Temple."

Yes, there were rules, severing ties could take years, and apparently, the matter had to be judged before officials of some kind. But we're talking Japan over 700 years ago. That was serious progress from the woman simply being property or bound against her will. In some respects, it is an improvement over the current situation in Japan where many women continue to feel trapped in loveless or abusive marriages for economic and social reasons.

Also see:

"Spiritual Piety, Social Activism, and Economic Realities: The Nuns of Mantokuji, by Diana E. Wright, Chapter 13 of _Buddhist Women and Social Justice_, edited by Karma Kekshe Tsomo, and published by SUNY Press, at


regarding another such refuge temple, called Mantokuji.