40 Stories for 40 Years: Gail Griswold

by Emily Roberts | Apr 26, 2018

Gail Griswold was just two years out of Northeastern University, where she earned her master’s degree in counseling psychology, when she joined The Family Place as our first executive director from October 1978 through April 1988. Services started with a shelter and hotline, but, from the start, she says, The Family Place worked to create a system of services including pioneering outreach counseling, aftercare support and housing, a men’s counseling program and community education.

“We were inventing it all as we went along,” says Griswold. “Services for battered women were just beginning all across the U.S. No one knew what would be effective, because no one had done this.”

The Family Place also began screening for physical and psychological abuse of witnessing children, a radical idea at the time, and obtained some of the final funding from the Office on Domestic Violence shortly before the Reagan administration closed it.

“I remember visiting the building in Washington, D.C. and seeing desks stacked in the halls as offices were vacated,” Griswold says. “The two remaining federal staff members were determined to send the last of the funds to shelters.”

“It was an exciting time. We felt we were creating something so important,” Griswold says. “I was lucky to be young and inexperienced, so we didn¹t know that we couldn¹t do things. We just did them, even in the face of overwhelming obstacles.”

Now, Griswold says she is thrilled to see what the organization has become.

“It is so much more than we dared to dream when we opened that first shelter!” she says.