In Memoriam: Bea Robinson Mendez, Founder
January 31, 1934 – January 13, 2023
We are heartbroken to learn of the passing of Local Activist and Founder of Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence, Bea Robinson Mendez at the age of 88 on January 13, 2023.
Bea Robinson’s mother emigrated to the United States from Mexico before 1950. She proved to be a very strong role model for Bea–despite her lack of immigration papers, she still paid taxes, had a green card, and raised sons who would serve in the armed forces. Bea’s mother was also a victim of domestic violence for many years. Bea’s father was abusive and threatened Bea’s mother with deportation, hanging the prospect of losing her children over her head and forcing her to believe that she could not leave the abuse lest she be sent back to Mexico.
Inspired by her mother’s resolve and courage, Bea became a social activist in the late 1960s. Bea told us that during the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was political and social upheaval in the United States and while there was a catalytic energy to women’s activism, much of that activism left out the needs of women of color. In response, Bea became the voice of women of color in Santa Clara County and beyond, explaining to us that “where you came from mattered, but who you were, mattered most.”
Developed as the result of the unyielding and steadfast energy and activism of Bea Robinson, a grassroots community leader, locally and nationally recognized for her efforts in increasing visibility for minority women’s issues, Bea established The Woman’s Alliance in 1971, running programs out of her garage in San Jose. The first refuge that Bea arranged for women and children of color impacted by domestic violence cost $25/month in rent and she bargained to get utilities thrown into the price. It was the very first bilingual English-Spanish domestic violence shelter in the United States. The Shelter was in a poor area near the train tracks. Her office was in the garage, making winters very cold and summers very hot. Eventually, however, through her enduring spirit and local community activism, local politicians made note of her work and mission, and inevitably asked her to speak at San Jose City Hall. Soon, Bea and her mission were on the news, establishing a political presence for ethnically and linguistically diverse victims of domestic violence.
Bea worked for free for almost 5 years until the Woman’s Alliance finally received its first grant from the Housing of Urban Development CETA Program. With that money, the Woman’s Alliance could pay for three employees. Soon after, the Woman’s Alliance began applying to and receiving money from the city of San Jose and the County of Santa Clara. Engaging the community about minority women’s issues and domestic violence, Bea contributed to the women’s movement as a whole, but also spoke to what was she believed to be “morally right,” providing vital services to minority women while making an ethically driven political statement.
The Woman’s Alliance became Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence in 1986 and since has helped rebuild tens of thousands of lives impacted by domestic violence throughout Santa Clara County. It would not have been possible, however, without the inspiration and the positive transformational energy of Bea Robinson.
Bea’s presence, voice, and persistence will live in Next Door Solutions forever. Rest in Power, Bea!
Learn more about Bea Robinson’s legacy here.