A group of Women's Liberation activists, led by Anne Summers including Bessie Guthrie and Jennifer Dakers, squatted an abandoned property in Westmoreland Street, Glebe and set up the refuge in response to the lack of services & support available to women & children suffering from domestic violence. Initially, there was no support from governments, with the staff at the centre providing security with nothing more than a cricket bat. They were one of a number of activist groups who had squatted in derelict houses in the Anglican Church owned "Glebe Estate" in the pathway of a proposed freeway part of which was to pass through the area. The building, along with the other 700 dwellings on Glebe Estate, was purchased from the Anglican Church by the Whitlam Government in 1974 and the refuge was granted a lease. The freeway was re-routed. The Whitlam Government also granted funding to the service in 1975. Later the refuge was moved to larger premises in nearby Derwent Street.
Although crisis accommodation for women had been available for a long time, it was very limited. Elsie Refuge and its feminist counterparts were the first to run a service from a feminist perspective that focused on helping women escape domestic violence.
The management of Elsie Women's Refuge was handed over to the St Vincent de Paul Society in August 2014. The records of the Elsie Women's Refuge for the years 1974-2014 are held in the collection of the State Library of New South Wales.
- Progress, trends and challenges in Australian responses to domestic violence, Dr Lesley Laing
- Gilchrist, Catie. "Forty years of the Elsie Refuge for Women and Children | The Dictionary of Sydney". Dictionary of Sydney. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
- "Elsie: A women's shelter". Tribune (1846). New South Wales, Australia. 26 March 1974. p. 7. Retrieved 5 July 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
- "ELSIE WOMEN'S REFUGE". Tharunka. 20, (18). New South Wales, Australia. 14 August 1974. p. 15. Retrieved 5 July 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
- "ELSIE NEEDS FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE". Tribune (1864). New South Wales, Australia. 30 July 1974. p. 12. Retrieved 5 July 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
- Gander, Catherine (2006), "The NSW women's refuge movement", Parity, 19 (10): 28–29, ISSN 1032-6170
- "Elsie Women's Refuge records, ca. 1974-2014". State Library of NSW catalogue. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
- Elsie Women's Refuge, managed by St Vincent de Paul Society.
- Newspaper articles covering events related to Elsie Refuge
- Forty years of the Elsie Refuge for Women and Children, Dictionary of Sydney website