Erin Pizzey

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Erin Pizzey
Erin Pizzey on newsPeeks.jpg
Pizzey interviewed in 2016
Erin Patria Margaret Carney

(1939-02-19) 19 February 1939 (age 83)
Alma materCheikh Anta Diop University
Years active1971–present
OrganisationChiswick Women's Aid
Known forEstablishing the world's first domestic violence shelters, founding the charity Refuge[1]
Notable workScream Quietly or the Neighbours Will Hear,
Prone to Violence
(m. 1959; div. 1976)

Jeff Shapiro
(m. 1980; div. 1994)
Children2, including Amos Pizzey

Erin Patria Margaret Pizzey (/ˈpɪtsi/;[2] born 19 February 1939) is an English ex-feminist, Men's rights activist and advocate against domestic violence, and novelist.[3][4][5][6][7] She is known for having started the first and currently the largest domestic violence shelter in the modern world, Refuge, then known as Chiswick Women's Aid, in 1971.[8][1][9]

Pizzey has been the subject of bomb threats and boycotts because her experience and research into the issue led her to conclude that most domestic violence is reciprocal, and that women are equally as capable of violence as men. These threats eventually led to her exile from the UK.[10][11] Pizzey has said that the threats were from militant feminists.[12][13][14] She has also stated that she is banned from the refuge she started.[15][16]

Early life[edit]

She was born Erin Carney in Qingdao, China in 1939, along with her twin sister Rosaleen. Her father was a diplomat and one of 17 children from a poor Irish family.[13][17] In 1942, the family moved to Shanghai; shortly thereafter, they were captured by the invading Japanese Army and exchanged for Japanese prisoners of war.[18] She is the sister of writer Daniel Carney, known for his novel The Wild Geese.[19]

Pizzey moved to Kokstad in South Africa, then at the age of five, to Beirut. At the end of the war the family went to Toronto. She then moved to Tehran and finally settled in England in 1948. Pizzey attended St Antony's junior school and then Leweston School at age 11, gaining four O-levels. Her parents were then posted to Africa where she attended Dakar University, studying French and English.[20]


Early activism[edit]

In 1959, Pizzey attended her first meeting at the UK's Liberation Movement (WLM) at the Chiswick house of a local organiser, Artemis[who?][21]: 22  At Artemis' urging, Pizzey agreed to convene a 'consciousness-raising group' at her home in Goldhawk Road.[21]: 23  This collective became the Goldhawk Road Group.[21]: 24 

The head office of the Women's Liberation Workshop (a women's workshop within the WLM) was in Little Newport Street,[21]: 24  in Chinatown, Covent Garden, straddling the City of Westminster and Borough of Camden. Along with her friend, Alison, and other members of the Goldhawk Road Group, Pizzey found herself at odds with Artemis and Gladiator[who?], who led a clique of younger women within the WLM Workshop head office.[21]: 27  Pizzey distanced herself from this clique when she witnessed what she described as "irregular and disrespectful behaviour" towards the money donated by desperate women across the UK.[21]: 39  She confronted them over this behaviour,[21]: 45  which, according to her, included claiming that telephones were tapped, and labelling of people they did not like as MI5, police and CIA informers or agents.[21]: 39  She also was concerned about overhearing discussion of plans to bomb the London store Biba; she reported on this to the police after warning the people involved. Subsequently, Pizzey became aware that the police had the group and offices under surveillance.[21]: 43  Pizzey says that she and her fellow members of the Goldhawk Road group were seen as troublesome, because they did not accept others' behaviors and views.[21]: 34 


Pizzey set up a women's refuge in Belmont Terrace, Chiswick, London in 1971. She later opened a number of additional shelters, despite hostility from the authorities. She gained notoriety and publicity for setting up refuges by squatting, most notably in 1975 at the Palm Court Hotel in Richmond.[22][23][24] The original refuge in Chiswick has since been rebranded as the charity Refuge.

Pizzey's work was widely praised at the time. In 1975, MP Jack Ashley stated in the House of Commons that "The work of Mrs. Pizzey was pioneering work of the first order. It was she who first identified the problem, who first recognised the seriousness of the situation and who first did something practical by establishing the Chiswick aid centre. As a result of that magnificent pioneering work, the whole nation has now come to appreciate the significance of the problem".[25] Whilst being prosecuted by local authorities[26] and appealing matters to the House of Lords, she was recognised for her work.[26]

Reciprocity of domestic violence[edit]

Soon after establishing her first refuge, Pizzey asserted that much of the domestic violence was reciprocal.[21]: 82  She reached this conclusion when she asked the women in her refuge about their violence, only to discover most of them were equally violent or more violent than their husbands. In her study "Comparative Study of Battered Women And Violence-Prone Women,"[27] (co-researched with John Gayford of Warlingham Hospital), Pizzey distinguished between 'genuine battered women'[27] and 'violence-prone women';[27] the former defined as "the unwilling and innocent victim of his or her partner's violence"[27] and the latter defined as "the unwilling victim of his or her own violence."[27] This study reported that 62% of the sample population were more accurately described as "violence prone." Similar findings regarding the mutuality of domestic violence have been confirmed in subsequent studies.[28][29]

In her book Prone to Violence, Pizzey expressed concern that so little attention was paid to the causes of interpersonal and family violence, stating, "to my amazement, nobody seemed to genuinely want to find out why violent people treat each other the way they do".[30] She also expressed concern for the view expressed by government officials that solutions to the issue of domestic abuse and violence could be found in socialist or communist countries. Pizzey pointed out that marital violence was a great problem in Russia, and China addressed the issue by proclaiming wife-beating a crime punishable by death sentence.[30] The book looks at what appeared to be learned behaviour, often starting in childhood, linked to hormonal responses. Pizzey describes such behaviour as akin to addiction.

She speculates that high levels of hormones and neurochemicals associated with pervasive childhood trauma led to adults who repeatedly engage in violent altercations with intimate partners despite the physical, emotional, legal and financial costs, in unwitting attempts to simulate the emotional impact of traumatic childhood experiences and manifest the learned biochemical state linked to pleasure. The book contains numerous stories of disturbed families, alongside a discussion of the reasons why the modern state care-taking agencies are largely ineffective. Promotional events for the book were met with protest,[31] and Pizzey reports that she herself and co-author Jeff Shapiro needed police protection during the promotional events for the book.[12][13]

Backlash, threats, and harassment[edit]

In 1981, Pizzey moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, while targeted by harassment, death threats, bomb threats[32] and defamation campaigns,[14] and dealing with overwork, near collapse, cardiac disease and mental strain.[21]: 275  In particular, according to Pizzey, the charity Scottish Women's Aid "made it their business to hand out leaflets claiming that [she] believed that women 'invited violence' and 'provoked male violence'".[14] She states that the turning point was the intervention of the bomb squad, who required all of her mail to be processed by them before she could receive it, as a "controversial public figure."[21]: 282 [33]

Having moved to Santa Fe to write, Pizzey promptly became involved in running a refuge in New Mexico, as well as dealing with sexual abusers and paedophiles.[14] Pizzey said of this work, "I discovered that there were just as many women paedophiles as there were men. Women go undetected, as usual. Working against paedophiles is a very dangerous business."[34] Whilst living in Santa Fe, one of her dogs was shot and two others were stolen, which she claims was a result of racist neighbours.[32] Her family suffered new harassment following the publication of her 1982 book Prone to Violence. Pizzey links much of the harassment to militant feminists and their objections to her research, findings and work.[14][32][35] Describing the harassment, Deborah Ross of The Independent wrote that "the feminist sisterhood went bonkers".[13]

Following the abuse and threats in Santa Fe she moved to Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands[36] where she wrote with her husband, Jeff Shapiro. Subsequently, she moved to Siena, Italy where her writing and advocacy work continued. She returned to London in the late 1990s, homeless due to debt and in increasingly poor health.[13] Her insights are still sought by politicians and family pressure groups.

Later work[edit]

Pizzey is still actively working to help victims of domestic violence. She has been a patron of the charity ManKind Initiative since 2004, when she received a Roger Witcomb Award.[37] In March 2007, as a guest, she attended the ceremony of opening the first Arab refuge for victims of domestic violence in Bahrain.[38]

In 2013, Pizzey joined the editorial and advisory board of the men's rights organisation A Voice for Men, serving as an Editor and DV Policy Advisor and from January to August wrote thirteen articles for the group's web site.[39]

Her two April articles pertained to two interviews she gave on the Reddit community "IAmA", where she promoted her Facebook page and the "AVFM Online Radio" podcast on BlogTalkRadio.[40] She announced her first interview a week prior on /r/MensRights.[41]

In November 2014, Pizzey became owner/manager of the AVFM website (since renamed,[42] which has been criticised by the original White Ribbon Campaign as "a copycat campaign articulating ... archaic views and denials about the realities of gender-based violence."[43][44]

Pizzey was interviewed for and appeared in the 2016 documentary film The Red Pill by Cassie Jaye about the men's rights movement.[16]

Pizzey is a patron of registered charity Compassion In Care which works to "break the chain of elderly abuse" and she wrote an introduction for the book Beyond The Facade by founder Eileen Chubb.[45][46]

Libel case[edit]

In 2009 Pizzey was successful in a libel case against Macmillan Publishers over content in the Andrew Marr book A History of Modern Britain. The publication had falsely claimed she had once been part of a militant group, The Angry Brigade, that staged bomb attacks in the 1970s.[47] The publisher also recalled and destroyed the offending version of the book, and republished it with the error removed.[48] The link to the Angry Brigade was made in 2001, in an interview with The Guardian, in which the article states that she was "thrown out" of the feminist movement after threatening to inform police about a planned bombing by the Angry Brigade of the clothes shop Biba. "I said that if you go on with this – they were discussing bombing Biba [the legendary department store in Kensington] – I'm going to call the police in, because I really don't believe in this."[49]

Personal life[edit]

Pizzey married Jack Pizzey in 1959. Jack Pizzey was a naval lieutenant whom she first met in Hong Kong. They had two children, a girl, Cleo and a boy, Amos.[13] She divorced him in 1976, and divorced her second husband, Jeff Scott Shapiro, in 1994.[17] Pizzey lives in Twickenham, southwest London.[50] She was diagnosed with cancer in 2000.[49]

In 2000, Pizzey's grandson Keita Craig, who had schizophrenia, hanged himself in a prison cell. Pizzey and her family campaigned against the coroner's verdict of death by hanging and in 2001 a jury at a second inquest unanimously found that Keita's death was contributed to by the neglect of prison staff. The case was the first to reach a verdict of neglect in a suicide case.[49][51]



  • Pizzey, Erin (1974). Scream quietly or the neighbours will hear. Harmondsworth Baltimore: Penguin. ISBN 9780140523119. Details.
  • Pizzey, Erin (1981). The slut's cook book. London: Macdonald & Co. ISBN 9780354047241. Details.
  • Pizzey, Erin; Shapiro, Jeff (1982). Prone to violence. Feltham, Middlesex, England: Hamlyn. ISBN 9780600205517. Details.
  • Pizzey, Erin (1983). Erin Pizzey collects-- : an anthology of her writing, personally introduced. Feltham, Middlesex, England: Hamlyn. ISBN 9780600206866. Details.
  • Pizzey, Erin (1995). Wild child: an autobiography. Siena: Erin Pizzey. ISBN 9788890009600. Details.
  • Pizzey, Erin (1998). The emotional terrorist and the violence-prone. Ottawa: Commoners' Pub. ISBN 9780889701038. Details.
  • Pizzey, Erin (2005). Infernal child: world without love. Twickenham: Little Hermit. ISBN 9780954000219. Details.
  • Pizzey, Erin (2011). This way to the revolution: a memoir. London Chicago: Peter Owen. ISBN 9780720613605. Details.


  • The Watershed
  • In the Shadow of the Castle
  • First Lady
  • The Consul General's Daughter
  • The Snow Leopard of Shanghai
  • Other Lovers
  • Swimming with Dolphins
  • For the Love of a Stranger
  • Kisses
  • The Wicked World of Women


  • International Order of Volunteers For Peace, Diploma of Honour (Italy) 1981.[52]
  • Nancy Astor Award for Journalism 1983.[17]
  • World Congress of Victimology (San Francisco) 1987 – Distinguished Leadership Award.[17]
  • St. Valentino Palm d'Oro International Award for Literature, 14 February 1994, Italy.[17]
  • SAFE “Woman of the Year” Award Winner, 2022.[53]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "35 Refuge and domestic violence facts". Archived from the original on 22 June 2006. Retrieved 28 December 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  2. ^ HoneyBadgerRadio. Faces of Men's Rights: Mark Pearson and Erin Pizzey. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021.
  3. ^ Lewis, Helen (27 February 2020). "Feminism's Purity Wars". The Atlantic. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  4. ^ "Difficult Women by Helen Lewis review – a history of feminism in 11 fights". The Guardian. 5 March 2020. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  5. ^ "Fighting the tyranny of 'niceness': why we need difficult women". The Guardian. 15 February 2020. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  6. ^ Frizzell, Nell (25 April 2020). "Difficult Women by Helen Lewis, review: a sparkling history of feminism in 11 fights". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  7. ^ Reid, Melanie. "Difficult Women by Helen Lewis review — the awkward squad v the patriarchy". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  8. ^ Rappaport, Helen (2001). "Pizzey, Erin (1939– ) United Kingdom". Encyclopedia of women social reformers. Vol. 1. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. p. 549. ISBN 978-1-57607-101-4. In 1972 the center was visited by U.S. feminists, who set up similar ventures in the United States ...
  9. ^ "UK's largest domestic abuse charity launches a 24 hour digital platform for survivors". The Independent. 2 December 2019. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  10. ^ "Erin Pizzey, crusader for battered women". Retrieved 8 May 2022.
  11. ^ Pizzey, Erin (2011). This Way to the Revolution: A Memoir. Peter Owen. ISBN 978-0-7206-1360-5.
  12. ^ a b Philip W. Cook (2009). Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence. ABC-CLIO. pp. 123–4. ISBN 978-0-313-35618-6.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Ross, Deborah (10 March 1997). "Battered? Erin Pizzey? Yes, a bit". The Independent. Archived from the original on 19 April 2014.
  14. ^ a b c d e Pizzey, Erin (30 March 1999). "Who's failing the family". The Scotsman (via Archived from the original on 22 January 2017.
  15. ^ "We gave women back a sense of self". Richmond and Twickenham Times. 29 March 2004. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  16. ^ a b Arndt, Bettina (29 October 2016). "Cassie Jaye's Red Pill too truthful for feminists to tolerate". The Australian. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  17. ^ a b c d e WORLD WHOS WHO OF WOMEN 1990/91. Taylor & Francis. 1 July 1990. ISBN 9780948875106 – via Google Books.
  18. ^ "Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Erin Pizzey, women's refuge". The Independent. 7 February 2008. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  19. ^ "We gave women back a sense of self". Richmond and Twickenham Times. Newsquest Media Group. 29 March 2004.
  20. ^ "Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Erin Pizzey, women's refuge". 7 February 2008.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Pizzey, Erin (2011). This way to the revolution: a memoir. London Chicago: Peter Owen. ISBN 9780720613605. Details.
  22. ^ Renzetti, Claire M.; Edleson, Jeffrey L. (2008). Encyclopedia of Interpersonal Violence. SAGE Publications. pp. 126–127. ISBN 978-1-4522-6591-9.
  23. ^ "Battered Wives Occupy Home". The Miami News. 11 November 1975. p. 2A, Col 1.[dead link]
  24. ^ Social Work Today: Journal of the British Association of Social Workers. British Association of Social Workers. 1975. p. 596. Preview.
  25. ^ "Battered wives (rights to possession of matrimonial home) bill". Hansard. 11 July 1975. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
  26. ^ a b Hoath, David C. (March 1978). "Notes on Cases (A Charitable Crime: Simmons v. Pizzey)". Modern Law Review. 41 (2): 195–196. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2230.1978.tb00797.x. JSTOR 1094895. Pdf.
  27. ^ a b c d e Pizzey, Erin (2000). "A comparative study of battered women and violence-prone women". The Equal Justice Foundation (Domestic Violence Against Men in Colorado). Archived from the original on 25 March 2016.
  28. ^, California State University, Long Beach, June 2012 {{citation}}: Missing or empty |title= (help); Missing or empty |url= (help)
  29. ^ George, Malcolm J. (June 2004). "Riding the donkey backwards: men as the unacceptable victims of marital violence". The Journal of Men's Studies. 3 (2): 137–159. doi:10.1177/106082659400300203. S2CID 146762512. Pdf.
  30. ^ a b Pizzey, Erin; Shapiro, Jeff (16 February 1982). Prone to violence. Hamlyn. OCLC 39897534.
  31. ^ Bateman, Derek (26 October 1982). "Women denounce pain addiction book". The Glasgow Herald. p. 6.
  32. ^ a b c Pizzey, Erin (9 April 2000). "Why did my grandson die?". The Observer. Guardian Media Group. Archived from the original on 30 September 2015.
  33. ^ " - Feminists Deny Truth on Domestic Violence - Blog | Blogs | Popular Blogs | Video Blogs". Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  34. ^ "Pdf" (PDF).
  35. ^ McElroy, Wendy (30 May 2006). "Feminists deny truth on domestic violence". Fox News. Fox News Network. Archived from the original on 18 October 2012. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  36. ^ The Cayman Islands Yearbook and Business Directory. Cayman Free Press. 1990. p. 43. Details.
  37. ^ "News/Events – Roger Witcomb awards ceremony". Archived from the original on 6 December 2004. Retrieved 29 November 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  38. ^ Pizzey, Erin (23 March 2007). "Children 'must be protected from domestic violence'". Gulf Daily News. (Sossandra Mirror.)
  39. ^ Lewis, Helen (27 February 2020). "Feminism's Purity Wars". The Atlantic. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  40. ^ April 2013 interviews on /r/IamA: 14th and 27th
  41. ^ Ask Me Anything planned 6 April 2013 by Erin Pizzey
  42. ^ " – Ending violence Against Everyone". 2015. Archived from the original on 11 November 2014.
  43. ^ Filipovic, Jill (24 October 2014). "Why Is an Anti-Feminist Website Impersonating a Domestic Violence Organization?". Cosmopolitan. Hearst Communications. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  44. ^ Jones, Clay (23 October 2014). "White Ribbon Copycat Statement". Archived from the original on 26 October 2014.
  45. ^ "My response to Sutcliffe" (PDF). Compassion In Care. 15 August 2017. Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  46. ^ Chubb, Eileen. (2008). Beyond the façade. Essex: Chipmunkapublishing. ISBN 978-1-84747-633-3. OCLC 271890359.
  47. ^ "Campaigner accepts libel damages". 1 April 2009. Retrieved 1 April 2009.
  48. ^ Adams, Stephen (1 April 2009). "Andrew Marr's publisher pays 'significant' damages to women's campaigner". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  49. ^ a b c Rabinovitch, Dina (26 November 2001). "Domestic violence can't be a gender issue". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 March 2009.
  50. ^ "Pizzey calls for more domestic abuse shelters". Richmond and Twickenham Times.
  51. ^ "Prison neglect 'contributed to suicide'". BBC News. 11 October 2001.
  52. ^ Helen Rappaport (2001). Encyclopedia of Women Social Reformers. ABC-CLIO. p. 550. ISBN 978-1-57607-101-4.
  53. ^ "SAFE News". SAFE. 7 March 2022. Retrieved 1 September 2022. In honor of International Women's Day on March 8, Stop Abuse for Everyone (SAFE) has designed its "Woman of the Year" award to celebrate women who recognize underserved victims of both domestic violence and abuse, as well as those whose long-term devotion focuses on helping victims despite their gender, age, race, or sexual identity.

External links[edit]