She was born Mary Jane Tiernan in Connecticut and raised by her grandmother, and came to Boston in her early 20s.
Kip Tiernan and her advocacy partner, Fran Froehlich, founded, helped found, or were founding members of Boston Health Care for the Homeless, Boston Food Bank, Community Works, Aid to Incarcerated Mothers, Finex House, Food for Free, John Leary House, My Sister’s Place, Transition House, the Greater Boston Union of the Homeless, and Boston’s Emergency Shelter Commission. In 1974, Kip founded Rosie's Place in Boston, America's first shelter for homeless women. She founded this shelter in an abandoned supermarket after discovering that homeless women disguised themselves as men in hopes of getting into male-only shelters. Kip was also one of the founders of Victory House in the South End of Boston, a residential alcoholism treatment program for homeless, alcoholic men.
- "Obituary: Kip Tiernan, 85, Founded First Women's Homeless Shelter". The Chronicle of Philanthropy. July 13, 2011. Retrieved 2013-02-09.
- "Kip Tiernan: Co-Founder/Co-Director". Poor People's United Fund. Archived from the original on 2012-03-28. Retrieved 2013-02-09.
- Scott, Jonathan D. (2011-07-08). "Remembering Kip Tiernan - The Angle". Boston.com. Retrieved 2013-02-09.
- Hecht, Morgan (May 21, 2012). "Adventures in Feministory: Kip Tiernan, Founder of Rosie's Place". Bitch magazine.
- "Rosie's Place founder Kip Tiernan dies at 85". Archived from the original on July 17, 2011. Retrieved August 6, 2011.
- Hevesi, Dennis (July 12, 2011). "Kip Tiernan, Founder of First Shelter for Homeless Women, Dies at 85". The New York Times.
- Marquard, Bryan (July 4, 2011). "Rosie's Place founder Kip Tiernan dies at 85". The Boston Globe.