“We didn’t know what were doing at the time, we just knew we needed to do it. We just kind of learned as we went along,” she said.
But there is a lot to be proud of. At one time, she said they believed they were the oldest, continuously operating independent women’s resource center in the nation. However, someone in California said they’d been doing it longer, Smith said with a laugh.
“We’ve been through some really rough times financially. We’ve been funded, de-funded and had funding get cut,” she said. “The Women’s Resource Center started at OU, so it’s been really important to us, but we are independent.”
As an independent center, they don’t receive the same funding as other centers that are part of the YMCA or a university. While OU has helped a lot, Smith said they are still independent.
Smith started her work with battered women when she lived in Colorado in the early 70s, volunteering for a rape response team as part of a battered women’s task force. The community she lived in at the time was just starting to talk about a shelter, but Smith ended up moving to Oklahoma to finish her degree and continue her work here.
“I remember there was an ad in the paper and they were hiring shelter workers. I couldn’t believe it, I could absolutely not believe it,” she said. “I was doing this for free in Colorado so I was thrilled I was going to do what I wanted and what I was educated to do.”
Smith said after she applied, she remembered asking what her salary would be at the end and remembering feeling like it was a million dollars.
“I couldn’t believe I was going to get paid for what I wanted to do,” she said.