Co-founder of nation's 1st battered women's shelter killed in Cuba car crash

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The woman who helped start the nation's first shelter for battered women and their children was killed in a car accident in Cuba this week.

Sharon Rice Vaughan, 73, co-founded Women's Advocates, Inc., located in St. Paul, in 1974, the organization's website says. The shelter has provided emergency services to over 38,000 women and children since it opened in the metro area 40 years ago.

"It is with deepest regret that we inform you of the loss of one of our founders, Ms. Sharon Rice Vaughan. We send our heartfelt sympathy to her family and friends. She was a true inspiration and will be greatly missed," Women's Advocates, Inc. wrote on Facebook.

Details of the crash haven't been released, but Women's Advocates' Executive Director Babette Jamison told WCCO Vaughan was hit by a vehicle in Cuba and died from her injuries.

“She was one of the mothers of the movement,” Shelly Johnson Cline, executive director of the Intervention Project, told the Star Tribune.“She shifted the nation’s perspective on the issue of domestic violence, no doubt about that.”

Vaughan was an outspoken advocate for battered women throughout her life, FOX 9 notes. She and Susan Ryan started the foundation after realizing there was no place for domestic violence victims to go, according to Women's Press.

"So we evolved from being a phone service to being dead-set on getting a house for women and kids who needed it. The other plan just dropped by the wayside, and the house instead became emergency housing for women," Vaughan told Women's Press last fall in a story about Women's Advocates' 40th anniversary.

Details on why Vaughan was in Cuba haven't been released.

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