"Me Retired? I've Just Begun to Fly!" was the slogan Tish Sommers
adopted when she began to organize older women in the 1970s. She chaired
the NOW Task Force on Older Women; organized the Displaced Homemaker
campaign, first in California and then nationally; published a series
of Gray Papers on issues like housing, social security, pensions,
health insurance and employment. She also founded the national
Older Women's League, which has become an ardent voice in support
of older women, both in Washington, D.C. and nationally.
She was a role model who inspired thousands of women to construct
an active political life. Her OWL activities included a Mother's Day
campaign aimed at Congress, a "Health Care as a Right, Not a Privilege"
campaign, a Congressional hearing on Death and Dying, and organization
with Laurie Shields of hundreds of local chapters across the country.
Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Gray Panthers, had this to say about
her: "Tish Sommers was a lifelong revolutionary. She wanted to organize
midlife and older women and practice what she had been proclaiming:
'Don't agonize, organize!'"
In her 60s, Tish took up river rafting. She said:
"For me, rivers are a symbol of an activist's life. ...when the
only concerns are the next rocks ahead...(we) realize how lucky we
all are to be testing our strength and skill against the raging river
of this period we live in...Wouldn't you rather be in there with all
the excitement than moping on the bank?"
Her papers are available in SDSU's
Special Collections library, which includes materials from OWL,
the Gray Panthers, National Organization for Women and other women's
movement activities; papers from her work in East Los Angeles during
the 1940s, and from her work in the civil rights movement in Seattle
during the 1960s. Her biography is titled: Tish Sommers, Activist:
and the Founding of the Older Women's League, by Patricia Huckle,
Univ. of Tenn. Press 1991.
- Displaced Homemakers: Organizing for a New Life, by Laurie
Shields. NY: McGraw-Hill, 1981.
- The Not So Helpless Female, by Tish Sommers. NY David O.
- Women Take Care: The Consequences of Caregiving in Today's
Society, by Sommers and Shields, Triad Pub., 1987.