Tish Sommers Biography

Letitia "Tish" Sommers (Cambria, California, 1914-1985) was an American author, a women's rights activist, and the co-founder and first President of the Older Women's League.

Sommers was raised in Los Angeles and was originally a dancer. After she visited Nazi Germany in 1933 to study dance and saw the suffering of the Jewish people, she became an activist; in the 1950s she was a volunteer for social and civil rights causes in the South. With the help of her friend Laurie Shields, she successfully lobbied 39 states and Congress to pass displaced-homemaker laws, which offered a network of job training and counseling centers for career housewives who went through divorce or the death of a husband. Sommers coined the phrase "displaced homemaker." She chaired the National Organization for Women's Task Force on older women in the 1970s (it was formed in 1973); she was also a NOW Board member and led the Jobs for Older Women Action Project. She cofounded the Older Women's League with Laurie Shields in 1980. She died of cancer in 1985 at age 71. Some of her papers are held as "The Tish Sommers Papers", at the Special Collections Library in San Diego State University. The Institute for Health and Aging established the Tish Sommers Senior Scholars program to honor her; it supports the work of older graduate and postdoctoral students working to improve the lives of older women. In 1991, a biography of her was published titled Tish Sommers, Activist: and the Founding of the Older Women's League, by Patricia Huckle, Univ. of Tennessee Press.