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Co-Founder of Older Women’s League Dies of Cancer

October 18, 1985

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) _ Tish Sommers, a feminist who helped found the Older Women’s League and bring attention to the problems of middle-age and older women, died of cancer Friday at her home. She was 71.

The Washington-based league, which began in Oakland five years ago, claims 14,000 members in 100 chapters around the country.

Sommers, who was born in Cambria, invented the term ″displaced homemaker″ to describe women whose economic security has vanished because they were widowed or divorced.

She devised the term after she became a displaced homemaker in 1971, when she was divorced after 20 years of marriage.

She drafted the first state and federal legislation to provide job training to such women, the league said.

In an interview a month ago, Sommers said: ″I realized early on how important strong, positive, joyous role models are. Too many women fear aging, but there’s another way to go. Bring together all you’ve learned, and focus on what’s most important. It’s far easier to face death if you know you’ve made a valuable contribution and not just let life pass by.″

Letitia Gail Innes Sommers was praised Friday as a woman with vision and enthusiasm.

″She was absolutely ageless, the most positive person I ever met,″ said Linden Berry, who worked with Sommers for the last three years at the league’s Oakland office.

San Francisco feminist Tracy Gary, who also worked with Sommers called her an ″exceptional leader″ and ″a very joyous person.″

Sommers stressed the importance of planning for one’s own death, and as part of her planning, left $500,000 to her own endowment fund to assure the continued growth of the league.

″Death, I am learning through my own experience, need not be frightening. After all, we all born terminal cases because we will all die one time or another. Death is part of life,″ Sommers said in a letter to league members.

She leaves a son and a grandson.

Funeral services will be private.

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