Older Women's League

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Older Women's League
OWL The Voice of Women 40 Plus.png
Formation 1980
Extinction March 15, 2017; 2 months ago (2017-03-15)
Purpose Women's rights
Headquarters Washington, D.C., U.S.
Margaret Hellie Huyck, Ph.D.
Vice President
Janet Pitt
Joan Bernstein, J.D.
Website owl-national.org

OWL - The Voice of Women 40+ was founded as the Older Women's League by Tish Sommers and Laurie Shields, following the White House Mini-Conference on Older Women in Des Moines, Iowa in October 1980. The conference, called "Growing Numbers, Growing Force," addressed three main concerns: ensuring adequate income, health concerns of older women, and quality of life and the impact of aging.[2] About 200 women participants stayed on after the conference, at their own expense, to start the Older Women's League, an outgrowth of the Older Women's League Educational Fund, founded by Tish Sommers and Laurie Shields, and named Sommers as the first president of OWL.[3]

In March 2017, it was reported that the national organization has decided to disband, but local chapters may continue to function under the OWL name or possibly another name.[1]


OWL is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, national membership organization headquartered in Washington, DC, that advocates for the estimated 78 million women in the U.S. who are age 40 and over.[4] Its core issues are economic and retirement security, encore careers and entrepreneurship, wellness, cost-effective and comprehensive health care, Social Security, and long-term care.[5]

How OWL works[edit]

Advocacy is carried out through:

  • Educational initiatives on issues such as workforce challenges, access to healthcare and long-term care, and strengthening Social Security
  • Reports and other publications offering policy recommendations and best practices
  • Briefings for congressional staff, media, and the public
  • Collaborations with other organizations on common issues
  • Updates on policies and proposals

Membership dues and donations, and grants from foundations and corporations are OWL’s prime funding sources.

OWL has successfully advocated for legislation, including the Retirement Equity Act and a law allowing widows to continue using their spouses' health insurance.[6] In the 1980s, OWL formed a planning group with the National Women's Health Network, the American Association of University Women, the National Black Women's Health Project and other organizations to establish a women's agenda for health care reform. In 1990, OWL allowed the newly created Campaign for Women's Health to have space in its Washington D.C. offices.[7]


  1. ^ a b Amati, Christopher (2017-03-15). "National OWL disbands, local chapter to continue". Hyde Park Herald. Retrieved 2017-03-28. 
  2. ^ Rausa, Bettina A. (2008). Encyclopedia of Aging and Public Health. New York, NY: Springer. pp. 603–604. ISBN 978-0-387-33753-1. 
  3. ^ Chimes of Change and Hours: Views of Older Women in Twentieth-century America by Audrey Borenstein. Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, Jan 1, 19
  4. ^ Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Selected Age Groups by Sex for the United States, States, Counties, and Puerto Rico Commonwealth and Municipios: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2013; U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division
  5. ^ Heinemann, Sue (1996). Timelines of American Women's History (1st ed.). New York: Berkley Pub. Group. p. 163. ISBN 978-0-399-51986-4. 
  6. ^ Cullen-DuPont, Kathryn (2000). "Older Women's League". Encyclopedia of Women's History in America (2nd ed.). New York: Facts On File. p. 193. ISBN 978-1-4381-1033-2. 
  7. ^ Weisman, Carol S. (1998). "Transforming Women's Health Care Policymaking". Women's Health Care: Activist Traditions and Institutional Change. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 210. ISBN 978-0-8018-5826-0. 

External links[edit]