Founders

Standing left to right: Vera Martin (1923-2012), Betty Shoemaker (1918-2002), Gertrude Chasens (1917-2016), Ann Ramsey (1926-?), Shaba Barnes (b. 1935), Shevy Healey (1922-2001)
Crouching left to right: Elaine Mikels (1921-2004), Rosemary Hathaway (1919-2015)
Sitting down: Barbara Kalish (b. 1929)

This photo is of the second OLOC meeting (March 1990) held in Santa Barbara, California at Betty Shoemaker and Sylvia Dobson’s house. It was taken by Cristina Vegas, OLOC’s long-time videographer and photographer.

At the second organizing meeting of OLOC, the organization was called Old Lesbians Organizing Committee.

 

The Beginnings

Two ground-breaking conferences were held in California, in 1987, and again in 1989. These conferences appear to represent an historic first: a large event planned with the sole intent of providing an opportunity for Old Lesbians to gather and network.

The first event, held April 24-26, 1987, on the campus of California State University Dominguez Hills in Carson, CA, was entitled the West Coast Celebration: The First West Coast Conference by and for Old Lesbians. The conference involved the efforts of many outspoken movers and shakers in the community. It was attended by approximately 160 Old Lesbians (women age 60 and over) and 40 younger women.

While a wide variety of topics were discussed in the presentations and workshops covered, ageism was clearly the over-riding theme of the conference. The opening presentation, consciousness raising session, and closing presentation each focused on aspects of ageism.

Those responsible for the 1987 conference described themselves and their event: “The Planning Committee for the First West Coast Celebration is a grassroots group of Lesbians who began meeting one year ago. The purpose was to organize a Conference that would address the Issues of Aging and Ageism as it affects Old Lesbians, in the hope that this event would be a catalyst for change.”

The West Coast Celebration II and Conference of Old Lesbians took place August 4-6, 1989, at the Seven Hills Conference Center on the campus of San Francisco State University in San Francisco, CA. Here is their statement of purpose for this event:

We are gathering together a second time for our personal and political empowerment and the celebration of our lives. We are inventing our own aging and sharing experiences for our mutual enrichment.

We refuse to lie that it is shameful to be an old woman. We are here to meet each other, build community and find new ways to combat ageism, sexism, and racism.

We will celebrate our similarities to and differences from each other. We will rejoice in our herstory and affirm our connection with Mother Earth. We will celebrate our sexuality, creativity, and spirituality by sharing our crafts, rituals, music, dreams, and stories. We will dance our struggles and our victories.

All of us together! Let’s Celebrate! We Are Here!

For the exciting story in its entirety of how OLOC was started, read OLOC_Herstory_1999-2007_long.pdf