Skip to main content

Old Lesbians Organizing for Change records

Identifier: SSC-MS-00671

Scope and Contents

The Old Lesbians Organizing for Change records contain extensive documentation of all OLOC events and gatherings since 1987, including photographs of events and videotapes of panel discussions and keynote speeches. Administrative files, newsletters and other publications, and educational and public relations materials are also included, as is a history of the organization. The collection also contains the professional files of Shevy Healy, a longtime activist and one of OLOC's founders.

Included are materials regarding the founding and development or the group's oral herstroy project. The project originated with Arden Eversmeyer after a member of the Houston group she founded in 1987, Old Lesbians Over Age Fifty (LOAF) passed away in 1990 and she realized her stories would be lost.

The collection also contains materials related to OLOC's birthday card project which originated out of the founding mothers' irritation about the ageism in commercial birthday cards. OLOC developed birthday card workshops and eventually produced its own line of birthday cards.

Dates of Materials

  • 1986 - 2018


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Access

Until we move into New Neilson in early 2021, collections are stored in multiple locations and may take up to 48 hours to retrieve. Researchers are strongly encouraged to contact Special Collections ( at least a week in advance of any planned visits so that boxes may be retrieved for them in a timely manner.

Conditions Governing Use

To the extent that they own copyright, Old Lesbians Organizing for Change (OLOC) has assigned the copyright in their works to Smith College; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by OLOC, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical / Historical

In 2018, more than 30 years after its founding, Old Lesbians Organizing for Change (OLOC), a national (U.S.) organization for lesbians 60 and over, defines its mission as "addressing what it means to be Old and to be Lesbian; finding ways to gather groups of Old Lesbians together for ongoing support; working against all oppressions that affect Old Lesbians; [and] standing in solidarity with allies for racial, economic and social justice."

The book Look Me in the Eye: Old Women, Aging and Ageism by Barbara Macdonald and Cynthia Rich (1983), which exposed harsh realities of ageism on old women, was the inspiration for the founding of Old Lesbians Organizing for Change. In April 1987, the First West Coast Conference by and for old lesbians in Southern California was held at the California State University Dominguez Campus in Carson, California. It was so successful that in August 1989, old lesbians in Northern California sponsored The Second West Coast Conference. Out of the larger group of old lesbians attending these two events came a smaller group of sixteen that wished to concentrate their efforts on challenging ageism. This group founded The Old Lesbian Organizing Committee, which was later renamed Old Lesbians Organizing for Change.

Participation was strictly limited to lesbians sixty years of age and older, although OLOC has always welcomed the support of younger lesbians, encouraging them to work against ageism while respecting the need for separate space for Old Lesbians. To minimize travel expenses for committee members, most meetings during the first two years were held in California. A concerted effort was then made to expand the geographic representation by moving the meetings around the country.

OLOC quickly established a newsletter to reach Old Lesbians around the country and began enrolling subscribers. Committee members focused early efforts on development of educational materials on ageism, using the familiar and effective format of consciousness raising sessions. These materials were pooled and published in The Facilitator's Handbook: Confronting Ageism: Consciousness Raising for Lesbians 60 and Over (early 1990s).

Much of OLOC's early work was done within both the women's and LGBT communities, since ageism was as entrenched in those communities as it was in society at large. Often at its own expense, OLOC provided speakers and presentations to dozens of workshops and conferences, challenging the status quo and demanding to be a part of the process. OLOC felt strongly that younger people couldn't effectively speak for Old Lesbians and insisted that Old Lesbians be allowed to represent themselves. OLOC was a strong and highly visible part of the National Lesbian Conference in Atlanta in 1991 as well as the March on Washington in 1993. By 1992, OLOC sought and gained non-profit status, incorporating in the state of Texas, and in 1994 also achieved tax-exempt status.

In addition to publishing a quarterly newsletter, The OLOC Reporter, and holding biennial Gatherings, OLOC confronts ageism wherever it is found. OLOC has also been associated with the Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project, which gathers the unique stories of lesbians who are seventy years of age and older. OLOC operates both as a national organization and through local chapters that have formed across the country.

[source: OLOC Website]


27.5 linear feet (30 containers)

13 Gigabytes

Language of Materials



Old Lesbians Organizing for Change(OLOC) is a national (United States) organization of lesbian activists age 60 and over. This collection includes extensive documentation of all OLOC gatherings since 1987, including photographs of activities, and videotapes of panel discussions and keynote speeches. Administrative files, newsletters and other publications, and educational and public relations materials are also included, as is a history of the organization. The collection also contains a small amount of materials related to Shevy Healy, a longtime activist and one of OLOC's founders.


The collection is arranged into three series.


  1. Administrative Files
  2. Gatherings
  3. Shevy Healy papers

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

As a preservation measure, researchers must use digital copies of audiovisual materials in this collection. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request the creation of and access to digital copies.
This collection contains materials received from the donor in digital form that are not currently available online. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request access to this digital content.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Old Lesbians Organizing for Change started donating its records to the Sophia Smith Collection in 2011 and has made regular transfers of additional records since then. Materials were donated by Susan Wiseheart, Alix Dobkin, and Margie Reed, members of OLOC. As of 2018, the collection includes seven distinct accessions.

Related Materials

See also the Old Lesbians Oral Herstory Project, which is administered by the Old Lesbians Organizing for Change.

Separated Materials

In 2019, duplicate AV materials and unrelated memorabilia was removed.

Processing Information

In 2019, all accessions of the OLOC collection were processed to create one coherent collection by Ellice Amanna, Sylvia Hickman, and Madison White. Most material was already foldered, and while boxes seemed out of order, there were clear sections of related materials. The processors determined there was a chronological file, an alphabetical file, sections of summer gathering materials, sections of format categories (e.g. newsletters or financial materials) and Shevy Healy materials. Materials were arranged into these series, and material not in folders were incorporated into their sections. Oversize and AV materials were also put into their respective series. The new arrangement was described.



Finding aid for the Old Lesbians Organizing for Change records
Minimum Finding Aid (Completed)
Ellice Amanna, Sylvia Hickman, and Madison White
2014, 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:22-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2018-07-06: 2018 accession added; notes brought up to current standards, finding aid republished.

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Young Library
4 Tyler Drive
Northampton MA 01063