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Laurie Shields; Formed Women’s League

Times Staff Writer

Laurie Shields, one of two California women who organized the national Older Women’s League in 1981, died Friday.

She was 68 and died at her home in Oakland of breast cancer, said league spokeswoman Mary Gardner Jones in a statement issued in Washington.

“Laurie Shields was an indomitable woman who was fired by concern for displaced homemakers and older women--women confronted by widowhood, divorce and sex and age discrimination,” said Lou Glasse, president of the Older Women’s League.

A Team Effort

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“Women all across the country have lost a powerful force,” Glasse said. “She will be missed.”

With Tish Sommers, who died in 1985, Ms. Shields started a grass-roots movement for older women’s rights which now is a Washington-based organization with 17,000 members and 120 chapters nationwide. Earlier, in 1975, they had founded the Alliance for Displaced Homemakers Among the league’s many targets are inequities facing older women in the job market, in pension plans, Social Security and insurance benefits.

Using the slogan “Don’t Agonize--Organize,” the two women helped inspire federal legislation that set up job training and counseling centers for what they called “displaced homemakers"--housewives whose lives changed drastically in middle-age because of a divorce or death of a husband.

Ms. Shields had painful personal knowledge of the problems of older women. After her husband died in 1970, “she found herself unable to get a job because of age discrimination,” the league said.

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Book Published

Ms. Shields and Ms. Sommers wrote a book called, “Women Take Care,” about the experience of care givers. It was published after Ms. Sommers’ death.

During a national book tour, Ms. Shields said that the care-giving movement should support those who choose not to be care givers as well as those who do.

“Although I chose to be a care giver twice . . . it’s not a role that is everyone’s cup of tea,” she said. “We must work together to prevent society from force-feeding it to the women simply because it is perceived to be a woman’s role.”

Born in Chicago, Ms. Shields worked in merchandise and advertising before marrying. She is survived by a daughter.


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