Jean Arden Eversmeyer '51
Jean Arden Eversmeyer, known as “Arden,” founded both Lesbians Over Age Fifty (LOAF) and the Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project (OLOHP) and was a mayoral appointee to the Houston, Texas Agency on Aging. Arden dedicates her efforts to ensure that older lesbians have access to community resources and that their unique life stories are recorded and celebrated.
Eversmeyer realized and accepted her love for women while still a teenager. Because it was a time when women suspected of being lesbians were routinely expelled from college and fired from their jobs, she led a very closeted life. She met her first partner, Tommie, early in her career, and they were together 33 years.
Born to Herbert and Audrey Eversmeyer in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, in 1931, Eversmeyer graduated from Texas State College for Women in 1951 (now known as Texas Woman’s University); she later completed graduate work at Sam Houston University. She worked in Texas public schools, primarily in Houston, as both an educator and counselor for over 30 years.
After Tommie’s death in 1985, Eversmeyer began to volunteer openly for lesbian rights. She started Lesbians Over Age Fifty (LOAF) in 1987 to encourage a safe environment, meeting places, and a social network for mid-life and older lesbians. She also served on the steering committee of Old Lesbians Organizing for Change, a national network of women over 60 confronting ageism and improving the lives of lesbians everywhere. After being with her second partner, Charlotte, for more than 25 years, the couple legally married in California. (Charlotte died on April 14, 2018). Today Eversmeyer is proud to live in a time when she can be her true self with acquaintances, friends, family, medical professionals, and everyone.
In 1997 Eversmeyer, realizing that many of her friends were reaching the end of their lives, founded the Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project “to collect and preserve our life stories (focusing on lesbians aged 70 and older), to honor the lives of older lesbians.” OLOHP offers outreach by sharing Herstories with isolated older lesbians and via education of senior care providers and the general public, to create environments that improve the lives of all older lesbians. The project quickly grew by word of mouth and friends of friends to become more than a personal project. Eversmeyer began training others to extend the project’s reach. Project volunteers have documented over 750 diverse life stories recording the sacrifices and obstacles faced by lesbians of that era. The collection is now archived, and continues to grow, as part of the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. OLOHP has published two books of collected interviews: A Gift of Age (2009) and Without Apology (2012).
In August 2011, a room in the Montrose Counseling Center was dedicated to Eversmeyer, “whose achievements are too numerous to list.”
During National Women’s History Month, March 2014, Eversmeyer was one of twelve honorees recognized for their contributions by the National Women’s History Project. The 2014 theme was “Women of Courage, Commitment, and Character.”
“Every one of us has a story,” Eversmeyer says. “You don’t have to climb Mt. Everest to have a story. Every one of these stories is important and interesting.”
Mary Speegle, creator of The Lesbian Story Project combines two interviews with Arden into a single 45-minute podcast published on October 17, 2016. In The Lesbian Story Project with Arden Eversmeyer, Arden talks about motivation for, development of, and benefits from the Old Lesbian Herstory Project.
In June 2017, Arden was selected to join Tony Carroll and Marion Coleman as Grand Marshals of the Houston Gay Pride Parade. Pride Houston cited Eversmeyer’s efforts in founding LOAF, initiating the Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project, and the donation of her personal library of lesbian books, music, videos, and memorabilia to the Texas A&M University library.
Arden has produced over forty concerts of women’s music since 2010 to empower and promote women in the arts. Her endeavors began in response to the fact that women in the 1960s era could not break into musical performing groups, no matter their skill or type of music. As a result, Arden joined a movement to produce music concerts for women at small venues and festivals in every type of music, from opera to country. Some of her featured performers have been touring for over 30 years.
Honors and Awards
1981 – Appreciation award from Houston School Counselors Association for 30 years of service to children
1995 – Houston Pride Committee award for community service
2001 – An Uncommon Legacy Foundation, Inc. — Extra Mile Award for Founding Lesbians Over Age Fifty (LOAF) in 1987
2004 – Houston Zoological Gardens honors for 23 years of service as a Docent
2008 – Old Lesbians Organized for Change (OLOC) honors for founding the Old Lesbian Herstory Project (OLOHP)
2010 – LOAF Founders Award as a Visionary/Dreamer
2011 – Proclamation from the City of Houston for community service through LOAF and OLOC
2012 – Bold Woman Award, BoldFest Conference, Vancouver BC
2012 – Proclamation from City of Houston on the 25th Anniversary of LOAF
2013 – Proclamation from City of Houston for founding the Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project
2014 – Women’s Trailblazer Award from the Department of Energy, Washington DC, “for helping women to excel with their similarities and differences in a complex world”
2014 – Honoree, National Women’s History Project, Washington DC, “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment”
2014 – Featured speaker for Pride Month Celebration, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Washington DC
2017 – Grand Marshal, Houston Pride Parade, Houston TX
Arden Eversmeyer is an inspiration to us all and her passion will continue to inspire students for generations.