Women’s History Month: Elsie Frank


When I started researching for Women’s History Month I was surprised to discover very little information about women who have made a difference in the lives of aging Americans. I also learned that some extra digging can bring up a lot of great information if you’re willing to put in the work. Below the surface of Women’s History are the stories we don’t always celebrate.

One such story is that of Elsie Frank.

The most remarkable part of Frank’s legacy as an advocate is that it didn’t start until she was 70 years old. As mother of Congressman Barney Frank, she made her public premier in a re-election campaign commercial in 1982. After several campaign appearances she began to advocate publicly for the elderly*, bringing attention to disparities in healthcare and retirement savings.

She also discussed the need for assisted living and affordable housing for the elderly, most of whom are women. This is the part of Elsie Frank’s story that resonates with me and my mission here at Women for Living in Community.

One of her many legacies is HEARTH, a foundation to end elder homelessness. That’s a sobering thought: there are elder women in need of housing because they would otherwise be homeless. We don’t often think about what happens when older women simply cannot afford a place to live and have no community or family to fall back on. The Elsie Frank House, among others, is that community. It is currently home to 9 elder women.

Frank was also president of the Massachusetts Association of Older Americans, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of the older population of the state. As president she actively lobbies for assisted living facilities in the state and developed the Aging Services Access Points program.

You can read more of Elsie Frank’s story as shared by her daughter, Ann Lewis, here.

I hope that we can continue the legacy of Elsie Frank and advocate for community living and elder’s rights.

We would love to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Facebook.


*Note: I don’t personally like the use of the term “elderly” and try to avoid it as often as I can. However, it was the word most often associated with the work of Elsie Frank so I thought it was important that I remain consistent with her own narrative. 

Women For Living in Community