Somers, Elizabeth (1881–1934), republican and industrial revivalist, was born 14 October 1881 at Waterford city, daughter of William Somers, post office engineer, and his wife Elizabeth (née Walsh); she had at least three brothers. Her mother's family, who came from Kilmacow, Co. Kilkenny, retained strong traditions of the 1798 rising, and her maternal grandparents were Irish-speakers. In 1883 the Somers family moved to Cork city when William Somers was transferred there. Elizabeth began her education at a convent school. Her father died in 1891 from a chill contracted while performing his duties, and her mother was appointed postmistress of Whitegate, Co. Cork. Here Elizabeth earned a reputation as a bright pupil, studying history and economics; she wrote for the children's magazine St. Patrick's (1899–1903) edited by William O'Brien (qv), winning numerous prizes.
From 1901 to 1908 Mrs Somers was postmistress of Belmullet, Co. Mayo. Somers loved the scenery of the west of Ireland and was appalled by the area's poverty; shortly after her arrival she was elected a poor law guardian for Belmullet, a position which she retained during her residence in the west. She became a supporter of Sinn Féin and wrote extensively for the journals of Arthur Griffith (qv) under the Irish version of her name, ‘Lasarfhiona Ní Shamhraidin’, or simply ‘Lasarfhiona’; she also wrote for the Mayo News and contributed a regular column, ‘An grianán’, to the Irish Peasant.
In 1908 Somers moved to Dalkey, Co. Dublin, with her mother, who had been appointed postmistress of the town. Here she was active in Sinn Féin and the Gaelic League. She became a strong supporter of the Irish Volunteers and Cumann na mBan on their formation in November 1913 and April 1914 respectively, eventually becoming secretary of a Cumann na mBan unit. In 1915 her campaigns against recruiting to the British army led to the dismissal of her mother as postmistress of Dalkey, and a vigorous correspondence between Somers and Sir Matthew Nathan (qv), who was so impressed that he offered to reinstate Mrs Somers after the war. The family's financial circumstances deteriorated further when her brother D. C. Somers was dismissed from the civil service after being sentenced to five years’ penal servitude for his participation in the 1916 rising. He and another brother, Michael, were subsequently active in the IRA during the war of independence, and after independence D. C. Somers held an important post in the Department of Industry and Commerce. After 1917 she was an active fund-raiser and public speaker in support of Sinn Féin.
In 1917 Somers was appointed secretary of the Dublin Industrial Development Association, which subsequently expanded into the National Agricultural and Industrial Development Association (NAIDA), a lobby group primarily representing small businesses orientated towards the home market, which advocated the development of Irish industry through protective tariffs. The group ran a permanent Irish Industries Exhibition located at its offices, 3 St Stephen's Green, and supervised by Somers. For the rest of her life Somers was the administrative mainstay and public face of NAIDA; the minister for industry and commerce, Seán Lemass (qv) called her ‘its directing spirit’ and praised her ‘heroic work’ (Irish Press, 29 Dec. 1934). The organisation's press releases appeared over her name (often accompanied by her photograph), and became a common sight in Irish newspapers during the 1920s. She oversaw successive ‘Buy Irish’ campaigns and encouraged the development and expansion of Irish industries. She was an active opponent of the treaty and subsequently supported Fianna Fáil.
Somers never married, but shared a house with her mother and subsequently with her unmarried brother Michael. In 1931 she developed heart disease due to high blood pressure, and she died suddenly from a heart attack on 28 December 1934. The president of the Federation of Saorstát Industries declared her ‘an institution . . . her passing has left a great gap in our national life’, while the Irish Press predicted that ‘when the influences which made Ireland in the last twenty years are reckoned up, hers will not be far from the top of the list’ (Irish Press, 29 Dec. 1934). The eclipse of Somers's historical reputation (despite the revival of interest in Irish women's history from the 1970s) may be attributed to the fact that many of her writings appeared under pseudonyms, to the unglamorous nature of her administrative work, and to the subsequent discrediting of the industrial protectionism which she advocated; nonetheless, she was one of the most prominent female political activists of early twentieth-century Ireland.