Eleanor Cooper, who began her lesbian activism in the early 1970s, was a leader in the passage of the New York City gay and lesbian rights bill in 1986, and managed to stay active through most of her last 13 years in a nursing home, died of complications from a series of strokes and sepsis on December 6. She was 68. – Andy Humm
When I went to Philadelphia in 1978 as representative of Queens College LGBT youth to help plan the first Lesbian and Gay March 1979, I was wandering around the Friends Meeting House during orientation where our national committees was hosted and, not by accident wandered in with the womens’ caucus. The men’s groups seemed fractured to me and I was tired of getting hit up on by NAMBLA members and getting ignored by other members of the youth organizations – so the womens’ caucus seemed like a safe haven. After a few minutes of “checking in” we sat around holding hands and sharing how we felt “in the here and now.” I had very long hair, I was very slim and wore flowery Huckapoo shirts and platform shoes. I looked a bit like the Cher doll with Sonny’s clothes. Suddenly a woman who was smiling at me followed her eyes down my torso to my crotch and screamed with a blood-curdling scream “There’s a man in here.” Naturally I turned around to see who it was. Within seconds I was thrown out of the room bodily. Eleanor Cooper sternly came to my rescue. “What in the world were you thinking?” she said. “Don’t you know about respecting “womens’ space?” Womens’ what? I asked.
Eleanor surpressed a chuckle and informed me in a very motherly way that women are around men all the time and when they have the opportunity to be with themselves, would prefer if men respected “their space” and left them alone. I assured her that I was only there because I felt comfortable with them and explained my discomfort around men I did not know. She brought me back in and explain my situation and I apologized to the group. Over the course of the weekend, I was introduced by Eleanor to many wonderful women like Joyce Hunter & Betty Santoro. I will miss Eleanor.