Eleanor Cooper Dies at 68 – Gay City News – Andy Humm

Eleanor Cooper
Eleanor Cooper – In 2005, Eleanor Cooper was honored in a Pride celebration hosted by City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr.

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.

9 responses to “Eleanor Cooper Dies at 68 – Gay City News – Andy Humm

  1. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful tribute about a wonderful woman! Still another voice of freedom gone from a world who needs them so dearly.

  2. Patrick Shannon

    I did not know all these things about Ellinor because I returned to my home town of New Orleans in the 1970s after spending about 8 years in the NYC area. During that time Ellinor and I were very close. We first met when attending Tulane U. in the 60s. She was such a very special woman and one of the great women of my life. I wept when I visited her in the Jewish Sr. Citizens home in NYC where she was placed when she began to have a series of strokes. May she share her enormous love and compassion with the jealous angels of heaven. RIP my darlling. I miss you more than ever…oh the memories of our NYC adventures. Patrick Shannon III
    Theater Critic for Ambush Magazine, the GLBT publication of New Orleans.

  3. There will be a memorial held in Eleanor’s honor this December 6th, the anniversary of her death, open to all who wish to remember her loving kindness and courageous advocacy, and her unique spirit. I am negotiating for a room at the NYC LGBT Community Center right now. Check Gay City News for final word as to time and location. Many thanks for your comments here.

    Jay (formerly Joy, Eleanor’s partner)

    • Dear Jay- Thank you so much for letting me know. Eleanor was an incredible woman and played a major role in my formative politics in the 1970s. See you in December. Best, Frank

    • Hello Jay,

      I hope you recall meeting me–Eleanor’s friend from New Orleans.

      I only recently found out about Eleanor’s passing. I did notify Jane Allyson in New York, who I saw back in August. Eleanor recommended Jane to me back in 1982.

      Jay would love to hear from you and I’m sure Jane would like to get in touch with you as well.

      Warm regards,
      David McCain
      Washington, NJ

  4. So sorry to hear about Eleanor. I remember her from the Wooster St firehouse and then the Women’s Center on 20thSt
    I’ll be at the ceremony on Sunday.

    • Dear Vittoria- Glad to hear from you. Hope all is well with you. I will be away this weekend. Please convey my condolences to Jay. Give my best to Robert Viscusi when you see him as well. Best to you, Frank Jump

  5. Yes, there definitely is a memorial service this Sunday, Dec 6, 2009, at 6 PM at the LGBT Community Center, 208 West 13 St between 7-8 Aves, in room 310. All are welcome to attend who wish to remember Eleanor.



  6. Hey Frank,

    Found this blog looking for info on Eleanor.

    Glad to have found it; Eleanor was always good at getting people together and she is still doing it.

    Too bad you will be away; hope all is well

    All the best!