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Eleanor B. Newirth

Wed, 05/10/2023 - 19:03

Sept. 27, 1942 - April 5, 2023

Eleanor B. Newirth of East Hampton and Manhattan, an attorney and ardent feminist, died at home in Manhattan on April 5. She was 80 and had been ill with leukemia for seven years.

Ms. Newirth was committed to protecting the rights of girls and women from the 1960s until her death, her family wrote. She was a lifelong member of the American Civil Liberties Union, an organizer and participant in the Fresh Air Fund on the East End, and served on the board of the nonprofit Child Abuse Prevention Services in Roslyn.

“Eleanor loved living in East Hampton,” her family wrote. “We started out being summer visitors living on our sailboat in Three Mile Harbor and using it as a jumping-off point to explore southern New England. A few years later we bought our house,” on East Hollow Road, “which we fell in love with.”

Born in New York City on Sept. 27, 1942, to Meyer Fishbein and the former Sylvia Eckstein, she grew up in Brooklyn. Her father had left school in the 10th grade to provide for his immigrant family, and later made the leap from union activism in the 1930s to founding a textile manufacturing business in Lower Manhattan. Her mother lived to the age of 103, which Ms. Newirth wrote about in The Star in 2015.

She began traveling just after high school, spending time on a kibbutz in Israel as well as visiting France and Italy. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University before going on to Colgate University, where she was one of the first women to attend its graduate school.

She had briefly dated Joseph Newirth while a student at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn. While she was at Colgate, her mother received a call from Mr. Newirth, and then called her daughter to explain that she’d have to be home that weekend to receive her suitor’s call. They were married on July 2, 1966. Mr. Newirth survives.

Ms. Newirth was a social studies teacher at John F. Kennedy High School in Plainview from 1968 to 1974, developing one of the first curriculums for women’s studies for New York State high schools. She was active in the teacher’s union in Plainview during the 1970s, and lobbied for more equitable treatment of women teachers regarding pregnancy rights. She also stood up for student writers over free speech issues, her family wrote. She remained connected to American history and progressive politics throughout her life, exhorting those around her to vote and remain involved.

The couple moved to Port Washington, living there from 1975 to 1999. Around 1978, Ms. Newirth entered Hofstra University, where she earned a Juris Doctor degree. In her own practice, in Manhasset and New York City, she devoted herself to family law, helping many clients through difficulties with zeal and a sense of humor, her family wrote. In addition to her private practice, she devoted substantial time pro bono to serve unrepresented children and help indigent women obtain a divorce.

She was recognized by the Nassau County Bar Association in 2004 for her work with the Volunteer Lawyers Project, and again in 2017 for helping to inaugurate the Safe Center program as an “access to justice pro bono provider.” She was the first woman board member of the North Shore Yacht Club in Port Washington.

Ms. Newirth was a generous patron of the arts, supporting Off Broadway theater and overlooked American artists. She enjoyed independent film and the New York Philharmonic. In the last two decades, she traveled widely, from Vietnam to the Galapagos Islands.

But she was most devoted to her husband of 57 years, their two children, and her grandchildren, her family said. She had cared for her parents throughout their lives. In East Hampton, she enjoyed Georgica Beach, sailing on Gardiner’s Bay, watching fireworks, and entertaining friends at home.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by a son, Michael Newirth of Chicago, and a daughter, Karen Newirth, and two grandchildren, Hazel and Violet Maroney, all of Los Angeles.

A funeral took place at Beth David Cemetery in Elmont.



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