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Caroline Joyce Whitby, Feminist and Advocate 

Fri, 05/19/2023 - 09:45

Sept. 24, 1934 - April 22, 2023

Caroline Joyce Whitby, a lifelong feminist and L.G.B.T.Q.+ activist who was a co-founder of the East End Gay Organization, died on April 22 at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. She was 88 and had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease for 25 years.

A resolution honoring her that was to be passed this week by the New York State Legislature said that her “commitment to excellence and her spirit of humanity carried over into all fields of enterprise, including charitable and civic endeavors.”

“Armed with a humanistic spirit imbued with a sense of compassion, Caroline Joyce Whitby leaves behind a legacy which will long endure the passage of time and will remain as a comforting memory to all who were privileged to have known and loved such an amazing woman,” reads the resolution, which is to be presented to her family at her service on Saturday at 2 p.m. at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Amagansett, with the Rev. George W. Dietrich officiating.

Ms. Whitby, who lived in East Hampton and had an apartment in Manhattan’s West Village for nearly 50 years, was “a woman of many talents and passions,” according to the resolution.

Born in Pittsburgh on Sept. 24, 1934, to Theodore Whitby and the former Jane I. McKenna, she attended St. Benedict Academy and earned a bachelor’s degree at Carlow College in Pittsburgh before going on to Fordham University in the Bronx to earn a master’s degree in social work. She then trained at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute and became a psychoanalyst with a private practice as well as an assistant professor of clinical social work at Fordham.

She had been a member of the board of SAGE, an organization that advocates for and provides services to L.G.B.T.Q.+ elders, and served on the board of the Feminist Press at City University of New York, for which she edited “A Question of Choice” by Sarah Weddington, the attorney who took the Roe v. Wade case to the Supreme Court and won. “She was a great writer,” said Assemblywoman Rebecca A. Seawright of New York’s 76th District.

Ms. Whitby was involved with the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee and had hosted a fund-raiser for Senator John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign at her house in Hampton Waters, where she also hosted a dinner fund-raiser for the East Hampton Library’s Authors Night, among many other events.

She was involved with the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, was a volunteer locally with the Ellen Hermanson Foundation’s Ellen’s Run, ushered at Guild Hall, and was a member of the church council and a secretary at St. Michael’s in Amagansett. Ms. Whitby was a founding member and had been president and secretary of the Hampton Waters Property Owners Association.

She and her wife, the late Betty Fox, had been together for 55 years. Ms. Fox died in 2009. Together they adopted a son, James Duong Fox, and moved full time to East Hampton so they could send him to the Ross School, Ms. Seawright said. A trailblazer like her wife, Ms. Fox was the first woman in New York State to own a radio station, according to Ms. Seawright.

Ms. Whitby was, according to the resolution, “an avid reader, a gourmet cook” — she was known for her “exquisite scallops Provencal and bourbon-soaked ham, among other dishes” — and she also “enjoyed eating good food, drank fine wine, and loved her cats, Mindy, Jack, and Mimi.”

Despite her accomplishments and decades of advocacy and civic involvement, she was rarely in the spotlight, instead shining it on causes and people she found worthy. “She was a very private person,” Ms. Seawright said.

She is to be honored at the annual Edie’s Backyard BBQ, a fund-raiser in Southampton on May 27 for the Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer Foundation, which supports L.G.B.T.Q.+ organizations and causes. 

In addition to her son, who lives in Brooklyn, she is survived by two grandchildren, Jack Fox and Betty D. Fox.

Her ashes will be mixed with those of Ms. Fox and spread in Gardiner’s Bay.

Memorial contributions have been suggested to St. Michael’s Lutheran Church, P.O. Box 695, Amagansett 11930, or the Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer Foundation, P.O. Box 737, Southampton 11968.
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Correction: An early version of this obituary had the incorrect day for Ms. Whitby's service. It is on Saturday, May 20.

 

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