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Lois Sasson, Quiet Force in Gay and Women’s Rights, dies at age 80

This obituary is one in a series on people who died in the coronavirus pandemic. Learn more about the others here.

“Her heroes were Eleanor Roosevelt and Bella Abzug. Put these two women together and add some sexy spice and you’ve got a pic of Lois.

This is how Susan Kahaner described her sister, Lois Sasson, an ever-elegant behind-the-scenes force for women’s rights, gay rights and human rights. Ms Sasson was the lesser-known half of a power couple in these arenas – her 33-year-old partner was Lesley Gore, the singer known for “It’s My Party”, “You Don’t Own Me” and other hits from the 1960s. Ms. Sasson never made headlines at fundraisers and protests for feminist and other causes she supported, but those who made the headlines saw her as a vital presence.

“She was one of those really important people in the movement that supported financially but also philosophically,” said Faye Wattleton, former president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and a leading advocate for reproductive rights and other causes of women, in a press release. telephone interview. “You need people like Lois who are a solid foundation you can depend on.”

Ms. Sasson died on December 30 in Manhattan. She was 80 years old. Ms Kahaner, her only survivor, said the cause was Covid-19.

While encouraging Ms Gore (deceased in 2015) in her career, Ms Sasson had one, as a jewelry designer. His pieces, some created in partnership with Geoffrey Thomas, were sold in high-end stores like Bergdorf Goodman and were sometimes displayed in art galleries. Friends have said that her outfits are always as stylish and sophisticated as her jewelry.

“If she met you and loved you,” her sister said, “she was known to take a diamond pin off her jacket and put it on your lapel – as a gift.

Lois Diane Kahaner was born on April 28, 1940 in Brooklyn. Her father, Sol, was an importer of fine lace finishes, and her mother, Helen (Seiden) Kahaner, was a housewife.

She grew up in Jamaica Estates, Queens, and attended Mount Ida Junior College in Newton, Mass., And New York University. An early marriage to Raymond Sasson ended in divorce.

At first, Ms Sasson and Ms Gore generally kept their relationship out of the news, although Ms Sasson had no reservations about her support for gay causes. In a Newsday column in January 1993, Liz Smith wrote about a New Years Eve party hosted by Ms. Gore and producer Marty Richards in St. Bart’s, where many guests wore red enamel pins and gold depicting the AIDS ribbon that Ms. Designed by Sasson.

“In St. Bart’s, the French in the area had never seen the ribbon and believed that Lois was distributing the equivalent of the Croix de Guerre,” Ms. Smith wrote. “After explaining the tape, Lois took control of over 350 of them.”

The proceeds went to Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS.

Ms. Sasson’s support for feminist causes was also reflected in her jewelry, including bracelets that spelled “Brotherhood is Global” and “Visible and Mighty.”

She and Ms. Gore gradually became more and more central to their relationship – Ms. Gore even hosted episodes of “In the Life,” PBS magazine’s series about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“We have to believe in something bigger than safe and comfortable lifestyles,” Ms Sasson told Curve, the lesbian community magazine, in 2019. “Everyone has to look at themselves in the mirror and decide to what he wants to remember. . “

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