Edith Spivack Goldstein, one of Port's favorite daughters, passed away last week at the age of 95 from complications from a fall. On Friday, a stream of people who admired, respected and loved her filled the home of her daughter, Amy Bass, who, not surprisingly, is also considered a favorite daughter here in Port.
Edith Spivack Goldstein at her 95th birthday celebration.
In an article in the July 7 issue of the Port Washington News titled "A Port Washington Living Legend Looks Back: Edith Spivack Goldstein Celebrates Her 95th Birthday," Port News reporter Dolores Kazanjian O'Brien writes, "As she looked back on her many achievements - and they are extraordinary - it is clear that the legacy of which she is most proud is her family."
Edith has one other daughter, Rita, and four grandchildren, all accomplished professionals spanning many fields, including computer science, medicine, education, law and engineering.
Amy commented in Ms. O'Brien's article that her parents were very supportive, interested, thoughtful and loving. "I'm very, very proud to be their daughter."
Edith was born on April 19, 1910. She grew up in the Bronx and Upper West Side, the daughter of a seller of cardboard boxes. Professionally, she used her maiden name in honor of her parents.
She graduated from Barnard at 19 and then from Columbia Law School in the Great Depression year of 1932, one of six women in a class of 94. It was a time when women represented just 2.4 percent of the legal profession. Only 12 years had passed since American women won the right to vote!
Nonetheless, Edith was actually hired by a private Manhattan firm. But when the boss got wind of her wedding plans, she was fired for fear that she would become pregnant. In an article about Edith in the New York Law Journal of December 2004 titled "A Legal Pioneer Retires After 70 Years," she says, "Mother always told me, 'Everything happens for the best. There are times when you're sad and depressed, but you have to recover and go on. Life is tough if you don't go through it joyfully."
In 1933 she married Bernard H. Goldstein, Columbia Law, class of 1930. Edith and "Bernie" met in law school and theirs was not only the first Columbia Law School marriage, but very well the longest to date, extending almost 65 years until Bernie's death in 1998. Bernie had a very distinguished career in his own right as a partner, specializing in real estate at Tenzer Greenblatt, now Blank Rome.
She and her family moved to Port in 1949. Amy said that apart from her professional world, her mom loved the quiet charm of Port and its wealth of offerings. "Up until the day she died, she attended programs at the library, like Sandwiched In on Fridays," Amy reports. "She also loved to walk and was often seen at the town dock with her walker in the good weather and in the aisles of Stop & Shop in bad."
To say that Edith had an outstanding professional life is indeed an understatement. In a presentation made by the New York State Bar Association honoring her it was written, "With her irrepressible optimism and intelligence, Edith became one of the outstanding leaders in her profession. She has inspired countless attorneys, women and men, with her wonderful work ethic, integrity, expertise and kindness. Every exchange with her is enhanced by her high intelligence, superb memory and pervasive goodness. Her career in the New York Department of Law, spanning 70 years, is unmatched."
During her remarkable tenure she served 10 mayors (the first being Fiorello La Guardia) and 23 corporation counsels. At a ceremony in City Hall on December 13, 2004, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo paid tribute to Edith and all she accomplished during her uniquely impressive career.
Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch recalled Edith's creative legal mind, initiating a project to force foreign consulates to pay their water bills to the revenue-starved city. When one consulate refused, she threatened to personally shut off the water, he recalled.
"She was ebullient. She filled a room full of energy," Koch said.
Aside from her passion for the law, Edith enjoyed New York City, theater, music, sports, reading, photography and travel.
The funeral was private. A city-sponsored memorial is planned for September.