Barbara Gewirtz Lifton
Time of Service:
2PM, Sunday, February 21st, 2016
Place of Service:
Riverside Memorial Chapel, New York City
Barbara Pauline Gewirtz Lifton, a legal advocate and pioneer on behalf of women, an artist, and musician, passed away on February 6, 2016 after a two month battle to survive injuries sustained when she was struck by a vehicle while crossing Second Avenue near her Manhattan home.
Barbara, the daughter of Charles and Frieda Gewirtz, was born in and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. She accelerated through Abraham Lincoln High School, graduating in 1951 at age 16. She became an artist, graduating from Cooper Union in 1954. In 1961, she graduated from Hunter College, earning a B.A. in Fine Arts with honors. She graduated from the University of Connecticut Law School in 1976, ultimately becoming a civil rights and employment lawyer.
In 1970, following ten years of activism in the peace and civil rights movement, Barbara joined the staff of the newly established New Haven (CT) Women’s Liberation Center. She was also a co-founder in 1971 of the New Haven Women’s Political Caucus and in 1972 of the Connecticut Women’s Political Caucus (CWPC). As issues chair of the CWPC, Barbara lobbied the state legislature and helped draft the bill in 1973 that created the Connecticut Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, of which she was a founding member and, later, Vice-President. The CWPC joined other organizations to form the Connecticut Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) coalition to lobby for both federal and state ERAs. She co-authored, with professor Tom Emerson of Yale Law School, an article published in the Connecticut Law Journal on the need for such legislation. The coalition efforts resulted in the passage of Connecticut’s ERA and ratification of the federal ERA, affirmed by a statement referendum in 1974. Barbara became co-chair of the CWPC in 1975, and her testimony on legislative proposals helped bring about fair credit for Connecticut women, repeal of the corroboration requirement for conviction of defendants accused of sexual assault on women, and reform of the state’s civil service laws. She was appointed a hearing officer by Governor Ella Grasso to try cases brought to the state’s Commission on Human Rights, a post she held for 19 years. She was the recipient of Distinguished Service Awards from both the Connecticut General Assembly and the Connecticut Bar Association.
Barbara had a private law practice in the New Haven area for many years. After more than 35 years in Connecticut, Barbara moved to Manhattan and joined the New York City Law Department. She retired from legal practice in 2004 at age 70, returning to the arts as a painter, actress and budding playwright. At age 72, she participated in her first group gallery exhibition of her art. She was active in her community, including as a mentor to the newly reestablished New York chapter of the National Women’s Political Caucus. She could be seen daily around her Tudor City neighborhood sporting home-made Hillary Clinton (for President) buttons, and wanted with all her heart to see Hillary elected. Socially conscious and giving, she remained thoroughly engaged in charitable work as executrix of the Charles and Dolores Gewirtz Charitable Trust.
Barbara loved and was greatly loved by her family and many, many friends. She is survived by her husband of 58 years, Dr. Norman Lifton of Manhattan, her daughter, Diane Elizabeth Lifton of Brooklyn, New York, her son Lawrence Michael Lifton of East Haven, Connecticut, her three grandchildren, Nathaniel Phelps Lifton Lewis and Sasha Riley Lifton Lewis of Brooklyn, New York, and Benjamin Michael Lifton of Branford, Connecticut, her sister Geraldine Marsha Gewirtz of Manhattan, her brother Dr. Jules Martin Gewirtz of Monsey, New York, and many wonderful cousins, nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Barbara's memory to Doctors Without Borders, City Harvest, Planned Parenthood or World Connect.
A memorial service will be held to celebrate Barbara’s life on Sunday, February 21, 2016 at 2pm at The Riverside Memorial Chapel, 180 West 76th Street at Amsterdam Avenue