My Hamptons: Edie Windsor – Civil Rights Hero, STEM Pioneer, National Treasure

Edie Windsor
Edie Windsor, Photo: Kimberly Nusio

Edie Windsor is best known for United States vs. Windsor, where she was the plaintiff in a Supreme Court case that brought down the Defense of Marriage Act. But she’d been an LGBT activist for many years before that. She holds a master’s degree in mathematics, programmed on a UNIVAC, and worked for many years in systems architecture and operating system implementation, eventually attaining the title Senior Systems Programmer. Edie left IBM to focus on activism. She and partner Thea Spyer were together nearly 44 years.

Behind the Hedges: What do you love about the Hamptons?

Edie Windsor: Most of my friends here are also New York friends, but we are all different here, more relaxed, mostly not at work so together more in easier ways. I love the whole atmosphere, not to mention the beach, the ocean, the other waterways. There’s endless water. One lack felt by my mother when she visited: “Is there really no boardwalk?”

BTH: You’ve owned a home in the Hamptons for a long time. Has the area changed for the better or the worse?

EW: For me, mostly insignificant changes. My spouse sitting next to me here just said, “fewer gay bars and more traffic.” For LGBT persons like me, indeed fewer gay bars and considerably more LGBT events and hence so many more differences in how we live and meet each other and so many circumstances which bring us together as a community. Which is not to imply that I don’t miss line dancing at the Millstone, and all of the wonderful dance places that followed it.

BTH: Besides the Hamptons Tea Dance, what are the events you make sure to attend in the summer?

EW: The Hamptons Tea Dance is now sponsored by and supporting three organizations that we can’t live without: The New York Community Center, SAGE (Senior Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders] and Callen Lorde Community Health Center (which includes its latest New York City unit, The Thea Spyer Center, named after my late spouse of 43 ¾ years).

What else I cannot miss: Edie’s Backyard Barbecue supported by LGBT Network of Long Island (originally supported by them as the remaining “EEGO East End Gay Organization” party). The Sunset on the Harbor party for the LGBT Network, School’s Out for the Hetrick-Martin Institute, and the North Fork Women for Women Labor Day auction. Actually there’s a dozen more that are not to be missed but I’m running out of space!

BTH: If you could have anyone at your Hamptons dinner party (dead or alive) who would you invite?​

EW: I would have the entire membership of the original EEGO [East End Gay Organization] for parties and meetings, even the ones that Thea and I missed the few months that they boycotted our favorite dance house. But then I’d want to have a number of dinner parties immediately following that first one, encompassing every single person I ever loved and loved to be with over those years.

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