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Memoir profiles lesser-known sides of Edie Windsor
by Matt Simonette
2019-12-11

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Mention the name Edie Windsor, and many LGBT residents would correctly associate her with the landmark litigation that ultimately paved the way for the United States Supreme Court declaring marriage equality to be the law of the land in 2013.

But a new memoir, which Windsor had started before her 2017 death, sheds light on aspects of Windsor's life that many outside of her family, friends and New York City social milieu do not know about. That book, A Wild and Precious Life, was completed by Windsor's co-author, Joshua Lyon, and featured significant contributions by her second wife, Judith Kasen-Windsor. It was released by St. Martin's Publishing Group in October.

"Everybody really knew her because of the [legal] case," Lyon told Windy City Times. "She really wanted the book not to focus on the case, because there was so much more incredible stuff in her life beyond that, as a closeted woman growing up in America."

The book, which Lyon and Kasen-Windsor completed by utilizing Windsor's extensive trove of journals and documents, was intended as both "a portrait of this incredible woman and how, as she grew, the gay rights movement grew alongside her," he added.

"Edie had always wanted to write her book—her childhood story, her coming-out story, and her role at IBM," added Kasen-Windsor. "It was important for her to share it all."

Windsor was a very much a pioneer in the technology sector. A Wild and Precious Life details her many years working at IBM, where she achieved in the rank of senior system programmer at a time when few women did so. The book also recounts her commitment to the group Lesbians Who Tech, an organization dedicated to raising the visibility of lesbians and other queer women in the technology industry.

Lyon said, "After the case, when she became very celebrated within the community, she said, 'I started a whole new love affair with the gay community.' It fed a deep need for acceptance and love that everyone has, that she hadn't gotten as a young person. But when she [learned about] Lesbians Who Tech, that was a whole new level—that was a whole niche group that thought and felt exactly like her. It just blew her mind."

"Nothing made her happier," said Kasen-Windsor. "She became a completely different person when you talked about technology. She just lit up, and she loved to talk about coding and all this geeky stuff. I went to a few meetings with her, and just stood there. I had no idea what they were talking about."

Lyon also said that Windsor thought it important to write about her second marriage.

"She wanted people to know about Judith," he explained. "She felt like people didn't know a whole lot about their relationship. Her [relationship with late wife Thea Spyer] was mythologized, and rightly so, but she wanted people to know that she had a life beyond that."

Kasen-Windsor emphasized it was important that her late wife's story be publicly recounted.

"We've only had marriage equality for six-and-a-half years," she added. "Edie's case was in 2013, and I don't think people realize how fragile that is and how fragile it can be. I just think it's important for young people, and even people my age."


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