Harriet Epstein was “fearless,” trading stay-at-home life for world travel, packed press pools and a writing career when the field was mostly closed to women — encouraging others to follow her lead, her family said.
Epstein was a “tremendously energetic” community member and a mother who embraced political debate, said her daughter Roni Epstein, 54, of Glen Cove. Her mother, a Floral Park resident, died June 16 from symptoms of dementia at age 94.
Epstein was born in Coney Island on July 12, 1922, and attended Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn. As a girl, she spent her days reading under the Coney Island boardwalk and sleeping on the beach when her mother rented out rooms in their beachside home. After graduating from high school, she received vocational training, mastered typing and became a legal secretary. She soon met Bernard Epstein, whom she married in 1945 and moved to Long Island, where she began writing.
Women were not welcome in the writing world when Epstein was starting out, but it didn’t matter. She “would not take no for an answer,” Roni Epstein said, and pursued articles about the things that excited her, whether publications wanted them or not.
As a freelancer, she published articles in Newsday, The New York Times and local magazines. She had a deep interest in travel and politics, which spilled over into her writing. Epstein published articles about everything from painter Arthur Singer to her adventures in Europe. She interviewed and penned biographies of writer Ayn Rand, Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, both activists and journalists, and others. Socially conscious and politically connected, Epstein often kept company with famous philosophers, writers and policy makers.
“I came home from a tennis match in high school one day and I was bummed because I lost and there was [philosopher and author] Wayne Dyer sitting in my living room,” Roni Epstein said. “He said I just didn’t want to win.”
Epstein also recalled her mother’s days as a campaigner for California Gov. Jerry Brown, who also visited the family’s Rockville Centre home.
Harriet Epstein spread her love of writing to her community, encouraging other women to join the field and hosting discussion groups in her home.
“She created a forum,” Roni Epstein said. “She was just trying to bring people together and create transparency.”
From writing, Epstein made the jump to publishing, and worked with a number of Long Island magazines. She was associate publisher of “Of Nassau” and special project manager of “Long Island Life.” She also served as director of promotion for “Goodliving” and “Spotlight.” Epstein was a masterly advertiser, with the “tenacity” to hound potential clients until they yielded.
“That was really the thing that kept those magazines she worked with afloat,” her daughter said. “That was a talent that she definitely had.”
Epstein “had her hands in everything,” Roni Epstein said. She sailed, played tennis and ice skated into her 60s. Later in life she wrote for the Tower Times, a paper serving her North Shore Tower community. She “invoked” this spirit into her son Michael, 69, a Brooklyn native who owned My Father’s Place, the legendary Roslyn club.
“She always told me I should try everything,” he said. “But most importantly, she always strived for me to be as best I could.”
Harriet Epstein is survived by another daughter, Judith Epstein, 65, of Roslyn; and her sister Sally Kaufman, of Albany
A service was held Monday at Dodge-Thomas Funeral Home in Glen Cove, followed by burial at Mount Lebanon Cemetery in Glendale.