Groundbreaking feminist author Sidney Abbott was found dead after a fire Wednesday morning at a home in Southold, a longtime friend and owner of the house said.
"My house had a fire, my friend Sidney was killed," said Joan Elizabeth Nixon of Manhattan.
Abbott, 78, who used a wheelchair, was about to move to a new home when the deadly midmorning blaze erupted.
"She was very optimistic, she was trying to make a plan" to relocate with her cat, Midnight, and her terrier, Missy, said Nixon and another mutual friend, Barbara Love. The cat was killed in the fire.
"We both talked to her this morning," they said.
Abbott, a noted feminist activist, co-authored "Sappho Was a Right-on Woman: A Liberated View of Lesbianism," published in 1972, which tackled the prejudices of the times by defending lesbians.
"It was the first book that was a positive view of lesbians' lifestyles, the first nonfiction book [on that topic that] I know about," said Love, the book's co-author.
Under Betty Friedan, who led the National Organization for Women, lesbians were not only not recognized, they were disparaged as the "Lavender Menace," explained Nixon and Love.
Referring to Friedan, Nixon, who once worked as former Rep. Bella Abzug's driver, explained: "She thought lesbians would give the movement a bad name."
"Sidney had a substantial background in the early days" of the feminist movement, Love said.
She noted her friend was studying urban planning at Columbia University in 1968 when Kate Millett was writing her dissertation, which later became "Sexual Politics."
Abbott's aide was dropping off her dog at the vet when the fire broke out, she said.
The fire was reported at 10:28 a.m. via an automatic alarm, Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley said.
He said a neighbor, who is a volunteer firefighter, attempted to gain access to the home, but was turned back by fire and "heavy smoke" conditions. Firefighters from Southold, Cutchogue and Greenport responded to the scene, Flatley said.
Flatley said there wasn't much external damage and the victim was found after the fire had been contained.