She was born in Meriden, CT, July 21, 1945 to Dr. Henry and Ingeborg Alberty Caplan.
Her activism commenced with protesting the War in Vietnam and she was arrested and handcuffed in front of her young children on trumped up charges that were soon dismissed. Consequently, she became an anarcho-syndicist and, in 1971, moved with her then partner to Florida; they aimed for Jacksonville but by navigational error ended up in Gainesville. Always wearing black, the color of anarchists, she was known as “Black Abby”. Then, wishing to change the world but becoming disheartened by the disorganization of anarchists, she changed political philosophies several times and settled in as, and forever remained, a Marxist.
Abby spent the rest of her life in Gainesville working for the benefit of the community she loved. In the early ‘70s she was among the founding members of the Rape Information and Counseling Services which evolved into Sexual and Physical Resource Center and what we know today as Peaceful Paths. She continued her involvement and leadership with organizations too numerous to list but including ACLU, NCFAN, PCCNCF, NOW, HRCNCF, CMC, GAAP, Stonewall Democrats, the Humanist Society, Gainesville Women’s Health Center and Helping Hands Clinic. She served on many boards, often in a leadership position and was always willing to assume the tedious but necessary role of taking minutes
When Abby saw an important vacuum needing to be filled she went to work to fill it. A strong advocate for women’s rights and women’s reproductive rights, in 1983 Abby and Donna Burnell cofounded Gainesville Area NOW after NOW had been absent in Gainesville for many years. This NOW chapter exists to this day – among the longest running chapters ever. In 1991 Abby saw a need to create an organization to elect progressives to public office; on the advice of a political consultant, she instead set about to do just that by transforming the local Democratic Party, reenergizing and radicalizing it. Beginning in 1992 she chaired the Alachua County DEC and from that time on the party has been a major participant in local elections, finding progressive or, at least, liberal candidates for city and county elections. Abby didn’t just lead the party, she walked precincts for candidates and issues, distributing literature and talking to voters in election campaigns too numerous to mention.
While volunteering so much time and energy she worked as a nurse for the Alachua County Health Department in the HIV Clinic and Healthy Start program and raised five amazing children. Her proudest achievement, apart from her children, was the passage of the Human Rights Ordinance in both the city and county for which she had worked for decades.
Abby was known for her unflagging energy, her outrage at social injustice, her fearlessness in speaking truth to power, her commitment to civic action and her joy in living. She loved hiking, camping, traveling, opera, movies, birds, baseball, family reunions, folk festivals and reading, but her greatest love was reserved for her family and incredibly large circle of friends. She was a warm and loving person known for always smiling and she was earthy, nurturing, understanding and generous.
Ten days before she died she drove to a walk-in clinic with what she thought was bronchitis and was immediately transported to a hospital and diagnosed with lung cancer. After four days, when it was clear nothing could be done, she bluntly stated, “I want to die at home!” That evening she was home on hospice, and lived six more days. With her husband and cat on the bed with her and with her four surviving children and a close friend holding her hands, she breathed her last. She once had had a near-death experience and saw the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel and after that never feared dying. She donated her body to the State Anatomical Board for use by medical students.
The Alachua County Commission declared 28 April 2015 as “Abby Goldsmith Day” with the intention of her watching its proclamation from home on television, but she did not live to see it.
Abby was preceded in death by her beloved son Lawrence (Larry) Goldsmith and her infant daughter Louise. She is survived by her husband Vincent J. Lipsio, her daughters Deborah Goldsmith, Jennifer Goldsmith, Emma Caplan Heggestad, her son David Goldsmith, her grandchildren Max Goldsmith, Benjamin Zolkiewicz, Samuel Knabel, Joseph and Sarah Goldsmith, her sister Priscilla Caplan and Scruffy J. (Mr.) Cat.
You are invited to a Celebration of Abby Goldsmith’s Life on Saturday, June 6th, 2-5 PM, at the Gainesville Women’s Club, 2809 W. University Ave. Please bring pictures, stories and, if you wish, a dish or beverage to share. Call 213-4428 or 219-4050 with any questions.
Abby requested that instead of flowers contributions be made to the Civic Media Center (CMC) or the Gainesville Area Aids Project (GAAP).