Opinion

Esther Coopersmith, Washington Hostess and Diplomat, Dies at 94

At a private fund-raising reception last year, the president of the United States introduced himself this way: “My name is Joe Biden. I’m a friend of Esther Coopersmith’s.”

Mrs. Coopersmith’s name has been a calling card in Washington for seven decades. As one of the longest-reigning hostesses, best-connected diplomats and top fund-raisers in the nation’s capital, she greased the machinery that helped keep political, diplomatic and journalistic circles spinning; a place at her dinner tables, which sat 75, (with room for many more elsewhere and outside) provided access to networks of money, influence and power across cultural and political divides.

Among her many matches, she introduced Bill Clinton, who was then the governor of Arkansas, to Boris Yeltsin on a trip to Moscow. She introduced Jehan Sadat, the wife of President Anwar Sadat of Egypt, to Aliza Begin, the wife of Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel, before the Camp David peace accords. Anatoly F. Dobrynin, the longtime Soviet ambassador to the United States, had his first Thanksgiving at her table.

“People need a place out of the public spotlight to meet and talk,” she told The New York Times in 1987.

Mrs. Coopersmith, who had multiple affiliations with the United Nations but who also reveled in her role as a freelancing citizen diplomat, died on Tuesday at her home in the Kalorama neighborhood of Washington. She was 94.

The cause was cancer, said Janet Pitt, her longtime chief of staff. Rather than seek treatment that might have only postponed the inevitable and made her miserable, Ms. Pitt said, Mrs. Coopersmith “wanted to live her life.”

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