Annette Lieberman, 76, was Planned Parenthood publicist

August 05, 1996|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

Annette Lieberman, a pioneering publicist for Planned Parenthood in the days when Baltimore papers wouldn't print the phrase "birth control," died of a heart attack Saturday at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Mrs. Lieberman, a cancer patient for the past five years, was 76.

"She was a type-A, double-plus personality, always going, on the phone constantly," said her son Reform Rabbi Elias Lieberman of Falmouth, Mass. "She had reserves of energy that I don't have a clue where they came from."

During her long years in the public eye, "Netsie" Lieberman was TTC president of the Central Scholarship Bureau, organized video archives of Holocaust remembrances, was development officer for the Park School and did public relations for local Jewish groups.

She is perhaps most closely identified with Planned Parenthood of Maryland, where she worked for a decade beginning in 1962. As community director, Mrs. Lieberman built the agency's public relations department and promoted contraceptives to a wary public.

For all of her elegance and education, said her son, she could talk about sex in ways that anyone could understand and was not averse to hearing or telling ribald jokes. Mrs. Lieberman especially liked regaling audiences with stories of contraceptives from Biblical times, when everything from animal bladders to pebbles was used.

During the black power era of the 1960s, her advocacy of birth control in public housing projects was met with charges that the white establishment was trying to perpetuate genocide on people of color.

Mrs. Lieberman didn't flinch, explaining in a 1971 profile in Harper's Magazine how she handled militants simply by avoiding a confrontation with them.

One friend said that on the issue of abortion, "Netsie was such a liberal thinker, it would never occur to her that women shouldn't have the right to choose. She was very forthright in that way. It's what made her so effective."

Born Annette Filtzer, the daughter of a prosperous shirt manufacturer, she grew up on Park Avenue near Eutaw Place. As a youngster, she was known to set up a card table on the sidewalk and collect donations for the Fresh Air Fund.

She graduated from Western High School and earned a political science degree from Goucher College in the days when it barred Jews from its sororities.

While described by her son as never especially religious, young Annette's passion for her Jewish identity only increased with such injustice.

Lois Feinblatt knew her from those days. "It was obvious even in high school that she was a person interested in causes, although it wasn't obvious what direction it would take," she said. "Even if it was only a bake sale, she was the big organizer."

In his years as headmaster of the Park School, Parvin Sharpless got to see Annette Lieberman in action. "As an organizer of events with volunteers, I've never known her equal," he said. "And it wasn't just technical. She worked for things she cared deeply about and understood why they were important."

In 1942, she married Alfred T. Lieberman, an ear, nose and throat specialist. The couple lived on Clarks Lane for years and later an apartment on University Parkway. Dr. Lieberman died in 1988.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Sol Levinson & Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville.

Other survivors include two sons, Victor B. Lieberman of Ann Arbor, Mich., and Marc F. Lieberman of San Francisco; and five grandchildren.

Pub Date: 8/05/96

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