Cooperman to Cooperperson: LI woman’s historic name change

Posted: Updated:
Smithtown’s Ellen Cooperperson won a precedent-setting case in 1978 when she changed her last name. Smithtown’s Ellen Cooperperson won a precedent-setting case in 1978 when she changed her last name.

Smithtown’s Ellen Cooperperson won a precedent-setting case in 1978 when she changed her last name.

In 1976, she filed a petition with the state Supreme Court to change her name from Cooperman to Cooperperson. The inspiration had come at a bat mitzvah - during the service words like man and men were read as people.

"All of a sudden the language came alive for me,” says Cooperperson.

That's when she decided she wanted to make a statement about inclusion, human equality and the power of language. She filed her petition and a judge turned her down almost immediately in a 15-page decision. Cooperperson described the judge’s reasoning to News 12 Long Island

“My name change … is going to cause havoc and chaos,” Cooperperson chuckled.

But she didn't give up. Cooperperson got a lawyer and filed an appeal. Her court battle was featured in newspapers and talk shows across the country. Two years later, they won in the New York State Supreme Court of Appeals.

“It was confirmation that what we were trying to do was understood and accepted,” says Cooperperson.

"She's the living example of resist and persist,” says Karyn O'Beirne, president of the Mid-Suffolk chapter of the National Organization for Women, which fights for gender equality.

O'Beirne says Cooperperson helped open doors for women in the workplace. 

"We have female police officers, we have congresswomen … so our whole way of looking at these roles opened up,” says O'Beirne.

After winning the case, Cooperperson founded the women’s educational and counseling center at Farmingdale State College.

"I was helping at the time women to re-enter the job market and build their self-esteem," says Cooperperson.

And she didn’t stop there. In 1986, she created Cooperperson Performance Consulting to offer executive coaching, as well as learning and development to women and men in corporations.

“We are going to change the world together. We can't do it divided,” says Cooperperson.

  • SlideshowsSlideshowsMore>>

  • Guide: National park sites in the tristate area

    Guide: National park sites in the tristate area

    Statue of LibertyStatue of Liberty

    A guide to the national park sites and trails on Long Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York City and the Hudson Valley.

    A guide to the national park sites and trails on Long Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York City and the Hudson Valley.

  • Students organize walkouts over gun violence

    Students organize walkouts over gun violence

    Students from across the country streamed out of their schools on April 20, 2018 in the latest round of gun-control activism following the February shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.Students from across the country streamed out of their schools on April 20, 2018 in the latest round of gun-control activism following the February shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

    Students from across the country streamed out of their schools on April 20, 2018 in the latest round of gun-control activism following the February shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. The protests were chosen to line up with the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.

    Students from across the country streamed out of their schools on April 20, 2018 in the latest round of gun-control activism following the February shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. The protests were chosen to line up with the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.

  • Dog Day Fridays for April 20

    Dog Day Fridays for April 20

    Friday, April 20 2018 8:20 AM EDT2018-04-20 12:20:49 GMT
    Lizzy is a Retriever, Shepherd mix. She is only 2 years old and has all the makings of a great family dog. She appears to be good with children and other dogs.Lizzy is a Retriever, Shepherd mix. She is only 2 years old and has all the makings of a great family dog. She appears to be good with children and other dogs.

    Pet Peeves, an organization that donates and helps support shelters, and Last Hope Animal Rescue visited the News 12 Long Island studios with three adorable dogs this week.

    Pet Peeves, an organization that donates and helps support shelters, and Last Hope Animal Rescue visited the News 12 Long Island studios with three adorable dogs this week.

sorry to interrupt
your first 20 are free
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please enjoy 20 complimentary views of articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.
you have reached your 20 view limit
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please login or create an account to continue enjoying News12.
Our sign-up page is undergoing maintenance and is not currently available. However, you will be given direct access to news12.com while we complete our upgrade.
When we are back up and running you will be prompted at that time to complete your sign in. Until then, enjoy the local news, weather, traffic and more that's "as local as local news gets."