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Mother, friend, writer, political activist. Born on April 7, 1945, in Toronto. Died May 10 in Toronto of cancer, aged 62.

There was a part of Leah that fancied herself a spy or secret agent, relentlessly pursuing social justice and opposing evil wherever it might lurk. She even had clothes for the occasion.

In her 20s, armed with an MA in political science, Leah landed a day job at IBM where her mission was to promote the introduction of barcode scanning in supermarkets.

By night, Leah wrote subversive columns about women and work for the Toronto Board of Trade, using the pseudonym Emma Peel, the feminist spy from television's The Avengers.

In typical style, Leah blew her IBM earnings on a spiffy, white sports car. She sped around town until my father, Ernie Lightman, came along - he couldn't quite fold his six-foot frame into the tiny vehicle.

When Leah quit her IBM job - actually she was "de-employed" - she decided to follow her lifelong dream of writing.

She co-authored a book, The Secret Oppression, the first substantial Canadian work on the sexual harassment of women in the workplace. In 1984, Leah published her second book, Small Expectations: Society's Betrayal of Older Women. At her death, she was working on a play about the lives of people on welfare.

Leah's trademark in research was her use of in-depth case studies. She had an amazing ability to establish rapport with people from all walks of life.

Her contact with her birth family was minimal, but this was more than offset by her deep friendships - her "family of choice," as she called them.

Leah firmly believed in the importance of intergenerational relationships, and was equally close to her teenaged goddaughters as to her nearly 90-year-old proxy parents.

Clearly, Leah's grandparents, Chana and Fishel Glicksman, were her greatest influence; undoubtedly, my father was Leah's closest friend. My parents first met at age 7, at Hebrew school. But Leah's family moved and it wasn't until 25 years later that they reunited at a Halloween party. Their connection was instantaneous. They travelled the world, supported one another unconditionally, and shared every intimacy.

For her last 22 years, Leah carried with her the baggage of cancer. She told very few people about her illnesses, as she never wanted to be seen as a victim.

One of my strongest memories of my mother is when she decided we would travel to Ottawa to participate in International Women's Day.

We painted big signs and upset everybody when we carried them on the train. We marched on Parliament Hill, hand in hand.

My mother left us all enriched by her passion and bettered by her principles.

Naomi Lightman

is Leah's daughter.

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