Liz Robbins Dies at 76; Broke Glass Ceiling as a Washington Lobbyist

Her father, Manuel Robbins, was a lawyer who worked for a variety of city agencies, including the Manhattan district attorney’s office under Thomas E. Dewey, and her mother, Eleanor (Landau) Robbins, worked in communications for the American Red Cross.

Liz grew up in Scarsdale, N.Y., studied philosophy at Wheaton College, outside of Boston, and graduated in 1967.

Along with her husband, she is survived by her daughter, Robin Johnson Tokley, and a grandson.

Ms. Robbins worked in advertising in New York and spent a stint in Washington, working for several congressional committees. She returned to New York to join a new city program centered on childhood development.

She didn’t intend to go back to Washington. But she soon realized that the financially constrained city could do even more by accessing federal funds; it just had to ask. And she knew the right way to ask.

“They went broke and sent me back to Washington to do some lobbying,” Ms. Robbins told the Washington newspaper Roll Call in 2005. “And so a lot of broke places started calling me up.”

By 1981 she was lobbying for San Francisco, Berkeley and the state of Michigan, as well as New York City. Though she was a Democrat, she worked both parties and developed relationships with top Republican senators. During tough negotiations over a child care bill with Bob Packwood of Oregon, he challenged her to a game of gin rummy. She won $12, and his vote.

“She was like a snapping turtle; she wasn’t going to let go,” George Miller, a former Democratic representative from California, said in an interview. “One thing you learned about Lizzie, she was not going away.”


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