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Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy papers

 Collection — Box: 1-31
Identifier: 34-5-1012

Scope and Contents

Documenting the professional and academic work of Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy, this collection reflects her interests and activism in social issues, including records pertaining to the founding of the Women's Studies department at the University of Buffalo. The collection also contains drafts, notes, and correspondence covering the creation and publication of Feminist Scholarship: Kindling in the Groves of Academe, as well as transcripts of interviews conducted for Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold.
Recording the social upheaval of the late 1960s through the 1970s, these papers document Kennedy's social activism, and include local and national publications, fliers, newspapers, and journals of that era. Subjects covered include campus unrest, black liberation, socialism, and the anti-war movement. Also included are Buffalo events and protests, and newsletters from local chapters of the New American Movement and Vietnam Veterans Against the War/Winter Soldier.
Additionally, Kennedy's papers contain valuable information regarding the women's liberation movement. Coverage includes local groups and events, such as the Buffalo Women's Liberation Union and local celebrations of International Women's Day. National organizations include the Chicago Women's Liberation Union, Berkeley-Oakland Women's Union, Radical Women, and Boston Women's Union. Notes, agenda, and reports document conferences of the era, including the 1975 Socialist-Feminist Conference at Yellow Springs, Ohio.
The history of Women's Studies College is also documented, including its charter, degree program, committees, and budget cuts. Also included is information on WSC courses, including the initiation of the first women's studies course, " Women in Contemporary Society," syllabi, notes, and student work.
Present throughout the collection, Kennedy's spiral notebooks cover a wide-range of topics, from coursework and meetings, to her political activism. Other materials present in this collection (photographs, audiocassettes, and posters) further illuminate the women's studies department, class lectures, and events at UB and in the greater-Buffalo area.
Please note: Original newspapers were retained for exhibition purposes from Series II, Activism, and Series III, Women's Liberation Movement [box 29, FRAGILE, please see archivist for handling]. Photocopies from original materials are provided within those series.


  • 1961-1993
  • Majority of material found within 1970-1993


Language of Materials

Collection material in English.

Terms of Access

The Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy papers, 1961-1993 are open for research.

Conditions Governing Access

Portions of this collection are CLOSED.


Copyright is held by the State University of New York at Buffalo, University Archives. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the University Archives before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Most papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures unless otherwise specified.

Biographical Note

Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy began her education at Smith College, earning a BA in philosophy in 1960. After working on archaeological sites at Seattle, Albuquerque, and Jerusalem, Kennedy received her MA in anthropology from the University of New Mexico. Extensive research and fieldwork of the Waunan people in Colombia led to her 1972 Ph.D. in social anthropology from Cambridge University. While at Cambridge, Kennedy produced three documentary films on indigenous peoples of South America allowing her to later consult with both the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and ITV in Great Britain.
Kennedy's professional work reflects her varied interests and accomplishments. Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, Kennedy collaborated with Ellen DuBois, Gail Paradise Kelly, Carolyn Korsmeyer, and Lillian Robinson on Feminist Scholarship: Kindling in the Groves of Academe (University of Illinois Press, 1985). In the early 1990s, Kennedy's interest in oral history and activism led to Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community (Routledge, 1993), co-written with Madeline Davis. This book has received many honors, including the 1994 Jesse Barnard Award, 1994 Ruth Benedict Award, and a 1993 Lambda Literary Award.
Kennedy has long been regarded as a Women's Rights, and Gay and Lesbian rights activist. She participated in many local organizations, including the Buffalo Women's Liberation Union (BWLU) and International Women's Day coalitions. Furthermore, she established Elder Action in Gay and Lesbian Environments (EAGLES) with Madeline Davis.
University at Buffalo
Always active at the University at Buffalo, Kennedy began her career as a Deganaweda Fellow in American Studies (AMS) in 1969. By 1971, she was a faculty member and co-founder of Women's Studies College (WSC). Serving on numerous university-wide committees, Kennedy was instrumental in the development of the American Pluralism undergraduate course, which "focuses on the changing nature of American society, examining the rich diversity of cultural experiences in America and issues associated with diversity" (1992-1994 Undergraduate Catalog, p 19). Other committees that Kennedy has contributed to include the President's Commission on the Recruitment and Promotion of Women, and the Caucus on Women's Rights at SUNY.
Women's Studies College
In 1971, Kennedy participated in the founding of the University's Women's Studies College, one of the first women's studies programs in the country. WSC defined itself as follows: "This college is not a place to make women a subject to be studied but a place to break down prejudice built by our socialization about what women are and what they are capable of doing" (Summer, 1971, document on WSC, folder 19.7). Honored for her teaching skills, Kennedy developed many of the courses offered by WSC, including Women in Contemporary Society, New Research on Women, Cross-Cultural Study of Women, and the Family as an Institution. Additionally, Kennedy was active in resolving many of the difficulties Women's Studies College has faced since its inception, including budget cuts, women-only classes, and issues over its charter and degree programs. In January 1998, Kennedy left University at Buffalo to head the Women's Studies program at the University of Arizona at Tucson.


13 Linear Feet (29 manuscript boxes, 2 card boxes)


Collection of materials from Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy, professor of Women's Studies. Includes her teachings, publications, political activism, resource material, and her work in the UB Women's Studies and American Studies departments.


This collection is arranged in six series: I. Professional work; II. Activism; III. Women's liberation movement; IV. Women's Studies College (WSC); V. American Studies (AMS); and VI. University at Buffalo.

Acquisition Information

Multiple deposits from Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy were accessioned as #97-xxx between September, 1996 and December, 1997.

Accruals and Additions

No further accruals are expected to this collection.

Separated Materials

Two issues (vol. 1, no. 1 and vol. 1 no. 3, 1971), of the poetry journal Earth's Daughters, were removed from the collection and are available in University at Buffalo's Poetry Collection.
American Studies department records were removed to be processed with departmental records at a later date. These records include course catalogs, committee minutes, Native American Studies, and the Buffalo Unemployment Oral documentary.

Processing Information

Processed by Amy Vilz, October 2005.
Finding aid encoded by Danielle White, December 2014.

Finding Aid for the Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy papers
Finding aid prepared by Amy Vilz.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the University Archives Repository

420 Capen Hall
Buffalo New York 14260-1674 US
716-645-3714 (Fax)