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Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00780

Scope and Contents

Personal and professional papers reflecting Kennedy's role as one of the pioneers in the field of Women's Studies and LGBTQ Studies as well as her activism, both in Buffalo, NY and in Arizona. Materials include syllabi, notes, research, correspondence, and personal memorabilia. Especially well documented is the emergence of Women's Studies as a viable academic field, as well as the opening up of American Studies and cultural anthropology.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1951-2017


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

To the extent that she owns copyright, Kennedy has assigned the copyright in her works to Smith College; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Kennedy, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical Note

Elizabeth ("Liz") Lapovsky was born in Brooklyn, NY, the daughter of Arthur Lapovsky, a neurologist, and Martha Sculman Lapovsky. She graduated with honors from Erasmus Hall High School in 1956 and from Smith College in 1960. Shortly after she finished an MA in social anthropology at the University of New Mexico in 1962, Liz Lapovsky married Perry Kennedy, a beatnik and writer. Through her marriage to Perry Kennedy, who had more radical leanings developed in Putney work camp, Kennedy became involved with the anti Vietnam-war movement in England.( That marriage would later end in divorce in 1978. In 1972, Lapovsky Kennedy completed her PhD in social anthropology at Cambridge University (UK), engaging in extensive field work among the Waunan people in Colombia's Choco provence. She joined the faculty at SUNY Buffalo in 1969 as a Deganaweda Fellow in American Studies where two years later, she co-founded the Women's Studies College at SUNY Buffalo. Against much administration (and even collegial) opposition, Kennedy and others such as historian Ellen Carol DuBois and literary scholar Lillian Robinson, fought for years to establish Women's Studies as a viable field, only in the late-1980s and early 1990s seeing success. After almost thirty years at SUNY Buffalo, Kennedy moved to Tucson"to become head of the Department of Women's Studies at the University of Arizona. During her tenure there, Kennedy initiated the Women's Plaza of Honor with the Women's Studies Advisory Council, a project to commemorate women's contributions to history, particularly in the southwest, as well as to support the Department of Women's Studies.[2] Fundraising efforts from the Plaza made it possible for the department to create a Ph.D. program in the fall of 2008. Kennedy retired from the University of Arizona, but she remains Emeritus Faculty in the Department of Gender and Women's Studies ( Over the years she won multiple teaching awards and was a generous mentor to dozens of students. But it is as one of the leading pioneers in lesbian history that Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy is perhaps most often recognized today. As her "Women's Plaza of Honor" at the University of Arizona biography notes,"In 1978, Kennedy initiated a community oral history project in Buffalo, New York about the lives of working-class lesbian women in the decades before Stonewall. The thirteen-year project developed into the influential'Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community'(1993), one of the seminal texts on lesbian history in the United States. The book was a collaborative project with her former student, Madeline Davis, and was the recipient of many awards, including the 1994 Jesse Barnard Award, 1994 Ruth Benedict Award, and a 1993 Lambda Literary Award"(


32.937 linear feet (31 containers)

0.000048 Gigabytes

Language of Materials



The collection contains personal and professional papers reflecting Elizabeth Kennedy's role as one of the pioneers in the field of Women's Studies and LGBTQ Studies as well as her activism, both in Buffalo, NY and in Arizona. Especially well documented is the emergence of Women's Studies as a viable academic field, as well as the opening up of American Studies and cultural anthropology.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

This collection contains materials received from the donor in digital form that are not currently available online. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request access to this digital content.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was gifted to the Smith College Special Collection by Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy, 2016.

Related Materials

Finding Aid for the Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy Papers (1961-1993) at SUNY Buffalo, University Archives:;query=Elizabeth%20Kennedy;brand=default

Separated Materials

Two folders of material containing student records were returned to Kennedy.

Processing Information

The contents of computer media in this collection has been copied to networked storage for preservation and access; the original directory and file structure was retained and file lists were created.

Finding aid to the Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy papers
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Madison White
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2017-07-26T17:48:24-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2018-10-11: Updated to conform to DACS
  • 2020-06-16: Description added for born-digital content.

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063