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Ruth Berman and Connie Kurtz papers

 Collection
Identifier: SSC-MS-00520

Scope and Contents

The Ruthie Berman and Connie Kurtz Papers include personal correspondence and emails (1963-2005), scrapbooks (1980s-2005), photographs (circa 1950s-2000), and materials relating to gay and lesbian rights, same-sex marriage, women's rights, and Berman's and Kurtz's activism with regard to these issues. The collection also includes audiovisual materials, computer media, production notes, and public relations materials pertaining to the documentary film about the couple's relationship, Ruthie and Connie: Every Room in the House (2002). The collection documents their personal lives, first as wives and mothers in traditional marriages and, later, as a lesbian couple and as grandmothers. Also includes materials related to Connie's death and obituary.

Dates

  • 1950 - 2018

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

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

Conditions Governing Access

Until we move into New Neilson in early 2021, collections are stored in multiple locations and may take up to 48 hours to retrieve. Researchers are strongly encouraged to contact Special Collections (specialcollections@smith.edu) at least a week in advance of any planned visits so that boxes may be retrieved for them in a timely manner.

Conditions Governing Use

To the extent that they own copyright, Berman has assigned the copyright of Berman's 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 Berman, 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.

Donald Goldmacher, producer of Ruthie and Connie: Every Room in the House; the film's original title was"Ruthie and Connie: More Than a Love Story," has retained copyright in perpetuity to all the audiovisual material related to this documentary.

Biographical / Historical

Ruth Berman was born in Brooklyn, NY on March 30, 1934 to Jeanette Zahner and Milton Green. She graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in 1951 and went on to earn her B.S. (1955) and her M.S. (1958) in Health and Physical Education from Brooklyn College. From 1971 to 1974, she was employed as a teacher and administrator at various middle schools and high schools in the New York City area , and at Brooklyn College as adjunct professor.

Constance Kurtz was born July 19, 1936 to Rose Levy and Elias Levy. After graduating from high school, she worked in Brooklyn, NY and in Jerusalem, Israel; her job descriptions have included bookkeeper and election campaign volunteer. Ruthie and Connie met in their Brooklyn neighborhood in the late 1950s and became fast friends; both were in traditional marriages and both had children. In 1970, Connie moved to Israel with her family. When Connie returned to the U.S. for a visit in 1974, she and Berman fell in love and began the challenging process of coming out, divorcing their husbands, and beginning a life together as a lesbian couple. The process propelled them into becoming politically active for gay and lesbian rights, and in 1988 they sued the New York City Board of Education for domestic partner benefits (Berman was a health and physical education teacher at a Brooklyn high school), winning the landmark case in 1994. Connie passed away in June of 2018 after a long battle with cancer.

Both Berman and Kurtz are certified counselors and in that capacity founded The Answer is Loving Counseling Center, where they have served for over twenty years. They travel widely, offering workshops that focus on skill-building towards a more functional life, including workshops for gay men and lesbians and their families. They have started branches of Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) in Florida and New York. They also run a T-shirt business: Not So Subtle Ts, and they host a web site (ruthieandconnie.com). In 2000, they began serving as co-chairs of the New York State NOW Lesbian Rights Task Force, and they are members of the GLBT synagogue of the Congregation Beth Simchot Torah. Ruthie and Connie have appeared on national radio and television, including The Donohue Show, Geraldo Rivera, Bill Boggs, and WBAI. In 2002, filmmaker Deborah Dickson made a documentary film about Berman and Kurtz, titled Connie and Ruth: Every Room in the House (produced by Donald Goldmacher).

Extent

21 linear feet (13 unspecified boxes (likely record cartons), 2 letter document boxes, 1 flat oversize box)

11 items (11 DVDs, 10 loose and 1 in original packaging)

0.0978 Gigabytes (digital files)

Language of Materials

English

Overview

Lesbian activists; Teacher, Health and Physical Education; Professor; Counselor. The Ruthie Berman and Connie Kurtz Papers include personal correspondence and emails, scrapbooks, photographs, and files related to gay and lesbian rights, same-sex marriage, and women's rights. The collection also includes audiovisual materials, production notes, and public relations materials pertaining to the documentary about the couple: Ruthie and Connie: Every Room in the House (2002). The most recent accession also includes material related to Connie's death and obituary.

Arrangement

This collection has been added to over time in multiple "accessions." An accession is a group of materials received from the same source at approximately the same time. Note that in most cases, container numbers start over at 1 with each new accession.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

As a preservation measure, researchers must use digital copies of audiovisual materials in this collection. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request the creation of and access to digital copies.

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 papers were donated to the Sophia Smith Collection by Connie Kurtz and Ruth Berman in 2005, with additions in 2006 and 2018.

Acc: #05S-32 was donated by Donald Goldmacher, producer of Ruthie and Connie: Every Room in the House; the film's original title was"Ruthie and Connie: More Than a Love Story." There is a separate COG for his accession.

Additional Formats

Selected videotaped recordings have been copied for research use.

Digital copies are available for select recordings. Please contact us for more information.

Processing Information

Processed by Burd Schlessinger, 2005.

The 2018 addition has not been processed, in the sense that archival arrangement and description beyond creating minimal box lists has not been done. The arrangement and description of materials may change in the future as iterative processing occurs. Researchers are encouraged to document their citations with this in mind.

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. One disk could not be copied.

Creator

Title
Finding aid to the Ruth Berman and Connie Kurtz papers
Status
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Author
Finding aid prepared by Burd Schlessinger; updated in 2018.
Date
2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (https://github.com/harvard-library/archivesspace-preprocessor)
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:18-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2018-12-04: Container list and descriptions added for latest accession; updated collection-level notes to current standards
  • 2020-04-01: Description added for born-digital content.
  • 2020-04-24: Added accessions 05S-16, 05S-32, 06S-40, updated dates and S and C note.

Repository Details

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

Contact:
Young Library
4 Tyler Drive
Northampton MA 01063