Wednesday, October 21, 2015

ISO a Biographer: Dorothy Kenyon

Dorothy Kenyon (wiki)
[Philippa Strum and Louise W. Knight sent a version of this notice, edited here, over the lawcourt-l listserv.  Sam Erman, USC Law, was good enough to forward it to us.]

Dorothy Kenyon (1888-1972) was a mid-twentieth century feminist attorney whose career sheds light on the history of feminism in the periods between the two world wars and in the post-war years. [She] began her career as a lawyer in private practice in New York City in 1917. She moved into public service in the early 1930s, serving on various state and city commissions, as New York City’s Deputy Commissioner of Licenses, and for a short term as a Justice on the city's Municipal Court. In these positions, in her capacity as the U.S. representative to the League of Nations Commission to Study the Legal Status of Women from 1938 to 1940, and as the first U.S. delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women from 1947 to 1950, Kenyon worked tirelessly to advance the status of women and minorities in the U.S. and internationally.

[She]  also held offices in many non-governmental organizations, beginning in the early 1920s. These included the Consumers' League of New York, the League of Women Voters, and the American Association of University Women. She served on the National Board of the American Civil Liberties Union from 1930 until her death and was central in persuading the organization to make challenging sex discrimination one of its priorities.  Despite Joseph McCarthy's anti-Communist attack on her in 1950, Kenyon remained politically active in the 1960s and early 1970s through her work in the war on poverty and her participation in the civil rights, anti-Vietnam war, and women's liberation movements. In 1968, when she was 80 years old, she co-founded an office for legal services for the poor on Manhattan's Lower West Side.

[We] believe she would make an excellent topic for a scholar, especially one with a background both in law and history. While Kenyon has been mentioned in passing in various books [notably, Landon Storrs’s Second Red Scare (DRE)] and while a few articles have been published about her, she has yet to receive the in-depth treatment her life and work merit.  One of us, Philippa Strum, has extensive research materials she collected for some biographical work on Kenyon and that she is happy to share. (An interested party would have to pay for shipping costs, as there are extensive paper files garnered from various archives as well as computer files.)  Louise W. Knight’s interest in Kenyon is partly personal. In addition to being an historian, Knight had a grandmother who was Dorothy Kenyon’s first cousin.  [Kenyon's papers are in the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College.]

Philippa Strum
Louise W. Knight