UB Faculty Member Wins Sociological Society Book Award

Release Date: December 14, 1994 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A University at Buffalo faculty member and her co-author have won a prestigious American Sociological Association (ASA) award for their critically acclaimed book, "Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold" (Routledge, 1993), an oral history that documents working-class lesbians of the 1940s and '50s.

Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy, UB professor of American studies and women's studies, and Madeline D. Davis, chief conservator and head of preservation for the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, will receive the Jessie Bernard Book Award at the ASA's annual meeting next summer. The award is given to recognize scholarly work that has enlarged the horizons of sociology to encompass the role of women in society.

The book evolved from the authors' 14-year study of a mid-century bar community in Buffalo. Its narrative was developed from dozens of oral histories that document how working-class lesbians, castigated by heterosexuals and homosexuals alike for their macho "butch" and ladylike "fem" personas, "searched for and built communities -- usually around bars and house parties -- in which they could be with others like themselves."

The barroom was observed because lesbian life grew from this small, fragmented and extremely isolated subculture of autonomous individuals and groups before World War II to a stable, flourishing, integrated and mutually supportive public community by the late 1950s.

In the end, despite the many difficulties they confronted, Kennedy and Davis found that mid-century working-class lesbian communities were crucial for the development of 20th-century lesbian politics and consciousness. These lesbians insisted on their right to a public life, helped to loosen the hold of patriarchy on women's lives and allowed them to explore alternatives.

Kennedy was one of the original planners and faculty sponsors of UB's Women's Studies Program. The university began offering women's studies courses in 1970, making it one of the older programs in the nation. The program offers bachelor's and master's degrees, as well as a women's studies concentration in the context of the American studies doctoral program.

A graduate of Smith College, Kennedy received her doctorate from Cambridge University in England. She resides in Buffalo.

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