Gloria Kaufman: A Feminist Trailblazer

Vietnam War Protests, Teach in with Dr Gloria Kaufman, May 1970.jpg

Professor Gloria Kaufman speaks at a teach-in​ in front of Northside Hall on the IU South Bend campus in May 1970. The event was part of a week of protest activity against the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia organized by the IUSB Coalition for Peace. ​

IU South Bend will celebrate the legacy of Dr. Gloria Kaufman in 2020 with the installation of an Indiana University Historical Marker. Save the date for the March 4 installation ceremony, which will feature an exhibit of Kaufman's writings and a screening of her video works, followed by the annual Gloria Kaufman Memorial Lecture. The following is the text of the historical marker: 

Gloria Kaufman (1929-2004) was a trailblazing advocate for women’s rights and community outreach. She served as an English professor from 1966 to 1993 at IU’s South Bend campus and founding director of the Women’s Studies program. In 1972, she coordinated IU South Bend’s first Women’s Studies course, “Interdisciplinary Analysis of Woman’s Role.” It was team taught, open to the public, and sought to “redress imbalances perpetrated for hundreds of years by male scholars." She edited two collections of feminist humor. She co-founded the IUSB Women’s Caucus (1971), was the first Affirmative Action officer (1974) for the campus, and established the Women’s Resource Center (1988). In the South Bend community, she served on city task forces championing women and cultural diversity. A memorial lecture inaugurated in 2005 celebrates Kaufman’s legacy as a “gentle revolutionary.”

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Through her video production company G.K. Productions, Kaufman created several magazine-style videos on topics addressed in her classes and writings, such as feminism, religion, humor and pornography. The videos below were recently digitized through the Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative of Indiana University.

Women, Ritual and Religion (1983) features contributions by Carol P. Christ (discussing liberation theology), Z. Budapest (demonstrating the self-blessing ritual), Elizabeth Schuessler Fiorenza (advocating a radical reconstruction of Christian theology and a repudiation of religious texts that promote violence) and Madonna Kolbenschlag (on the prophetic tradition in Christianity).

Clothes (1983) is an illustrated lecture on the semiotics of clothes, written, narrated and directed by Gloria Kaufman, who models a variety of outfits at the close of the video to demonstrate her arguments.

Kaufman directed, produced and co-wrote The Politics of Humor: A Feminist View (1986), which explores the relationship between feminism and humor. A multimedia lecture by host and co-writer Madeleine Pabis is supplemented by two routines by feminist humorist Kate Clinton, who, says Pabis, "applauds lesbianism in an open and natural way"; an "Emma Goldman puppet show," also hosted by Pabis, which is essentially a burlesque on Goldman's legal battles that closes with a short sketch about the naming of Planned Parenthood; and an excerpt from a lecture by Una Stannard about male "womb envy."

Pornography: Legal Issues and Beyond (1986) is a panel discussion featuring Dora Reynolds, host; Eileen Bender, moderator, Mary Kay Blakely, writer; Dolores Frese, professor; and Sharon Wildey, attorney. Directed and edited by Gloria Kaufman. The opening of the program is not included in the VHS copy in the IU South Bend Archives, which abruptly begins with Dolores Frese discussing legal remedies to address pornography.

1964-1987: Framing the Campus
Gloria Kaufman: A Feminist Trailblazer