Mary Metlay Kaufman Papers
Scope and Contents of the Collection
The Mary Metlay Kaufman Papers consist of 34 linear feet of material, dating from 1917 to 1994. The bulk of the papers date from 1946 to 1986 and focus on Kaufman's professional life. Types of materials include trial records and research; correspondence; published and unpublished writings; speeches; conference materials; teaching materials; research and subject files (including notes, drafts, newspaper clippings, articles, and printed materials); and a small amount of photographs and personal memorabilia. Wherever possible, Kaufman's original arrangement and folder titles have been retained.
Major themes that run throughout the collection include international law, the Nuremberg Principles, the Cold War, Communism, political trials in the U.S., the anti-Vietnam War and anti-nuclear movements, U.S. war crimes, and international human rights. Kaufman's papers document her life-long advocacy for the oppressed as well as for others who fought poverty, racism, war crimes, and political repression. The wide range of social causes in which she was involved illuminates connections between the Old Left, especially labor reform and C.P.U.S.A. activities, and the New Left's Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War movements.
The papers also document Kaufman's close associations with other prominent civil rights attorneys and the activities of the National Lawyers' Guild, as well as her involvement in other progressive organizations and in several international war crimes tribunals. Kaufman's research and writings reveal her development and use of the "Nuremberg defense" for those arrested in civil disobedience actions protesting war crimes.
Kaufman's papers reflect her personal battle as a woman attorney, having begun her legal career in the late 1930s. She often had to fight not only the prosecution, but also her own male colleagues for inclusion on defense teams. The financial struggles she had as a single mother are also apparent, in correspondence with clients regarding payment for her services for which she often received little or no compensation.