Five College Archives and Manuscript
                        Collections
Home >> Sophia Smith Collection >> Rhonda Copelon Papers, 1971-2006
Smith College seal
Rhonda Copelon Papers, 1971-2006
15 boxes (15 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 693

Abstract:
Lawyer. Papers include Legal documents and research, correspondence, teaching materials, published writings, panel presentations, notes, and audio and video recordings documenting Copelon's legal activism and teaching. Major topics include reproductive rights, domestic violence, international women's rights, AIDS legislation. Audio recordings include her course lectures for Women and Law, Law and Family, and Constitutional Law. [NOTE: The contents list for this collection is not online. Contact the Sophia Smith Collection if you would like one sent to you.]

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection with the following caveats:

  • This collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use.
  • Access to audiovisual materials may first require production of research copies.

Restrictions on use:

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to the unpublished works of Rhonda Copelon within this collection. Copyright to materials authored by others may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note

Rhonda Copelon was born in New Haven, the daughter of Herman and Katherine Copelon. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1966 and earned her law degree at Yale, graduating in 1970. She worked as an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) for a dozen years, particularly regarding cases involving reproductive rights. She successfully defended the right of African American unwed mothers to work as teacher's aides in Mississippi but lost in the challenge to the Hyde Amendment which cut Medicaid funding for abortions. After leaving the CCR in 1983, she would remain a board member the rest of her life. She was also a founding board member of the National Economic and Social Initiative, an Advisory Board member of Human Rights Watch, Women's Rights Watch, and Legal Advisor to and founder of Women's Caucus for Gender Justice. By the early 1980s, Copelon had come to realize the importance of establishing international rights as a way of protecting women's rights. She joined the faculty of the CUNY Law School at Queens College when it opened in 1983 and co-founded the International Women's Human Rights Clinic there in 1992. She would lead the fight, assisted by her captivated students, in establishing rape during war as a crime of genocide and torture. She filed countless amicus briefs in cases heard by the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and published widely on the need to treat rape during armed conflicts as a war crime.

After a four year fight against ovarian cancer, Rhonda Copelon died at her home in Manhattan. As her long-time colleague and friend, Peter Weiss, wrote in "The Nation" (5/31/10) after her death, Copelon "was the warmest of friends to her large entourage and the steeliest adversary to establishmentarians who did not recognize basic human rights.... She accomplished the impossible: she made justice look easy."

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Papers include Legal documents and research, correspondence, teaching materials, published writings, panel presentations, notes, and audio and video recordings documenting Copelon's legal activism and teaching. Major topics include reproductive rights, domestic violence, international women's rights, AIDS legislation. Audio recordings include her course lectures for Women and Law, Law and Family, and Constitutional Law.

[NOTE: The contents list for this collection is not online. Contact the Sophia Smith Collection if you would like one sent to you.]


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection with the following caveats:

  • This collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use.
  • Access to audiovisual materials may first require production of research copies.

Restrictions on use:

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to the unpublished works of Rhonda Copelon within this collection. Copyright to materials authored by others may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

Rhonda Copelon Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass.

History of the Collection

The papers were donated to the Sophia Smith Collection by Catherine Albisa in 2012.

Processing Information

Accessioned by Kathleen Banks Nutter, July 2012


Additional Information
Contact Information
Smith College Special Collections
Young Library
4 Tyler Drive
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886

Email: specialcollections@smith.edu
URL: https://www.smith.edu/libraries/special-collections
Language
English


Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

Subjects
  • AIDS (Disease) -- Law and legislation -- United States
  • Abortion -- Law and legislation -- United States -- History -- Sources
  • Abused women -- Services for -- United States -- History -- Sources
  • Copelon, Rhonda
  • Domestic violence -- United States -- History -- Sources
  • Human Rights Watch
  • International Women's Human Rights Clinic
  • International criminal courts
  • National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (U.S.)
  • Rape -- United States -- History -- Sources
  • Sex discrimination against women -- History -- Sources
  • Sexual abuse victims -- Law and legislation -- United States
  • Violence Against Women
  • War crime trials -- Rwanda
  • War crime trials -- Yugoslavia
  • Women (International law)
  • Women -- Crimes against
  • Women -- Legal status, laws, etc.
  • Women lawyers -- United States -- Biography -- Sources
  • Women's Caucus for Gender Justice
  • Women's rights -- Algeria
  • Women's rights -- History -- Sources
  • Yugoslav War, 1991-1995 -- Atrocities


Questions about this collection? Contact the archives
Home | Help | About | Search