Lucy Kramer Cohen: A Public-Spirited Woman, A Private Inner Life

Ever dream of making a film about someone you wanted the world to know more about? I did, and after ten years, I have completed A Twentieth Century Woman: Lucy Kramer Cohen 1907-2007 about the life of my aunt.  It started out as a family project, but as the years went by, I found it was a story that resonated with me and, as I learned, with others who had never known this remarkable woman.

The daughter of Jewish immigrants from Austro-Hungary, Lucy attended Barnard College and Columbia University, where she studied with and worked for Franz Boas, one of the founders of modern anthropology. In 1931, she earned a masters degree and married Felix Cohen, who had just completed a Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard and a law degree from Columbia.

During the 1930s, they worked with and for Native Americans to correct the injustices of the past and to give Indians more control over their lives and lands as part of Roosevelt’s “Indian New Deal.”


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