In 1974, People magazine called Florynce (Flo) Kennedy “the biggest, loudest and, indisputably, the rudest mouth on the battleground where feminist activists and radical politics join in mostly common cause.” Lawyer, civil rights and women’s rights advocate, and gadfly, Kennedy was delighted with the accolade. She used her flamboyant attire and outrageous comments to draw attention to injustices of all kinds from the 1960s until her death in 2000.
Kennedy left Kansas, where she was born in 1916, for New York in 1942, graduated from Columbia University in 1949, then applied to Columbia Law School and was turned down. When she threatened to sue, a spot suddenly opened. She graduated in 1951, established a practice, and began taking on cases tied to her increasing involvement in the women’s, civil rights, and reproductive rights movements.
Kennedy established the Media Workshop to fight racism in advertising, represented H. Rap Brown and the Black Panthers, and founded the Feminist Party, which nominated Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm for president in 1972. She was one of the instigators of the Miss America Pageant protest in 1968 and organized a “pee-in” in Harvard Yard in 1973 to protest the lack of women’s bathrooms in university buildings.
Her papers at the Schlesinger Library document Kennedy’s lifetime of outspoken activism and include video tapes of the Flo Kennedy Show, which aired on Manhattan Cable Television in the early 1990s. Among the artifacts in the collection are two of her signature cowboy hats.
Florynce Kennedy Papers: electronic finding aid
Kennedy, Florynce. Color Me Flo: My Hard Life and Good Times. Englewood Cliff, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1976.
Randolph, Sherie M. Florynce "Flo" Kennedy: the Life of a Black Feminist Radical. Chapel Hill [North Carolina]: The University of North Carolina Press, 2015.
Schudder, Diane and Florynce Kennedy. Abortion Rap. New York, McGraw-Hill. 1971.