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Sue Kaufman

1926 – 1977

by Ann Kneavel

Sue Kaufman railed against “having my work held up against a yardstick, measuring whether I am or am not writing about women’s issues.” Her resentment is well founded, for Sue Kaufman wrote about people’s issues, most specifically modern urbanites who struggled with the stresses of city life which, like ancient water torture, relentlessly wore them down.

Born on August 7, 1926, on Long Island, New York, the daughter of Marcus and Anna (Low) Kaufman, Sue Kaufman had one older brother. In the same year that she earned a B.A. degree from Vassar College (1947), Kaufman published her first short story, in Junior Bazaar. From 1947 to 1949, she worked as a part-time assistant fiction editor for Mademoiselle; in 1949, she became a free-lance fiction writer.

An apt observer of the upwardly mobile urban middle class in which she lived, Kaufman sketched characters with delicate strokes of a pen dipped in mild acid. Her best-known work is Diary of a Mad Housewife, published in 1967 and made into a movie by Universal Studios in 1970 with Carrie Snodgress in the title role. Her other books are The Happy Summer Days (1959), Green Holly (1962), The Headshrinker’s Test (1969), Life with Prudence: A Chilling Tale (1970), Falling Bodies (1974), and The Master and Other Stories (1976).

In 1953, Kaufman married Dr. Jeremiah A. Barondess. The couple had one son, James. Sue Kaufman was a member of the Authors League and a two-time recipient of an honorable mention in the Martha Foley collection of short stories.

She died on June 25, 1977, in New York City, after a long illness.

SELECTED WORKS BY SUE KAUFMAN

Diary of a Mad Housewife (1967. Movie, 1970); Falling Bodies (1974); Green Holly (1962); The Happy Summer Days (1959); The Headshrinker’s Test (1969); Life with Prudence: A Chilling Tale (1970); The Master and Other Stories (1976); “Memoirs of a Vassar Gel.” NYTimes Magazine (December 22, 1968): 12+.

Bibliography

Bryfonski, Dedria, and Phyllis Carmel Mendelson, eds. Contemporary Literary Criticism (1978); Dickstein, Lore. NYTimes Book Review, February 3, 1974, p. 7; Contemporary Authors (1967, 1981); Garrett, George. Sewanee Review (Winter 1977); Obituaries. NYTimes, June 26, 1977, 26:3, and Newsweek (July 11, 1977); Skow, John. “Fun City.” Time (January 21, 1974): 74+; Todd, Richard. Atlantic Monthly (May 1974); Tyler, Ann. NYTimes Book Review, July 11, 1976, p. 7; WWWIA 7.

More on: Fiction

How to cite this page

Kneavel, Ann. "Sue Kaufman." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on August 1, 2014) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/kaufman-sue>.

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