(Jan. 9, 1905-May 3, 1961). A native of Anderson, Indiana, Bess Robbins came to Indianapolis as a young girl. She attended the Indianapolis public schools, graduated from Manual High School, attended the Indiana Law School, Indianapolis, and received a bachelor of laws degree from Indiana University. Following admission to the bar in 1925, she opened a law office in Indianapolis. She continued to practice under her maiden name after her marriage in 1936.

Kaufman became interested in politics at an early age, serving as a delegate to the Democratic state convention and belonging to the Marion County Democratic Women’s Club prior to her election to the Indiana General Assembly. Her campaign for a seat in the Indiana House of Representatives in 1928 was unsuccessful, but, in 1932, she became one of the first Democratic women to be elected to the Indiana House. She served in the sessions of 1933, 1937, and 1939.

Kaufman was an active legislator, particularly in the 1937 session when she served as chair of the Committee on Public Morals and ranking member of one of the judiciary committees. She introduced or cosponsored 30 bills, 10 of which became law. Though somewhat less active in the other sessions, she supported bills that concerned women’s rights, humanitarian affairs, and matters relating to courts and the law, among other subjects.

Defeated in her bid for reelection in 1940, Kaufman continued her law practice until her death.

Revised March 2021

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