Women’s Rights and Alumni Changemaker Featured at Women’s History Month Event

April 2024

In celebration of Women’s History month, award winning documentarian and Kean alumna, Sue Perlgut ‘65, screened her film “Connie Cook: A Documentary” in Kean’s Human Rights Gallery on Tuesday, March 26th. The event, sponsored by the Women & Gender Studies Program and the Kean University Foundation, was well received by an audience of students, alumni and faculty.

The film delves into the life of Constance Eberhardt Cook, one of the first three women elected to the New York State Assembly. She is considered by many to be a woman well ahead of her time: an attorney, legislator and advocate for women’s rights in the 1960s and 70s. Cook co-authored the bill that legalized abortion in New York and laid the groundwork for the landmark US Supreme Court Roe vs. Wade decision three years later. The documentary included first-hand accounts from New York State leaders, Cook’s protegees and historic footage of Cook herself.

The New York State Assembly also fittingly has a connection to filmmaker, Kean graduate Sue Perlgut ‘65. For her work in creating this and other documentaries, as well as for career providing impactful leadership to state and regional non-profit groups, Perlgut was recently honored as Woman of Distinction by the legislative body. The proclamation praised Perlgut’s “long-time advocacy and dedication to the rights of women and others in her community and beyond, always encouraging people not to be afraid to speak their truth.”

A question-and-answer period followed the screening. Perlgut generously responded to questions ranging from filmmaking, to activism, to life at Kean (then Newark State College) in the 1960s, sharing much of her personal experience. She credits her college extracurricular involvements with fostering her activism. As a student, she served on the student council and the dormitory executive board, was a member of Delta Sigma Pi, and co-founded the Student Committee For Advancement Through Education (SCATE) which tutored young people in Newark and Elizabeth. After Kean, Perlgut had a variety of professions, including teacher, actor, director, storyteller, playwright, arts administrator, documentarian and community organizer. In each, she also served as an advocate for women’s rights. Perlgut formed ClosetoHome Productions to reach a wide-ranging audience with videos that feature socially relevant issues, such as the Cook documentary.

Dr. Consuelo Bonillas, Kean Professor of Public Health and the Women’s & Gender Studies Program Coordinator expressed gratitude to Perlgut for sharing her important work. “We take pride in the cross- disciplinary nature of the Women’s & Gender Studies Program at Kean as gender impacts all professional fields, and in fact intersects with all facets of life. Connie Cook’s story exemplifies this – as does Sue Perlgut’s. We are grateful to Sue for sharing her time, talent and knowledge with our students.”