Gerda Lerner, Women's History Pioneer, Dies at 92

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By Sami K. Martin, Christian Post Reporter
January 4, 2013|8:58 am

Gerda Lerner, a life-long advocate for women's rights and an impassioned educator, died at the age of 92. She spent her life advocating for equality and education for women and was a founder of the Sarah Lawrence Women's Studies Program.

"When I was faced with noticing that half the population has no history and I was told that that's normal, I was able to resist the pressure," Lerner told the Wisconsin Academic Review in 2002.

She spent her life trying to educate others about gender equality after being imprisoned in a Nazi camp at a young age.

"They taught me how to survive," she wrote of the two women she was imprisoned with. "Everything I needed to get through the rest of my life I learned in jail in those six weeks," she said in "Fireweed: a Political Autobiography."

Lerner became a professor at Sarah Lawrence College in New York and helped found the school's women's studies program. She wanted to ensure that others, especially female students, knew their own history and would continue to share with the rest of the world.

"She made it happen. She established women's history as not just a valid but a central area of scholarship. If you look at any library today, you will see hundreds of books on the subject," Alice Kessler-Harris, a history professor at Columbia University, told The New York Times.

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"In my courses, the teachers told me about a world in which ostensibly one-half the human race is doing everything significant and the other half doesn't exist. I asked myself how this checked against my own life experience. 'This is garbage; this is not the world in which I have lived,' I said," she told The Chicago Tribune.

Lerner is the author of several books on women's history, including "The Woman in American History," "The Creation of Patriarchy" and "The Creation of Feminist Consciousness," and "The Grimke Sisters from South Carolina: Rebels Against Slavery."

"I wanted the world to be a just and fair place, and it obviously wasn't– and that disturbed me right from the beginning," Lerner once told The Wisconsin Academy Review, and she spent the rest of her life working to make it a more "just and fair place" for everyone.

 

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