Happy 90th Birthday, Gerda Lerner!

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Undeterred by the ridicule of conservative male historians in the 1960s and 1970s, Gerda Lerner was a trailblazer in the field of women's history with such works as Black Women in White America and The Female Experience.

Institution: The Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University


"I am a Jewish woman, I am an immigrant, and I will no longer permit others to define me." A Death of One's Own (1978).

When Gerda Lerner developed one of the first women's history courses in the nation in 1963, while still an undergraduate, it would have been enough.

When Gerda Lerner published her dissertation, The Grimké Sisters from South Carolina: Rebels Against Slavery (1967), it would have been enough. 

"Women's history is the primary tool for women's emancipation." (Ms. Sep., 1981)

When Gerda Lerner published her anthology Black Women in White America (1972), which was for many years the only available teaching text on African-American women's history, it would have been enough.

When Gerda Lerner developed and directed the first women’s history master’s degree program at Sarah Lawrence College and the first Ph.D. program in Wisconsin, it would have been enough.

"Everything that explains the world has in fact explained a world that does not exist, a world in which men are at the center of the human enterprise and women are at the margin 'helping' them. Such a world does not exist." (Ms. Sep., 1981)

When Gerda Lerner organized and led the 1979 Summer Institute in Women's History for Leaders of Women's Organizations, it would have been enough. 

But Gerda Lerner did not stop there. She not only contributed a wealth of research and writing, she created the field of women's history and helped launch its national commemoration, Women's History Month. Today, she turns 90 years old.

"Today we can be defeated in regards to laws, to appropriations, to representation, but if we are truly transforming consciousness, we cannot be defeated." (Ms. Sep., 1981)

Happy Birthday, Gerda!

To learn more about Gerda Learner, visit Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia and Discover: Women's History Month.

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