Gertrude Himmelfarb railed against the moral relativism and social-science-based work of the “New Historians” and argued for a return to the values of the Victorian era. Himmelfarb attended Brooklyn College and the Jewish Theological Seminary before earning a PhD from the University of Chicago with a dissertation on Lord Acton, a Victorian politician who blended liberal values of social reform with a conservative moral stance. She went on to research the rise of poverty as a social problem, comparing Victorian solutions to poverty with modern American ones and controversially advocating a return to Victorian concepts of the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor to determine aid distribution. Himmelfarb also argued against moral relativism and trends in historical studies that favored ethnographic studies of common people in different eras and psychological portraits of leaders over the earlier focus on political events and leaders, believing that the new approaches made history meaningless. Since 1965, she taught first at Brooklyn College and then at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where she has been professor emerita since her retirement in 1988.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Gertrude Himmelfarb." (Viewed on May 25, 2015) <http://jwa.org/people/himmelfarb-gertrude>.