By: Sydnee C. Winston, Project Coordinator
A pioneer of women’s history, Dr. Gerda Lerner helped to shape this field of study through narrative, theory, and activism for over 40 years. In the 20th century, Lerner played a central role in the establishment of women’s history as a formal academic field. She also founded the first graduate studies program in Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence College in 1972. Quoted by President Carter in his proclamation of the first National Women’s History Week, Dr. Lerner proclaimed, “Women’s history is women’s right—an essential, indispensable heritage from which we can draw pride, comfort, courage, and long range vision.”
Dr. Lerner’s groundbreaking efforts and theories in the field of American history helped to advance the study of history in the second half of the 20th century. By demanding that attention be paid to the study of women’s roles, contributions, and experiences in society, she contributed to the successes of the feminist movement, the struggle for gender and racial equality in the United States, and the diversification and development of historical research. Lerner passed away on January 2, 2013 at the age of 92.
Check out our video series The Keepers of History: The Women Who Preserved One Half of Our Nation’s Story, which explores the life of Dr. Gerda Lerner and other pioneer women historians who spent their lives trying to carve out a place for women in the telling of our national story.