In the April 6 issue of Almanac, the sketch of one 1999 honorary degree candidate was based on inaccurate source material. It is reissued here by the Office of the Secretary.
Dr. Gerda Lerner
Robinson-Edwards Professor of History Emerita, University of Wisconsin
Dr. Gerda Lerner, in creating and developing women's history as a new discipline of academic study, has achieved something few scholars can claim. With this and other innovative acts of scholarship and societal leadership, Dr. Lerner has changed the way the world views women.
Born to a Jewish family in Vienna and imprisoned when the Nazis came to power, Dr. Lerner has said that it was her Jewish experience that influenced her interest in history. She began taking history courses at age 38 to research a book on two nineteenth century leaders in woman's rights and abolition. After earning her BA from the New School of Social Research in 1962, she went to Columbia and earned her MA and Ph.D. degrees in history within three years. Dr. Lerner established the country's first graduate program in women's history at Sarah Lawrence College. Later, she helped found African-American women's history and built the premier Ph.D. program in women's history at the University of Wisconsin.
Dr. Lerner's writings are recognized as groundbreaking, particularly in challenging views of the role of women in history. She has written or edited ten books, including The Creation of Patriarchy (1986), that won the Joan Kelly Memorial Book Prize. She was among the first scholars to include black women's history in the scholarly canon. Black Women in White America (1972) was for a decade the only general book on the subject available for teaching. In 1997, she published Why History Matters, calling upon all to reconsider not just the purposes of scholarship, but its place in the larger world. Dr. Lerner has said, "History is under attack in this culture, but much worse, it is being ignored. I see the acquiring of history as a way of giving meaning to your own life and pursuits."
A founding member of the National Organization for Women, in 1976 she helped establish March as Women's History Month. In 1981, she became the first woman in 50 years to be named president of the Organization of American Historians. In 1993, Dr. Lerner was listed as one of America's "women of the century," chosen by a survey of academics conducted by Siena College Research Institute and the National Women's Hall of Fame.
Almanac, Vol. 45, No. 32, May 11, 1999