Gerda Lerner, 1920-2013

Historian, feminist, and author of The Creation of Patriarchy Gerda Lerner died Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013, in Madison, Wisconsin.  She was 92.

Most American scholars reading this post do not remember a time when women’s history was not at least a possible area of study.  This is thanks in part to Lerner’s efforts, as she contributed to the creation of the first graduate program in women’s history in the USA.  Before I read feminist philosophy, I read Creation of Patriarchy. Yet despite the tremendous impression that work made on me, I’m disposed to quote the passage from her more enjoyable read, Fireweed: A Political Autobiography, cited by the NYT in the obituary linked above: “My perfectionism, insistence on anti-fascist commitment in word and deed, and general ‘heaviness’ as a person set me apart from others.”

She certainly was a distinctive presence.

8 thoughts on “Gerda Lerner, 1920-2013

  1. Thanks for posting this; thinking of all that she experienced really blew me away. Then, there’s what she did, too!

    One question for the NYT, though: it is reported in the piece that she earned a doctorate*, so I wonder why she is referred to throughout the obituary as “Ms. Lerner.” ??

    ( * “After earning her bachelor’s degree from the New School in 1963, Ms. Lerner enrolled at Columbia, her work on the Grimké sisters in hand, to study women’s history. Bending the rules, the university allowed her to complete her master’s and doctorate in three years.”)

  2. Fireweed was an incredible memoir–one of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read.

  3. I believe that’s customary in the NYT, and part of their distinctive stylebook regs. (They often get the same inquiry when determinedly referring to U.S. Presidents as “Mr.”)

  4. No, I don’t think it is customary. On the VERY SAME PAGE of the NYT, is a male with a Ph.D. in Biophysics, and he is referred to throughout the article as Dr. Woese.

    (” President” is the name of an office holder, and so it makes sense that it isn’t treated the same as an earned-for-the-rest-of-your-life title of “Dr.”)

  5. Oops, I guess maybe people do use the title of President and Governor for the rest of one’s life in addressing ex-officeholders, BUT anyway, here I just care about differential treatment of Ph.D. women and Ph.D. men.

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