“When I started working on women's history about thirty years ago, the field did not exist. People didn't think that women had a history worth knowing.” -Gerda Lerner
Background: Lerner was born in 1920 in Vienna, Austria during the time that Adolf Hitler's rise to power. Her family joined the underground resistance against Nazi's but was caught and exiled. She immigrated at age eighteen to the United States. She earned her B.A., her phD in American History from Columbia University. She then went back to specialize in women's history and founded The National Organization for Women alongside Betty Friedan, Pauli Murray, and Aileen Hernandez.
Reference Corner: Why History Matters (1997), The Creation of Patriarchy (1987), The Majority Finds its Place- Placing Women in History (2005), and Fireweed, her personal autobiography (2002), http://www.gerdalerner.com/
Impact: Many credit Gerda Lerner with making the study of women a relevant topic for historians. She defines women's rights as complete equality between men and women in all aspects of society and distinguishes the difference between 'rights' and 'emancipation.' She not only advocated for gender equality but also, racial equality with the publication of Black Women in White America in 1972. Her impact in social justice has proven inspirational and allowed for women's voices to be better heard.