Gerda Lerner, a scholar and author who helped to establish women’s history as an academic discipline, died on Wednesday in Madison, Wis., according to an obituary in The New York Times. She was 92.
At Sarah Lawrence College, where she began teaching in 1968, Ms. Lerner was a driving force behind what is widely credited as the first graduate program in women’s history in the United States, established in 1972. During the same period, she wrote a textbook, The Woman in American History (1971), and began gathering documentary material that would allow other scholars to write women’s history. She was also the author of numerous other scholarly works and essays, as well as a novel and short stories.
“She made it happen,” Alice Kessler-Harris, a history professor at Columbia University, where Ms. Lerner earned her doctorate in the 1960s, told the Times. “She established women’s history as not just a valid but a central area of scholarship.”
In 1980, Ms. Lerner joined the history department at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where she created the university’s doctoral program in women’s history. She retired in 1991.
In 1981 she was elected president of the Organization of American Historians, which since 1992 has awarded the Lerner-Scott Prize, named in honor of her and Anne Firor Scott, another pioneer in women’s history, for the best doctoral dissertation on women’s history in the United States.Return to Top