MADISON (WSAU) Women’s history pioneer Gerda Lerner has died.
Her family said the 92-year-old Lerner died peacefully from old age on Wednesday night at an assisted-living facility in Madison – where she created a doctoral program in women’s history at the University of Wisconsin. Lerner was a founding member of the National Organization for Women.
She was born in Austria in 1920 – and she spent her 18th birthday in a Nazi prison. Lerner was behind bars for six weeks. She later wrote that the experience showed her how society manipulates people – and the lesson was reinforced by college history professors who said that only men were worth studying.
Lerner came to the U-S in the 1970’s in New York State, where she created the nation’s first women’s studies graduate program at Sarah Lawrence College. She later moved to Madison, where she established her doctoral program on women’s studies at the U-W. Lerner also wrote a number of textbooks on women’s history, including “The Creation of Feminist Consciousness.” She was also an editor of a book called “Black Women in White America.” It was one of the first books which chronicled the struggles and accomplishments of black women in America.