Gerda Lerner

Gerda Lerner, June 1981. Photo by Martha Nelson, courtesy of Schlesinger LibraryGerda Lerner, June 1981. Photo by Martha Nelson, courtesy of Schlesinger Library

Gerda Lerner, who died at age 92 in January 2013, was a pioneer in the field of women’s history and a scholar who worked tirelessly to make the study of women and their lives a legitimate subject for historians. As an author, she wrote pathbreaking books; as a teacher, she built new curricula for a new field; and as a member of the historical profession, she demanded equality for women within its ranks. Her 1986 book, The Creation of Patriarchy, made waves, spurring debate and making “patriarchy” a word and a topic to be reckoned with.

Lerner contributed more than 25 linear feet of her papers to the Schlesinger Library over 35 years. The collection doubled in size in 2013 with the gift of additional papers by Lerner’s children. Although the Gerda Lerner papers focus primarily on her life in the United States and her professional life as a historian and activist, significant materials also offer a window into her early years, which shaped the woman she became.