Dr. Gerda Lerner, one of the founders of the National Organization for Women passed away at the age of 92 on January 2nd. She was also the founder of the nation’s first graduate degree program in Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence College in 1972. She was a Holocaust survivor, having spent her 18th birthday in a Nazi prison where she shared a cell with two gentile women arrested for political work. The two women shared their food as portions were rationed for Jews. She said the two women helped her survive, and the experience taught her how society could manipulate people, something she saw reinforced in American academia by history professors who taught as though only the men were worth studying.
“When I was faced with noticing that half the population has no history and I was told that that’s normal, I was able to resist the pressure to accept that conclusion,” Lerner told the Wisconsin Academic Review in 2002.
She will be missed.