it is right and proper that the authors of In the Words of Women acknowledge a debt of gratitude to Gerda Lerner, historian, author, teacher, and activist, who died on January 2 at the age of 92. When Lerner graduated with a doctorate in history from Columbia University in the 1960s, she remarked that the number of historians interested in women’s history “could have fit into a telephone booth.” Not only were women historians few in number, Lerner noted, historians in general had, for the most part, ignored the study of women in history. In an interview she recalled that “in my courses, the teachers told me about a world in which ostensibly one-half the human race is doing everything significant and the other half doesn’t exist.” Lerner spent her life trying to remedy that disparity. She taught what is considered to be the first women’s history course at the New School for Social Research in New York City in 1963. She established a women’s studies program as well as the first master’s degree program in that area at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. At the University of Wisconsin she developed the first Ph.D. program in women’s history in the United States. She had a major role in persuading the academic community to acknowledge women’s history as a bona fide area of study and encouraged students and fledgling historians to focus on women in history by gathering and publishing anthologies of primary source materials. It is not an exaggeration to say that but for Lerner’s influence, it is unlikely that In the Words of Women would have seen the light of day.
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