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Women's History Pioneer Walks On

Gerda Lerner helped make the study of women a legitimate subject for historians. She was an author and role model to one Native American student.

After Gerda Lerner passed away on January 2 at the age of 92 in Madison, Wisconsin, Indian Country Today Media Network’s Mary Annette Pember wrote about her relationship with Dr. Lerner as a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Dr. Lerner was a historian and author, as well as a scholar. The New York Times reports that she helped make the subject of women’s history a legitimate subject for historians.

She got her doctorate from Columbia University in 1966. “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,” Dr. Lerner told The Chicago Tribune in 1993. “I asked myself how this checked against my own life experience. ‘This is garbage; this is not the world in which I have lived,’ I said.”

Pember tells of having this “serious” woman as a role model and professor in two of her courses in the Daily Yonder.

“She was tough and demanding. She insisted that we sit in the same seats and forbade us from eating in class. ‘We are here to work,’ she said tersely,” Pember says in her story. “Much to my chagrin, she pointed to a seat in the front row when she spied me trying to hide out in the back of the classroom. ‘Sit here, Ms. Pember, so I’ll come to know you.’”

Read the full account of Pember’s time with Dr. Lerner at