Gerda Lerner: Her Work

While reading Gerda Lerner’s books on The Creation of Patriarchy and The Creation of Feminist Consciousness, I was very moved by her objective, precise, rational way of describing women’s lives and by weaving the complexities of our human development so thoughtfully together, going straight down to the navel of our cultural development, asking the question: why? Why was there patriarchy? Why were there different roles for men and women? What was it like to be the concubine, the veiled woman, an early Christian woman? And what was it like to start feeling the murmurings of freedom, of autonomy, of a direct relationship to God?

I felt like I had walked through human history – as a woman – and was seeing everything from a different view point. Why? Because Gerda does not exclude herself as the writer or researcher when she describes the historical situations of women. She makes you feel the historical structures in yourself. And even more importantly, she doesn’t take the classic feminist viewpoint. She simply says: “Women and men have created history together.” Gerda has given us tools to understand, to learn, to own our own history – and to move from here into the future to be created.

Meeting Gerda Lerner personally was a great delight. Her lifelong commitment to social justice, her relentless courage to always walk beyond the limitations she faced, and her fearless and creative ways of thinking have made her into a powerful, dignified woman. Some people say at times it was not easy to work with Gerda because she always demanded more from them, never accepting mediocrity. When I met her, as a ninety-two-year-old woman she still exuded this high level of integrity that she demanded of herself and others. When she talked about the need for women to have their own heroines she didn’t realize that, without knowing it, she created herself into just such a heroine, inspiring many women and men to think for themselves, to always hold spirit higher and not waver from the belief in a deep humanity within all of us.

Renata Keller

Gerda wrote many influential essays and books. Among her most important works are The Grimké sisters from South Carolina. Rebels against slavery, 1967, the documentary anthologies, Black Women in White America (1972) and The Female Experience (1976), the essay collections, The Majority Finds Its Past (1979) and Why History Matters (1997), The Creation of Patriarchy (1986), and The Creation of Feminist Consciousness (1993). She published Fireweed: A Political Autobiography in 2002 and her latest book Living with History – Making Social Change in 2009.

More information: www.gerdalerner.com


Schriften von Gerda Lerner, z.T. auch auf Deutsch erschienen:

Feuerkraut. Eine politische Autobiographie. Czernin, Wien 2009

Zukunft braucht Vergangenheit. Warum Geschichte uns angeht. Helmer, Königstein/Taunus 2002

Die Entstehung des feministischen Bewußtseins. Vom Mittelalter bis zur ersten Frauenbewegung (= Frauen und Geschichte. Bd. 2). Aus dem Englischen von Walmot Möller-Falkenberg. Campus-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main u. a. 1993

Die Entstehung des Patriarchats (= Frauen und Geschichte. Bd. 1). Campus-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main u. a. 1991

1979 Frauen finden ihre Vergangenheit. Grundlagen der Frauengeschichte. Campus-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main u. a. 1995

Ein eigener Tod. Der Schlüssel zum Leben. Böhme und Erb, Düsseldorf 1979