Thoughts on Gerda Lerner

I had zero interest in women’s history when I first heard of Gerda Lerner in 2009.  I thought her book, Creation of Patriarchy would be a dry, boring history of women that had nothing to do with me and my life. But as I began reading her book I was pulled into this story that compelled me deeper into wanting to know.  She had such an absolute way in which she laid out the facts of how patriarchy began and how women slowly colluded in the creation of it.   At one point she was describing the veiling laws that came into being in Mesopotamia.  How the husband had the right to veil his wife to show that she was a ‘noble’ woman and it differentiated her from her sisters who were in effect, prostitutes or slaves and not worthy of the veil.  In an instant, I got it.  This history is in me.  I’m not separate from it or my sisters.  Any separation was caused by a tragic law written over 4000 years ago.  I haven’t looked at another woman the same since.  That’s the power that Gerda Lerner’s work has.  Ana Guerrero Miller, financial consultant, San Francisco When I read the first sentence in Gerda Lerner’s introduction to The Creation of Patriarchy – “Women’s history is indispensible and essential to the emancipation of women” – I was struck by a profound confidence and experience that resonated in me. As I went on to read, I knew in the deepest place in myself that I was being met by a woman who really knew about this gap of understanding that needed to be closed in order for us women to be whole and move forward. I was being met in a way that I didn’t even know was missing until I started reading the book. The Creation of Patriarchy and The Creation of Feminist Consciousness have done exactly what Lerner promised – by understanding the underpinnings of where we come from, they have freed me to be able to envision creative possibilities that weren’t in my reach before. Knowing our history in such a thorough and detailed way helps one see how society has been constructed by us human beings, and once we are truly cognizant of this, then we can start to see new creative potentials that arise from a place of wholeness in ourselves. Lerner has undoubtedly forged one of the most powerful steps for women’s advancement at this moment in time.  Kathy Bayer, Marketing Consultant, New York City The Creation of Feminist Consciousness is a text that serves the dual purpose of informing and inspiring. It is precise and engaging; Lerner leads her reader through years of untold history and shapes a new image of the past. As a young women reader I have often felt alienated from classical texts, reading The Creation of Feminist Consciousness helped me to breach these texts, carve myself an opening following from the great women thinkers within Lerner’s text. Roused by the genius of Hildegard of Bingen, of Christine de Pisan I became able to fashion myself a place within a tradition that once left me wanting.  Ciara Monahan, BA Honours in Philosophy, St. Mary’s University of London Gerda Lerner is absolutely without a shadow of a doubt a magnificent person…”a national treasure.”  I have reverence for all of these great “heros & sheros” who have held up the banner of truth… And I also know how courageous one must be to wave that flag.  Rodney Kendrick, Musician and Producer, New York City ….One of the most important lessons that I learned from Gerda Lerner when I first encountered her as a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin was that being a feminist and being a good historian were not mutually exclusive. In fact, and this is revived and renewed every time I have the opportunity to see or meet with her, these two seemingly separate “identities” are rightly interconnected, the one informing and enriching the other. Not only is teaching, writing, and speaking about women’s history a political act, in and of itself, but also women’s history is a useable past, a vital part of the establishment of a women’s group identity and consciousness which is the precondition for organized efforts to improve women’s lives. Dr. Lerner exemplifies this by not only generating and supporting the scholarship, but also through a lifetime of artist/political activism/organizational work, all a part of what she referred to as “the work,” in the inscription of my copy of The Creation of Feminist Consciousness. We must be true to the past, to the best of our ability while we see, name, and reveal injustice… Dr. Lerner, Thank you! You have been a constant inspiration.   Lisa Fine (Michigan State University), H-Women (April, 1995) Dear Renata, I imagine that spending time with Dr. Lerner was quite an experience in your life.  I feel that she was such an amazing spirit, and she must have had such an impact on you. She made such a great impression on me.  I was thrilled to see your beautiful interview with her posted recently. In 1987, I attended college for a short time. I left and never finished a degree. I recently went back to college and have been taking one or two courses a semester to work towards a degree in social science. Last semester I took a women’s history course. The very first amazing woman my professor taught us about was Dr. Lerner. I was hooked! Her words, her thoughts on how women have been absent from history and have actually contributed to patriarchy by teaching children gender roles really struck me. I learned so much in the women’s history course and completed the course with a new sense of empowerment. I felt anger when I realized how absent women are from school textbooks. I have four children, three are female. I will make sure all of them have a complete view of history, all sides, women included. Sincerely, Sue