Women's history pioneer Dr. Gerda Lerner dies at age 92; annual Women’s History Conference will remember her contributions

Dr. Gerda Lerner, who established and served as the founding director of the College's graduate program in Women's History—the first graduate program of its kind in the nation—died at the age of 92 on January 2. This year the program celebrates its 40th anniversary and Dr. Lerner's legacy and those who followed in her footsteps promoting scholarship and activism.

In June, 2004, a State historic marker designating Sarah Lawrence College as the "Home of the Nation's First Graduate Degree Program in Women's History, founded by Dr. Gerda Lerner in 1972," was unveiled.

Dr. Lerner is widely acknowledged as one of the foremost pioneers in the field of women's history. Among her numerous achievements as director of the Sarah Lawrence program was hosting an historic 1979 Summer Institute in Women's History, organized with the Women's Action Alliance. It was there that Women's History Week (later to become Women's History Month) was launched. Most important, she created a field that boasts numerous programs at leading institutions of higher education throughout the country.

"She made it happen," said Alice Kessler-Harris, a history professor at Columbia, in an obituary in the New York Times. "She established women's history as not just a valid but a central area of scholarship. If you look at any library today, you will see hundreds of books on the subject."

Dr. Kessler-Harris will be the keynote speaker at the 2013 Annual Women's History Conference March 1 and 2 that will recognize the contributions of Dr. Lerner and another pioneer in women's history, Amy Swerdlow, who studied under Dr. Lerner and followed her as director of the program.