Living with History / Making Social Change

By Gerda Lerner

248 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, appends., notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2201-9
    Published: December 2014
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-8786-8
    Published: March 2009

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This stimulating collection of essays in an autobiographical framework spans the period from 1963 to the present. It encompasses Gerda Lerner's theoretical writing and her organizational work in transforming the history profession and in establishing Women's History as a mainstream field.

Six of the twelve essays are new, written especially for this volume; the others have previously appeared in small journals or were originally presented as talks, and have been revised for this book. Several essays discuss feminist teaching and the problems of interpretation of autobiography and memoir for the reader and the historian. Lerner's reflections on feminism as a worldview, on the meaning of history writing, and on problems of aging lend this book unusual range and depth.

Together, the essays illuminate how thought and action connected in Lerner's life, how the life she led before she became an academic affected the questions she addressed as a historian, and how the social and political struggles in which she engaged informed her thinking. Written in lucid, accessible prose, the essays will appeal to the general reader as well as to students at all levels. Living with History / Making Social Change offers rare insight into the life work of one of the leading historians of the United States.

About the Author

Gerda Lerner (1920-2013) was author or editor of twelve books in Women's History and one of the preeminent scholars responsible for the rediscovery of the field in the 1960s. A founding member of the National Organization for Women and one of the creators of Women's History Month, she was Robinson-Edwards Professor Emerita of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her books include Fireweed: A Political Biography.
For more information about Gerda Lerner, visit the Author Page.


"No generation lives to see the struggle's completion, but Lerner's Living With History / Making Social Change is valuable to feminist and postcolonial scholars in part because it connects the dots."--Women's Review of Books

"Ranging over a vast variety of ideas, events, causes and convictions, Gerda Lerner explores the complex collective issues effecting women. . . . Strongly recommend[ed] as an informative and inspiring read, not only for those interested in Gerda Lerner and Women's History, but for anyone interested in the myriad ways that historians can play a vital and positive role in the world."--Left History

"This book is a gift from a great historian to all those who seek a life of learning, teaching, and making change. Gerda Lerner’s powerful memoir, Fireweed, ended where this collection begins, with her emergence as a founder of the modern field of Women’s History. Here we get an inside view of how a generation of women scholars transformed a profession and how, in practice, one of that generation’s preeminent leaders has taught later generations to think and write. Perhaps most important, we learn by example how a lifetime of courage and reflection can enable one to meet old age with courage and grace."--Jacquelyn Hall, Spruill Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"Gerda Lerner's voice rings true in these essays, spirited witnesses to how thought and action have connected in the life of a remarkable writer and eloquent testimonies to the historical context in which history is practiced. They have much to teach us all."--Linda K. Kerber, author of No Constitutional Right to Be Ladies

"Living with History / Making Social Change is a moving self portrait that provides a sense of Lerner as a singularly creative and forceful individual who has participated in--and learned from--some of the major social movements of our time. There is inspiration to be found in each of these essays."--Alice Kessler-Harris, Columbia University

"Gerda Lerner offers a rare blend of the personal, the political, and the professional that illuminates the interconnected growth of the women's movement and Women's History in the United States in the second half of the twentieth century. Blending autobiography with Lerner's own interpretive writings, Living with History / Making Social Change provides a rich set of interconnected views of her thinking and her involvement with feminism over a half century of dramatic change."--Thomas Dublin, State University of New York at Binghamton

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