January 21st, 2008

reading, activism, writing

Book # 3: Fireweed: A Political Autobiography by Gerda Lerner

Gerda Lerner, a towering figure in the development of the women's movement and particularly the movement to define, discover and study women's history, lived several lives.

First she was a privileged child of an upper-middle class Jewish family in Vienna.

After the rise of the Austrian right-wing terrorists who sought to march in lock-step with the Nazis in Germany and the political putsch that brought naked anti-Semitism into view, her family split. Her father moved to safety in Liechtenstein, keeping the family business going. She and her mother were jailed to try to force her father's return. After being exiled she moved to the US, eventually becoming a citizen.

The one constant was her political activism. Always under severe duress, either in Austria or in the US during the communist witch-hunts, Gerda did what she could to fight for social justice.

She became the vanguard in the previously unheard of study of women's history as a separate and important part of human knowledge. She founded several influential women's study programs and remains active to this day.

Her story was remarkable and her autobiography read like a thriller.