Austrian Federal Chancellery
Gerda Lerner, a researcher specialzed in women’s history, received the Bruno Kreisky Prize for her life-time achievements and the 2006 political book of the year. Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer paid homage to the professor emeritus of history at the University of Wisconsin (USA) in the festive hall of the Austrian National Library in Vienna. He praised her not only as a “doyenne and pioneer of women’s historiography” but as “the person devoting most efforts to the academic recognition and institutionalization of women’s historiography”.
The “godmother of women’s history” – the Chancellor quoted from the New York Times – was known far beyond academia and had always considered her activities for “others,” - those on the fringes of society - to be of high political relevance. Discrimination against women in history was only one but “significant form of discrimination” since women were “the group stigmatized as “others” or the longest period in history,” stated Gusenbauer. Lerner was born to Jewish parents in Vienna in 1920. Together with her parents she fled the National Socialists.
She was able to become a “recognized citizen and scholar only in the U.S.A.“. In 1972 Lerner had succeeded in establishing the first study program for women’s history in the U.S.A. in 1972 and a PhD programme in 1980. Society owed it to the laureate that the “environment for women in science and the humanities had changed.” After her “generations of women had followed her example and were able to rely on her support.” Through her work Gerda Lerner finally gave “the oppressed majority of women the history which male history had denied them for such a long time.” She realized “before others that social discrimination was complex and that exploitation, oppression, discrimination were the effects of historical processes.”
By way of conclusion, the Chancellor stated that it was a great pleasure to him “to award this very important prize to the most active and brightest historian at the beginning of the new women’s historiography.” Among Gerda Lerner’s most outstanding works are “The Creation of Feminist Consciousness: From the Middle Ages to 1810 (Oxford University Press, 1994). The German translation was published by dtv in Munich in 1998.