In 1972, Dr. Gerda Lerner published her pioneering study “Black Women in White America.” That same year, Dr. Lerner and Dr. Joan Kelly Gadol were fighting to prove that women had a history worth recording by co-founding the oldest women’s history graduate program in the United States at Sarah Lawrence College.
In the political arena, a Black woman, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm was waging a competitive campaign to become the first woman president of the United States and activists across the country were fighting an uphill (and ultimately unsuccessful) battle to pass the Equal Rights Amendment.
Much has changed since 1972, and this fact makes 2017 a particularly opportune time to reassess the legacy of Gerda Lerner’s path-breaking scholarship.
Does the adage “the more things change, they more they stay the same” apply in the case of Black women in America today? How has the expansion of scholarship by and about women of color enhanced our knowledge of women’s history and necessarily challenged previous assumptions? How has ongoing structural inequality undermined the gains of the women’s movement of the 1970s? What is the status of all women in a multiracial, multicultural, diversely religious but still deeply fractured America today?