MILWAUKEE (AP) — Gerda Lerner spent her 18th birthday in a Nazi prison, sharing a cell with two gentile women arrested for political work who shared their food with the Jewish teenager because jailers restricted rations for Jews.

Lerner would say years later that the women taught her during those six weeks how to survive and that the experience taught her how society can manipulate people. It was a lesson that the women's history pioneer, who died Wednesday at age 92, said she saw reinforced in American academia by history professors who taught as though only the men were worth studying.

"When I was faced with noticing that half the population has no history and I was told that that's normal, I was able to resist the pressure" to accept that conclusion, Lerner told the Wisconsin Academic Review in 2002.

The author was a founding member of the National Organization for Women and is credited with creating the nation's first graduate program in women's history, in the 1970s in New York.............

Her daughter, Stephanie Lerner, said her mother earned a reputation as a no-nonsense professor who held her students to rigorous standards that some may not have appreciated at the time. One former student wrote to Gerda Lerner 30 years later saying no one had been more influential in her life............

She said people who want to change the world don't need to be part of a large organized group — they just have to find a cause they believe in and never stop fighting for it.

She credited that philosophy for helping her remain happy despite the horrors she lived through as a young woman.

"I am happy because I found the balance between adjusting, or surviving what I was put through, and acting for what I believed in," she said in 2002. "That's the key."

More at link.......

Author of Fireweed: a Political Autobiography