he field of American history has been most dramatically transformed in the past half century by the changes wrought by waves of determined feminists who broke down barriers within the academic world after 1945. A dynamic generation of women historians joined the academy and provided a vast outpouring of new scholarship on women. For two decades both men and women historians collectively struggled to integrate the role of women into their explorations of the pageant of America's past. But no individual was more instrumental to the growth and development of the field of American women's history in the second half of the twentieth century than Gerda Lerner.
Lerner's creativity as a scholar, 1. energy as an organizer, and determination as a leader and champion of women's history have created a powerful legacy. Her influence has literally changed the face of American history, in a way that is immediately recognizable to anyone who attends the annual meetings of the Organization of American Historians (OAH). Lerner attended her first OAH conference in 1963 while a first-year graduate student. Her memories were dominated by images of a handful of women dotting a sea of men, the unfriendly atmosphere of “smokers, ” the closed circle of hiring through the “old boys' network.” Alienated, but always resourceful, Lerner introduced herself to a group of nuns in attendance, and some of these (quite literally) “sister scholars” became lifelong friends. 2. Within twenty years, Lerner's impact on the profession was ac-____________________