Thursday, December 5, 2013
Dinesh Ramde/The Associated Press
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This 2001 photo shows Gerda Lerner, founder of University of Wisconsin-Madison's graduate program in women's history, with an image of her autobiography, Fireweed. Lerner, a founding member of the National Organization for Woman and a pioneer in the field of women�s history, has died at an assisted-living facility in Madison. She was 92. (AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, Sarah B. Tews)
She married Carl Lerner, a respected film editor, in 1941. They lived in Hollywood for a few years before returning to New York.
The couple was involved in activism that ranged from attempting to unionize the film industry to working in the civil rights movement.
When asked how she developed such a strong sense of justice and fairness, she told the Wisconsin Academy Review that the feeling started in childhood. She recalled watching her mother drop items on the floor and walk away, leaving servants to clean up her mess.
"I wanted the world to be a just and fair place, and it obviously wasn't — and that disturbed me right from the beginning," she said.
She became determined to fight for equality, and she encouraged others to take up their own fights against inequality. 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."