WHY HISTORY MATTERS by Gerda Lerner

WHY HISTORY MATTERS

Life and Thought
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Despite its somewhat grandiose title, this isn't in any way a comprehensive approach to the vital question posed, but a collection of speeches and articles that offer only a glimpse of the author's important contributions to historical inquiry. Lerner (The Creation of Feminist Consciousness, 1993; Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison) is a fascinating woman, and some of her extraordinary experiences are revealed here in the portion of the book called ``Life.'' An Austrian Jew, Lerner escaped from the Nazis and emigrated to America at age 18. Once here, she determined to be a writer and set about gaining a proficiency in English the likes of which few native-born Americans can boast. But Lerner didn't stop there. At the age of 40, she returned to school to get a graduate degree in history--and not conventional history, but women's history, an area of study that she helped define. In another section, called ``Thought,'' Lerner discusses the field of women's history a little, but these essays, collected from her writings and lectures of the past few years are limited in scope and often repetitive. (For instance, we hear many times that women cannot be treated as a single, unified category because they come from all classes, races, and religions.) This is not to say that Lerner offers nothing of value. For example, her discussions of how to put women into the history curriculum without making them seem inferior to men are perceptive and thoughtful, as is her attempt to redefine race and class in terms of gender. Even here Lerner has much to offer students of history, but from a scholar of her stature, this jumble of essays is a disappointment.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-19-504644-7
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1997




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