Louise Silk's Reviews > Fireweed: A Political Autobiography

Fireweed by Gerda Lerner
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May 06, 11

bookshelves: auto-biography
Read in May, 2011

Born in 1920 to a Jewish family in Vienna, Austria, Gerda Kronstein was a young girl when Adolph Hitler began his rise to power. After much trial and tribulation, she came alone to the United States in 1939 at the age of 18. Her immigration was dependent upon an arranged marriage that soon failed. She divorced and remarried filmmaker Carl Lerner and moved to Hollywood. There, in 1946, she joined the American Communist Party. During the McCarthy period, Carl was blacklisted and unable to find work in California.

The Lerner family moved to New York where Gerda began her career as an academic, historian, and activist.
Gerda held a number of jobs while raising her children before she returned to school. In 1963, Gerda earned her B.A. from the New School for Social Research in New York and then received her Ph.D. in American History from Columbia University in 1966. She showed incredible energy throughout her challenging life trials over many many years.

The biggest disappointment for me was that this book covers the years before she returned to college to become a leading woman's historian. I learned about her in the context of women's history where she is credited with establishing women's history as a formal academic field and was very much looking forward to that part of her story.

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