The Creation of Feminist Consciousness: From the Middle Ages to Eighteen-Seventy

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A pioneer in women's studies and long-term activist for women's issues, and a past president of the Organization of American Historians, Gerda Lerner is one of the founders and foremost scholars of Women's History. The Creation of Patriarchy, the first book in her two-volume magnum opus Women and History (1986) received wide review attention and much acclaim, winning the prestigious Joan Kelly Prize of the American Historical Association for the best work on Women's History that year. Ms hailed the book for ...
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Overview


A pioneer in women's studies and long-term activist for women's issues, and a past president of the Organization of American Historians, Gerda Lerner is one of the founders and foremost scholars of Women's History. The Creation of Patriarchy, the first book in her two-volume magnum opus Women and History (1986) received wide review attention and much acclaim, winning the prestigious Joan Kelly Prize of the American Historical Association for the best work on Women's History that year. Ms hailed the book for providing "a grand historical framework that was impossible even to imagine before the enlightenment about women's place in the world provided by her earlier work and that of other feminist scholars." New Directions for Women said it "may well be the most important work in feminist theory to appear in our generation."
Patriarchy traced the development of the ideas, symbols, and metaphors by which men institutionalized their domination of women. Now, in The Creation of Feminist Consciousness, the eagerly awaited concluding volume of Women and History, Lerner documents the twelve-hundred-year struggle of women to free their minds from patriarchal thought, to create Women's History, and to achieve a feminist consciousness. Lerner argues that the millenia-old educational disadvantaging of women and their marginalization in the intellectual life of Western civilization retarded women's ability to comprehend their condition and to define their needs as a group. She shows the devastating impact on women's psychology of notions of their innate mental inferiority, reinforced generation after generation by the teachings of family, church, and state. Through examining over a thousand years of feminist biblical criticism, Lerner illustrates her most important insight--the discontinuity of women's history. The generation to generation transmission of knowledge on which the building of civilization rests did not work for women. Because they did not know their history, each generation of women used their energies and talents reinventing ideas that other women had already defined--this greatly delayed the development of women's consciousness of themselves as members of a group. In a series of fascinating portraits of individual women who resisted patriarchal indoctrination, Lerner discusses women mystics such as Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich and later Protestant mystics, and brings to life the many women of great literary talent, from Christine de Pisan to Louise Labe to Emily Dickinson, who simply bypassed patriarchal thought and created alternate worlds for themselves.
In its emphasis on the force of ideas, the struggle of women for inclusion in the concept of the Divine, the repeated attempts by women to form supportive networks, and its analysis of the preconditions for the formation of political theories of liberation, this brilliant work charts new ground for historical studies, the history of ideas, and feminist theory.

A founding member of the National Organization of Women and a past president of the Organization of American Historians, Gerda Lerner is one of America's foremost scholars of women's history. The eagerly awaited concluding volume of Women in History documents the 1200-year struggle of women to free their minds of patriarchal thought and dominance.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"An essential document of the centuries of struggle that lie beneath the assumptions of cultural and political entitlement American women take for granted today."--San Francisco Chronicle

"Powerful...exemplary in several senses of the word"--Katherine Gill, The New York Times Book Review.

"Gerda Lerner's prodigious efforts at putting raw history on the table ensure that her discoveries won't suffer from the obscurity that plagued pre-modern 'feminist' research. Her 'big-picture' revision of how we see the past should remain one of the enduring achievements by a contemporary American historian."--The Philadelphia Inquirer

"In this wise, wonderful book, Gerda Lerner follows in the footsteps of her scholarly foremothers, but with a poignant difference. The thinking women before her, denied an intellectual tradition for twelve hundred years, thought and wrote in isolation. Looking back in righteous and rightful indignation, Lerner remedies the very tragedy she analyses. Everyone who thinks about women's thinking should read this book, discover our heritage, and contemplate its interruptions."--Nell Irvin Painter, Edwards Professor of American History, Princeton University

"Splendid....This sharp, incisive book concludes the work Lerner so well began in The Creation of Patriarchy. Together they make up a vital contribution to women's studies."--Booklist

"Lerner documents the 1,200-year struggle of women to free their minds from patriarchal though, create women's history, and achieve a feminist consciousness."--Feminist Bookstore News

"Impressive."--The Milwaukee Journal

"Based on wide-ranging research....Lively and provocative."--Library Journal

"Sweeping and erudite....The evidence here is perhaps unique."--Kirkus Reviews

"Densely researched, accessible and engrossing conclusion to Lerner's two-volume study Women in History....Lerner helped pioneer the study of women and history and remains preeminent in the field."--Publishers Weekly

Pat Monaghan
This book should perhaps have been called "The Reinvention of the Wheel." Century after century for a thousand years, independent and brave-spirited women invented and reinvented feminism. Well, perhaps not feminism as we would define it today, but certainly a consciousness of women's oppression and a dedication to relieving it. But when they died, their feminist consciousness would die with them. Without transmittal to a new generation, this consciousness would wane and be lost. Then, a generation or so later, another brave woman would emerge who would discover--not from history or literature or even oral tradition--the truths known by her unknown foremother. And again, her trail would die out with her death. It is this depressing insight that is at the heart of Lerner's splendid new book. Why have there been no female Shakespeares? she asks. Because, she answers, women have been severed from feminist history and must make feminine consciousness anew. This sharp, incisive book concludes the work Lerner so well began in "The Creation of Patriarchy" (1986). Together they make up a vital contribution to women's studies.
Booknews
The Creation of Patriarchy (1986) is v.1, and the present volume completes the set (LC has mistakenly identified the set as a series). Lerner studies how women have been affected, marginalized, by the construction of recorded History (as differentiated from history--the events of the past) and the devastating impact of educational deprivation. This is not a superficial rehash of the arguments for women's studies; both general and scholarly readers will find Lerner's explication to be powerful and important. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195066043
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/25/1993
  • Series: Women and History Ser.
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 1.31 (d)

Meet the Author

About the Author:
Gerda Lerner is Robinson-Edwards Professor of History, Emerita, at the University of Wisconsin--Madison, and the author of 8 books in women's history.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 3
2 The Educational Disadvantaging of Women 21
3 Self-authorization 46
4 The Way of the Mystics-1 65
5 The Way of the Mystics-2 88
6 Authorization Through Motherhood 116
7 One Thousand Years of Feminist Bible Criticism 138
8 Authorization Through Creativity 167
9 The Right to Learn, the Right to Teach, the Right to Define 192
10 Female Clusters, Female Networks, Social Spaces 220
11 The Search for Women's History 247
12 Conclusion 274
Notes 284
Bibliography 331
Index 377
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2001

    A Must Read !

    A must read for anyone interested in the area of woman's studies. Lerner style and organization makes it easy to comprehend the complex history of women. Regardless of your field, this is a great book.

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