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SERIES Identifier: MC 769; T-493; CD-79; Vt-265; DVD-100

Series II. CORRESPONDENCE, 1938-2013 (#11.13-27.23)

Series II, CORRESPONDENCE, 1938-2013 (#11.13-27.23), contains letters from Lerner's family, friends, students, and colleagues, as well as copies of some of Lerner's replies. Files are arranged alphabetically, then chronologically.

Family correspondence includes exchanges between Lerner and her parents, Robert and Ili Kronstein; her sister, Nora Kronstein-Rosen; her husband, Carl Lerner; her children, Stephanie and Daniel; and her grandchildren. Also included are a small number of letters from Lerner's first husband, Bobby Jensen, and Lerner's family in Europe; most of which are written in German. Correspondence between Lerner and Nora Kronstein-Rosen, written in English and German, includes reminiscences about their childhood; discussions of their feelings toward their parents, particularly their mother; analyses of their personalities and how various character traits impacted their relationship; and details of Nora's life in Israel and her work as an artist. Lerner's correspondence with Carl Lerner consists mainly of letters they exchanged in 1948 and 1949, when Lerner traveled to Europe to attend the Women's International Democratic Federation Second International Congress of Women. Gerda and Carl both write of their affection for each other, their daily activities, and their thoughts on world events. Letters also express frustration with mail delivery, which was slow and frequently resulted in their letters being delivered in a different sequence than they were sent in. Additionally, Gerda's letters contain news of family and friends she visited; accounts of living conditions in Europe; and accounts of Stephanie and Dan Lerner's development, including comparisons between the children and Gerda's opinions on their rates of development.

Exchanges with students and colleagues frequently contain support for and criticisms of correspondents' work; discussions of projects in the field of women's history undertaken by Lerner and others; and news of tenure opportunities, or lack thereof, in the field of women's history. Many of Lerner's colleagues were also her friends and in addition to discussions of professional topics, letters contain news of shared friends as well as each other's families. Of particular note are letters Lerner exchanged with Virginia Brodine, a union organizer and member of the Communist Party. Exchanges between Lerner and Brodine contain long-running philosophical debates in which Brodine defended her support of communism against Lerner's criticisms of communism from a feminist perspective. Brodine's letters also detail her somewhat unique living situation in which she and her husband lived in two-family housing with an African-American couple for almost fifty years, moving multiple times and encountering racism in their real estate purchases.

Following Carl Lerner's death from brain cancer in 1973, Lerner engaged in several long-term romantic relationships. Her correspondence with friends often includes reports on whether or not she was satisfied with her relationships and the difficulty of being a widow, both in terms of the emotional toll of losing her life partner and in finding men she wished to date. Correspondence with lovers, particularly Morton Garchik, discuss the emotional needs of both parties, and often include lists of actions they need to do in order to please each other and make the relationship succeed.

Dates

  • 1916-2013
  • Majority of material found within 1963-2013

Language of Materials

Most materials in English; some correspondence, diaries, and audiocassettes in German.

Access Restrictions:

Access. #16.3-16.6 are closed until January 1, 2023. #36.4 is closed until January 1, 2026. With the exception of #5.12 and 6.15-7.2, which are unrestricted, researchers must sign a permission form to use the collection until January 1, 2070. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Extent

25.61 linear feet ((58 file boxes, 3 card boxes) plus 1 folio folder, 3 folio+ folders, 1 oversize folder, 12 photograph folders, 42 audiotapes, 7 videotapes, 10 CDs, 3 DVDs, electronic records)

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future.

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