91-year-old feminist historian is a CU legend

It's hard to sum up all Joyce Libra's accomplishments -- even for CU -- so we let her tell her own story to our photojournalist Chris Hansen.

KUSA - A 91-year old woman is a legend at CU Boulder, but long before she was a legend, she was a pioneer.

It’s hard to sum up all of Joyce Lebra’s accomplishments, but here are some of them:

  • First American woman ever to earn a Ph.D. in Japanese history in 1958
  • CU’s first female history professor
  • Published trail-blazing histories of the Indian national Army and the Empire of Japan during World War II, works based on deep research in Japanese military archives that few Western scholars, and no women, had ever seen.
  • Cook book author

She’s a lover of history and has an incredible personal history herself.

“It’s a record of how we do on this planet, and how we think and what kinds of things concern us and what we fight for," Lebra said. "It’s an exciting field -- how people think and work as individuals.”

When she started at CU, she was the only female history professor. Then, she says, she had to stand up for her rights. At the time, she was the only professor teaching Japan and Indian history. Now the university has several teachers for each class.

“For now, I’ve done what I’m supposed to do on the planet, to give voice to the people whose voices hadn’t been heard,” Lebra said. 

Lebra says she’s had a lot of advantages and good luck along the way. She says she feels she followed the correct path and has done what she’s supposed to do on the planet. She’s given a voice to voices that hadn’t been heard.

She says you have to do what you love, persist and follow whatever inspires you.

Joyce will be speaking at an event on Monday on the fifth floor of the Norlin library – it runs from 4:30 to 7 p.m.

She is part of the CU Legends being featured at the library.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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