Date published: May 10, 2012
Harriet Berger, a union organizer, political activist and university professor, died May 4 at the age of 94.
The former Harriet Fleisher, she graduated from Wellesley College in 1938. After college she worked for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and helped start the first union medical clinic in Philadelphia.
After World War II, she and her husband, David, joined Joe Clark and Richardson Dilworth as they fought to reform local politics in Philadelphia. For 30 years, she served as a committeeperson in the 23rd Division of the 21st Ward in the East Falls section of the city.
In 1950, she and the family moved to East Falls. She helped found and support the East Falls Community Council, which worked on a variety of local land use and racial harmony issues.
In the '60s, Berger set out to obtain a Ph.D. in political science at the University of Pennsylvania. She became the first woman to earn a doctorate in that field from Penn. Following her doctorate in 1967, she was appointed as an assistant professor in the department of history and politics at Drexel University.
For the next quarter century, she taught in and retired as a füll tenured professor from that department. At Drexel, she won a number of awards for teaching undergraduates and worked as an adviser in the Drexel Coop program.
After retirement from Drexel, Berger became both a student at and a patron of the Pennsylvania Academy of FineArts.
Berger is survived by sons Daniel and Jonathan; two grandchildren; and a niece. She was predeceased by sisters Susan Fleisher and Peggy Suckle.
Memorial donations can be sent to: The Philadelphia Orchestra, Memorial Gifts, 260 S. Broad St., 16th Floor, Philadelphia, Pa. 19102.