Teachers unions were emphasized after the Civil War to improve the quality and conditions of schools and the treatment of the students and teachers. Women were one of the main reasons changes were made in schools because of their dedication to their job and determination for a difference. The goal of forming these teachers unions had a variety of different reasons. One was to tear down the fake barriers between teachers and other professions. Along with it being meant for changing the education reform discussion to include teachers as decision-making partners and being able to influence bigger issues. But a majority of these unions wanted to especially raise teachers’ salaries and pensions along with the overall improvements of their work space. Women started putting together their ideas and formed a variety of different organizations all particularly focused towards the general goal of improving women’s rights and teaching conditions. The NEA was the first teacher’s union to be formed. It was founded in Philadelphia by 43 educators, and from there it continued to grow in tremendous amounts. iThe original idea of the unions was planned to be residential focused groups to fight against the individual struggles in certain towns. But since a majority of teachers were feeling the impact of the poor conditions and lack of benefits in the education field, the unions grew by a lot. Women teachers played an important role in the enlargement of the women’s movement through their involvement in general women’s organizations fighting against women’s suffrage. As well as being present in groups specifically dedicated to improving the status of women teachers.ii In 1867, male and female teachers came together as one group to form a teacher’s union, this became a powerful force working towards the overall improvement of equality, conditions, and benefits in the teaching profession.iii Over one hundred educators united together as one voice for the purpose and there passion for public education. Since the start, the NEA (National Education Association) has always been ahead of its time. This group was fighting for all the rights of all educators and children. iv The NEA played a leading role in going against this damage on academic freedom. They defended teachers that were wrongly accused of “subversion.”v One of the reasons that drew the male and female teachers together was that most education employees during this time frame having been a part of a public sector workforce. The teachers had been constrained by legal constraints that say that they are not permitted to the same rights as private sector workers. With all of the undercover problems facing the teaching profession with no solutions being provided, educators eventually became fed up and began to protest.
The different teachers’ unions especially the NTA (National Teacher Association) began to protest against all the variety of struggles they were facing and even threatened to strike. In the wild and crazy 1870s, the NTA promoted and valued the human and civil rights of educators and students of all different races. The NTA in order to fight for these rights, caused them to start strikes and protest to grab the attention of government.vi Not only did teachers get involved in the strikes but so did students. A very popular strike that grabbed public responsiveness was the teacher’s strike in Chicago of 1902. It occurred after a teacher was suspended after refusing to allow a troublesome student back into her classroom. This strike is significant because it shows the connection and bond a teacher has with their colleagues and their students. Along with how much the town came together all to protect this one teacher and how valuable a teacher can be. These protest and strikes continued for years while still having the unions initiate them. In the same year of the Chicago strike , in New York another teachers union fought for equal pay for the same work. At this time, teacher’s wages were based on the levels of authority and power even if it required the same amount of work as a lower authority teacher. For example, middle school teachers were paid more than elementary school teachers, and as usual men are paid more than women. This strike was particularly important because it rebelled against a topic that has never been extremely talked about. All the rebellion at hand brought attention to not only to female teachers but all different types of people working in the education field. Government leaders took notice of all the events occurring and finally took into consideration how powerful women teachers and females in general are.
Role in government and how it changed once female teachers became more valued in society, it ultimately showed that they could do the same things as men and that they should be respected figures in government. In order to become a teacher, there are previous requirements that need to be met, including having a quality education and being able to control and engage an audience. The improvements made on women’s own education and wisdom impressed government. The reformers often derided women’s intellectual capabilities. Yet women were becoming better educated than ever before, and state officials took notice. In this period, most states began to put in place requirements for teachers: basic academic competence and attendance at summer institutes for ongoing training. viiIn 1867, the NTA won its first major legislative victory when it successfully petitioned Congress to establish a federal Department of Education to provide and regulate education in the coming years.viii Getting recognized by the general public and by authority figures changed the opportunities available for women, it opened a lot of new doors for them particularly in job options and marital roles. One of the few major changes in past decades is that, as the number of variety of jobs open to women working outside the home has increased, more teachers are now able to leave the profession for newer and more initialed passions.ix Women teachers quickly discovered that their professional skills were valuables assets in assuming leadership positions in organizations.
i Ellen DuBois, Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women’s Movement in the U.S., 1848-1869 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1978).
ii Clifford, G.J. 1989. Man/woman/teacher: Gender, family, and career in American educational history. In American teachers: Histories of a profession at work, ed. D. Warren, 293-343. New York: Macmillan.
iii DuBois, Feminism and Suffrage: 26.
iv Bardeen, C. W 1912. The monopolizing woman teacher. Educational Review 43:17-40.
v DuBois, Feminism and Suffrage: 33;
vi Hoffman, Woman’s True”, Page #145.
vii Tyack, D. B. (1974). The One Best System: A History of American Urban Education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. #21
viii Tyack, The One Best System: A History of American Urban Education.#33
ix Albisetti, J. C. 1993. The feminization of teaching in the nineteenth century: A comparative perspective. History of Education 22:253-62.