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Elizabeth Almira Allen

An image of Elizabeth Almira Allen.Elizabeth Almira Allen (1854-1919) was a teachers’ rights advocate and the first female president of the New Jersey Education Association.

Allen began her 48-year-long teaching career in the Hoboken School District as the principal of the elementary school. She then held the same role at Hoboken High School. Later in her career, Allen held the position of supervisor of the education of teachers at the Hoboken Normal and Training School.

At the age of 28, Allen became the vice-president of the New Jersey Teachers’ Association. In this role, she gained recognition as an advocate for the teachers’ retirement fund and issues related to teacher tenure. Allen was often thrust into the public eye and attracted a great deal of controversy because of her persistent and outspoken views.

In 1896, Allen’s hard work reached a pivotal climax. Senator John B. Vreeland of Morristown introduced a bill that provided a half-pay annuity to teachers with 20 years of service who were no longer able to fulfill their roles as educators. This bill was financed by a one percent stoppage from the monthly salary of all those who elected to be considered by this law. Although the bill passed to become the first statewide teacher retirement law, there was still more work to be done. Membership for the bill was voluntary, and so, Allen set out through flyers, speeches, and newspaper campaigns to recruit as many members as possible. At the end of three months, Allen and her dedicated team managed to enroll more than half of the state’s teachers. She served as secretary of the Teachers’ Retirement Fund.


Burstyn, Joan N. “Elizabeth Almira Allen”. Past and Promise, Lives of New Jersey Women, 1990. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/54486196


Crocco, Margaret S. “The Price of an Activist Life: Elizabeth Almira Allen and Marion Thompson Wright.” In Pedagogies of Resistance: Women Educator Activists, 1880-1960, edited by Margaret Smith Crocco, Petra Munro, and Kathleen Weiler, 47-80. New York: Teachers College Press, 1999.

Housman, Ida E. The life of Elizabeth Almira Allen. Trenton, N.J.: New Jersey Education Association, 1994. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/5367808.

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“JERSEY’S WOMEN TEACHERS: THEY WANT THE SAME RANK AND PAY AS THE MEN, BUT SOME OF THE LATTER OBJECT. STATE ASSOCIATION MEETING A LIVELY FIGHT EXPECTED AT TRENTON OVER THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE RETIREMENT FUND — SHARP PRELIMINARY SKIRMISHES.” New York Times (1857-1922), Dec 28, 1897. http://ezproxy.rowan.edu/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.proquest.com%2Fhistorical-newspapers%2Fjerseys-women-teachers%2Fdocview%2F95505537%2Fse-2%3Faccountid%3D13605.

“NAVAL RESERVE FOR NEW-JERSEY: THE HOUSE AND SENATE PASS THE BILL — SCHOOL TEACHERS ASK TO HAVE A PENSION FUND ESTABLISHED.” New York Times (1857-1922), Feb 12, 1895. http://ezproxy.rowan.edu/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.proquest.com%2Fhistorical-newspapers%2Fnaval-reserve-new-jersey%2Fdocview%2F95275300%2Fse-2%3Faccountid%3D13605.

Padawer, Ruth. “EQUAL TIME HISTORY BOOKS OFTEN IGNORE N.J. WOMEN: [ALL EDITIONS.=.SUNDAY].” The Record, Mar 17, 1996. http://ezproxy.rowan.edu/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.proquest.com%2Fnewspapers%2Fequal-time-history-books-often-ignore-n-j-women%2Fdocview%2F424730434%2Fse-2%3Faccountid%3D13605

Special to The New York Times. “ATTACKS TEACHERS’ FUND.: MISS MCCOY TELLS TRENTON CONVENTION IT IS MISMANAGED.” New York Times (1857-1922), Sep 28, 1913. http://ezproxy.rowan.edu/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.proquest.com%2Fhistorical-newspapers%2Fattacks-teachers-fund%2Fdocview%2F97361116%2Fse-2%3Faccountid%3D13605.

Special to The Inquirer. “Miss Allen Heads Jersey Teachers: Is First Woman President of Association in Fifty-nine Years. Election Was Unanimous.” Philadelphia Inquirer (1860-1934), January 1, 1914, 3. http://ezproxy.rowan.edu/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.proquest.com%2Fhistorical-newspapers%2Fjanuary-1-1914-page-3-14%2Fdocview%2F1828861052%2Fse-2%3Faccountid%3D13605.

Special to the Inquirer. “Teachers Favor Woman Suffrage.” Philadelphia Inquirer (1860-1934), September 26, 1915, 11. http://ezproxy.rowan.edu/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.proquest.com%2Fhistorical-newspapers%2Fseptember-26-1915-page-11-71%2Fdocview%2F1828967493%2Fse-2%3Faccountid%3D13605.

Special to the Inquirer. “Jersey Teachers Fight For Control: Rift in Programme at Atlantic City Threatens Division of Organization Philadelphia Inquirer (1860-1934), Dec 29, 1916, 9. http://ezproxy.rowan.edu/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.proquest.com%2Fhistorical-newspapers%2Fdecember-29-1916-page-9-16%2Fdocview%2F1829075567%2Fse-2%3Faccountid%3D13605.

Special to the Inquirer. “Miss Allen Full of Fight – Blames a Politician for Charges Refleeting Upon Her.” Philadelphia Inquirer (1860-1934), December 29, 1899, 4. http://ezproxy.rowan.edu/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.proquest.com%2Fhistorical-newspapers%2Fdecember-29-1899-page-4-14%2Fdocview%2F1826951846%2Fse-2%3Faccountid%3D13605.

Questions to Explore

Describe two of Elizabeth Almira Allen’s views and why they were controversial. Contrast Allen’s views with popular political views of the time.

What did Senator John B. Vreeland’s teacher pension bill accomplish? How did this bill protect teachers? In what ways did Elizabeth Almira Allen and Senator Vreeland’s political views inspire this bill?

What are some ways Allen’s early life and time as a teacher influenced her work as a teachers’ rights advocate? 

Additional Resources

Housman, Ida E. The Life of Elizabeth Almira Allen. Trenton N.J: New Jersey Education Association. 1944. https://worldcat.org/title/5367808

Vreeland, John D. B. In: A History of Morris County New Jersey – Volume II., Lewis Historical Publishing Co; 1914.