Elizabeth Almira Allen

Elizabeth Almira AllenElizabeth Almira Allen (1854-1919), a teachers’ rights advocate, and the first woman president of the New Jersey Education Association.

Allen began her 48-year-long teaching career in the Hoboken School District as principal of the elementary school; she held the same role at Hoboken High School. Eventually, Allen transitioned into a position as supervisor of the education of teachers at the Hoboken Normal and Training School.

At the age of 28, Allen was named 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. As a result, 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 when Senator John B. Vreeland of Morristown introduced a bill that provided half-pay annuity to teachers with 20 years of service who were no longer able to fulfill their roles as educators. The fund was to be financed by a one percent pay stoppage from the monthly salary of all those who elected to be considered under the law. Although the bill passed to become the first statewide teacher retirement law, there was more work to be done. Membership for the bill was voluntary, and consequently Allen set out through flyers, speeches and newspaper campaigns to recruit as many members as possible. Ultimately, 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.

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