Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Chicago Teachers Federation
Chicago Teachers Federation

Chicago Teachers Federation

Chicago Teachers Federation, 1920s
The Chicago Teachers Federation, founded in 1897 and powerful through the 1930s, was organized by and for women elementary school teachers. At its height in the early 1900s, over half of all Chicago elementary school teachers were members of the federation.

The federation fought for teachers' rights and improved working conditions, but it also played a prominent role in Chicago progressive reform. Former elementary teacher Margaret Haley, the federation's paid business representative, spearheaded a legal challenge of corporate tax exemptions and drew Chicago's teachers into municipal reform and woman suffrage campaigns. To bolster its authority, the federation made unprecedented alliances with organized labor, affiliating with the Chicago Federation of Labor in 1902. In 1916, the Chicago Teachers Federation became Local 1 of the newly formed American Federation of Teachers. In 1917, however, the federation was forced to withdraw from both organizations under the Loeb rule, which prohibited Chicago teachers from membership in any organization affiliated with trade unions.

Between 1897 and the 1920s, the federation was known to teachers throughout the nation as the only organized advocate for women elementary teachers, and it developed great political clout in Chicago and in the larger educational community. Haley's leadership was eventually challenged by competing teacher organizations, which amalgamated in 1937 into the Chicago Teachers Union.

Chicago Teachers Federation. Papers. Chicago Historical Society.
Hogan, David. Class and Reform: School and Society in Chicago, 1880–1930. 1985.
Murphy, Marjorie. Blackboard Unions: The AFT and NEA, 1900–1980. 1990.