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Elizabeth Allen. (Photo: New Jersey Education Association).

Labor Leader: Elizabeth Allen, first woman NJEA president

By David Wildstein, September 05 2022 12:02 am

Elizabeth A. Allen (1854-1919) was the first woman president of the New Jersey Education Association and was an early force behind teacher pensions and tenure.   She died of the Spanish Flu five years after becoming NJEA president.

Allen began teaching at age 15, initially working in Atlantic City, and spent 48 years as a teacher in the Hoboken school district, eventually becoming an elementary school and high school principal.

She had served as vice president of the New Jersey Teacher’s Association in 1992.

In 1896, Allen led a grassroots campaign to sign up nearly half the state’s public school teachers in a new retirement plan recently enacted by the New Jersey Legislature.  She late served as secretary of the New Jersey Teacher’s Retirement Fund, a position she held until her death in 1919.

For two decades, Allen was the face of the fight for teacher pensions, often withstanding harsh criticism from political opponents.

Allen also founded the Teachers’ Alliance of New Jersey and the Teachers’ Mutual Aid Association of Hoboken.  She served on the board of the Mary Fisher Home of New Jersey in Tenafly.

She was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2018.

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