Women’s Voices

You know what I love about the union today though?  It’s representative.  It’s more people of color.  We have a woman for president.  It’s so different. Before, it was all guys, mostly.

-Berta Berriz, 2021
The progression of women’s roles in the Boston Teachers Union over 75 years: Mary Cadigan is chosen as first union president at the creation of the BTU in 1945 (top left), the BTU Women’s Committee annual conference of 1977 (bottom left), and the first media tour of BTU President Jessica Tang, third female president in BTU history (right). Courtesy of University Archives and Special Collections, UMass Boston.

In 1945, a group of Boston teachers, nearly all women, proposed and organized a union that would advocate for the rights and values of Boston Public Schools educators. Women have a long history involving the education system. Even when women were denied higher education, they were often relied on the most to teach young children. The origins of the Boston Teachers Union are part of this broader narrative, but despite their efforts to create the organization, Boston women in education quickly found their voices filtered out and overshadowed by the increasing male-leadership. Even if they could not be heard, women’s voices in the BTU never truly disappeared…