Professional Women: The Gender Politics of the National Education Association's Century of Non-Unionism
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Before the feminist revolution, teaching was one of the few professions where women were the majority. The National Education Association (NEA) represented many of these teachers as members. From its founding in 1857 until the late 1960s, the NEA rejected the label of 'union' preferring to call itself a professional association. In tandem with rejecting the label, it rejected the tactics of unionism, as well. Advocating for respect by 'professionalizing the profession' were favored over strikes, collective bargaining, and adversarial relationships with adminstrators. Complicating this relationship was the role of the (mostly male) school administrators, who had authority over the members as employees while also playing an outsized role in directing the agenda of the NEA itself. Only when the teachers, as members, were able to throw out the old model in favor of a more directly democratic organization did the NEA begin to strongly advocate for members' rights.