Esther Griffin White

Teachers' Rights

Teachers Work like Slaves

As an advocate for teacher's rights, Esther wrote many articles like this one fighting for increased pensions and wages.

"Therefore, either pay her decent wages through which a competence for age may accrue, or stop opposition to the teachers’ pension."
Esther Griffin White, The Little Paper, December 18, 1915


Esther Griffin White disliked inequality. She advocated against many unfair causes, such as the issue of school teachers' pensions. In 1915, teachers were not granted pension after their professional career. Esther was against this. She argued that if the government did not grant teachers a pension it should at least raise their salary: “either pay her decent wages through which a competence for age may accrue, or stop opposition to the teachers’ pension.” (Little Paper, December 18, 1915) Esther thought that teachers are important to the nation because they spend their “lifetime training the youth of the nation in the principles of American citizenship.” (The Little Paper, December 18, 1915) She also believed that they have a big responsibility, that is, educating properly the future citizens of the nation. When this goal is not achieved, parents and society blame the teachers for not doing their jobs suitably.

Teachers have a great deal of responsibility; therefore, Esther thought teachers should be given a political voice for the cause of the pension. During a meeting of state officials and some teachers to discuss the teachers’ pension, teachers did not say a word because they feared what would happen to them if they defended their cause. They attended the meeting, but as listeners instead of decision makers. Throughout this meeting, Alfred Bavis, president of the Board of Public Works, argued that “teachers received an adequate salary...the need for a pension law would not be apparent.” (Little Paper, December 18, 1915) Esther rejected this argument because she supposed that teacher were not paid enough for the work they do.

Esther refuted the tales of the comfortable life of teachers that many people assumed to be true at that time. Furthermore, she maintained that teachers only get paid $75 a month for nine months, which totals $675 a year. Esther judged that this salary was not enough because the cost of living at the time was higher. In addition, she believed that the salary was not enough given the work that teachers had to put in and the responsibility that was laid on them. It is true that teachers had vacations, but during weekends teachers worked at home preparing their classes, grading papers, attending conventions, taking special studies in colleges and universities, and visiting other schools. Esther showed her support for teachers by discussing their issues in her newspaper. All this attention given to teachers’ pensions was useless, since the teacher did not get the pension or a raise. 

-Bemba Diarra