Today in Feminist History: Anna Louise Goessling Demands “Equal Pay for Equal Work” (April 29, 1905)

Today in Feminist History is our daily recap of the major milestones and minor advancements that shaped women’s history in the U.S.—from suffrage to Shirley Chisholm and beyond. These posts were written by, and are presented in homage to, our late staff historian and archivist, David Dismore.

April 29, 1905: “Equal pay for equal work” is the demand of an insurgent group of women teachers led by Anna Louise Goessling of P.S. 44 in Brooklyn, New York.

She and some of her fellow members of the New York Class Teachers’ Association have just printed up and sent out a circular to all the women teachers of New York City saying:

“The time is ripe to establish the principle of equal pay for equal work. Why should a woman’s minimum salary be $300 less than a man’s and why should her maximum salary be $960 less than a man’s? The women teachers do the same work, are exempt from no rules or duties and most of them have fathers, mothers, sisters or brothers dependent upon them. Why, then, should women not receive the same salaries? Let us make a strong, united effort to bring about a consummation of what is so manifestly just.”

At present, elementary school teaching salaries for women start at $600 a year and can rise to a maximum of $1,440 after 11 years if they pass extra examinations. Male teachers begin with a salary of $900 a year and can reach $2,400 after 11 years if they pass the same examinations. Women who teach boys’ classes get an extra $60 a year bonus.

Of course, the first task of the C.T.A. women is to replace the male president of their group, who does not support their goal, with someone who does. Fortunately, an election is scheduled for May 9th and since women outnumber men in the group by thirty-to-one, as the only woman running, Goessling’s chances of winning are quite good.

The present C.T.A. President, George Cottrell, was, as might be expected, less than enthusiastic about today’s development. Upon being presented with a copy of the circular, which came as a surprise to him, he said:

“I consider this an insult. It implies that I have not done my work properly.”

The rebel delegation that called upon him was not surprised by his reaction. When the “equal pay” proposition had been suggested last fall, he “frowned upon it” and said that it would only result in the lowering of the men’s salaries.

So, after due deliberation, the insurgents have now taken matters into their own hands. With this kind of determination behind their cause and both logic and justice on their side, it will surely not be long until women win equal pay as well as equal suffrage.


David Dismore is the archivist for the Feminist Majority Foundation. His journey from would-be weather forecaster to full-time feminist began with the powerful impression made by a photo and a few paragraphs about the suffragists in his high school history textbook; years later, he had his first encounter with NOW—in which he carefully peeked in a window before opening the door to be sure men were allowed. He was eventually active in the ERA extension campaign of 1978, embarked on a cross-country bikeathon for it in 1982 and even worked for pioneers Toni Carabillo and Judith Meuli.