Who is Sarah T. Reed?

As part of CableCares, we’re doing activities at Sarah T. Reed High School and Sarah T. Reed Elementary (which we’ve nicknamed “Baby Reed”). Which begs the question: Who was Sarah T. Reed?

The answer can be found in a review by Florence M. Jumonville, of the University of New Orleans, of the book A Will of Her Own: Sarah Towles Reed and the Pursuit of Democracy in Southern Public Education, written by Leslie Gale Parr.

According to Jumonville:

When Reed began her career, male teachers earned more money than did females, although they performed the same job. That inequity was part of the impetus for the founding of a professional organization, the New Orleans Public School Teachers Association (NOPSTA), in 1925. After the school board claimed that a budgetary shortfall necessitated cutting salaries, NOPSTA unsuccessfully sought a hearing on the matter. Thwarted at the local level, the organization prompted state legislation to ensure the restoration of full pay. Reed’s effective participation in that crusade launched her avocation as a lobbyist.

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, she battled school authorities regarding matters of social and economic justice. Her militant activities did not go unnoticed by an increasingly annoyed administration. Twice she was charged with un-Americanism, but courts ruled in her favor.

Reed died six years later, having been a role model and a spokeswoman for her colleagues for more than half a century. Shrewd and intelligent, she was a firebrand who never flinched from challenging authority, but she was also a woman of the South who “always, always wore a hat” [quoting from Parr’s book].

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