We are very sorry to report that Edith Gerber Shanker, or Eadie to her friends, passed away on September 19, 2020. She was a great lady whose voice, intellect and energy will be sorely missed.
Born in 1933 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Eadie was just a year and a half old when her mother died. Her father died when she was seven, and she and her siblings were placed in orphanages and then a foster home together. When she was old enough, she worked herself through New York’s City College, while supporting herself as a waitress. After beginning a Masters degree in English literature, she decided to become a teacher.
She began teaching English at Junior High School 126 in Queens, NY, when, in September 1959, she went to a meeting to hear Albert Shanker speak. Al (who would eventually become the president of both the United Federation of Teachers and its parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers), recruited her to join the New York Teachers Guild, a precursor of the UFT. She became a union activist and served as a delegate at the UFT’s founding. She was also named as a picket captain in the UFT’s first strike in November 1960. Although the union only represented a small proportion of teachers, the strike caused enough of a disruption that the UFT eventually became the first teachers union in the nation to gain collective bargaining.