After Attacks on Warren, Women Point Out That Pregnancy Discrimination Is All Too Real

School boards don’t tend to write “fired for being pregnant” in their meeting minutes.

Elizabeth Warren teaches at University of Pennsylvania Law School in the early 1990s.Leif Skoogfors/Getty

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If you’ve paid any attention to Elizabeth Warren this campaign season, you’ve probably heard her say that when she was a 22-year-old special education teacher in 1971, she lost her job because she was “visibly pregnant.”

In recent days, journalists—on both the left and right—have attempted to cast doubt on that story. The evidence they’ve assembled isn’t particularly compelling, and Warren has responded by saying that her statements are completely true. In a pair of tweets Tuesday, she asked readers to share their own stories of pregnancy discrimination.

Warren’s tweets came a day after the conservative Washington Free Beacon published school board meeting minutes from Riverdale, New Jersey, where Warren was employed as an elementary school speech pathologist during the 1970-71 school year. The minutes state that board members unanimously voted to extend Warren’s teaching contract during an April meeting and that she resigned two months later in June.

Conservative publications from Fox News to the Washington Examiner to the New York Post picked up the story. So, too, did supporters of Bernie Sanders, Warren’s chief rival for progressive support in the Democratic primary.

CBS News, however, found evidence supporting Warren’s claims. Two retired Riverdale teachers said, according to the network, that “the workplace culture at the time may have left Warren with no option but to move on when her pregnancy became apparent.”

“The rule was at five months you had to leave when you were pregnant. Now, if you didn’t tell anybody you were pregnant, and they didn’t know, you could fudge it and try to stay on a little bit longer,” one of those retired teachers said. “But they kind of wanted you out if you were pregnant.”

The article notes that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which would protect a non-tenured teacher like Warren, was not passed until 1978, seven years after Warren’s teaching job ended.

Women (and historians) on Twitter pointed out that workplace discrimination is rarely explicitly documented in school board minutes, and that pregnancy discrimination was extremely common in the 1970s.

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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