Labor Archives Collection Highlights: Instructors’ Association records

Faculty unions and professional organizations advocating for equitable workplace practices have existed at universities for decades. Take for instance the Instructors’ Association at the University of Washington. Ninety seven years ago in October of 1919, the Instructors’ Association was founded by University of Washington faculty after recognizing the need for a dedicated organization to investigate workplace issues directly affecting university instructors. The association conducted studies on a variety of issues and also acted as a liaison between faculty, including members of the American Federation of Teachers Union Local 401, and the university administration.

You can get an inside look into the activities of the association at the UW Labor Archives of Washington. Spanning the years 1919-1947, the Instructors’ Association records contain correspondence, meeting minutes, reports, resolutions, financial records, and other textual material created or kept by the association. Major issues discussed in the records include faculty salary, health insurance, sabbatical leave, tenure, teaching load, and university policies. One file in particular even discusses a former policy that prohibited married faculty to both teach at the university, resulting in the dismissal of a female faculty member in 1937.[1] Although created many years ago, these records remain relevant to the struggles of today’s faculty and academic staff, showing not only the progress made from those that came before us but also where further change is needed.

Interested in learning more about the Instructors’ Association? Their records are publicly available for research in the Special Collections Reading Room during our open hours. Click here to view the updated finding aid with a full inventory for the collection on Archives West. Other related collections include the records of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 401 and the papers of UW faculty member Garland O. Ethel, former secretary of Local 401.

For more information about our location and hours, click here. For specific information about the Labor Archives of Washington, including other labor collections, visit We look forward to seeing you soon!

[1] This relates to the Lea Puymbroeck Miller case. For more historical context, see: Palay, Claire, “Lea Miller’s Protest: Married Women’s Jobs at the University of Washington,” The Great Depression in Washington State Project. Retrieved (October 10, 2016) from


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