Jacqueline B. Vaughn

IntroAmerican labor leader
Was Activist 
Trade unionist 
From United States of America 
Type Activism 
Birth 27 July 1935 
, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.
Death 22 January 1994 
, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, U.S.A.
(aged 58 years)
Star sign Leo

Jacqueline Barbara Vaughn (née Robinson; July 27, 1935 – January 22, 1994) was an American Chicago Public Schools special education teacher and labor leader. She was the first African-American and first woman to head the nation’s third largest teachers union local. She served as President of the Chicago Teachers Union from 1984 to 1994, the Illinois Federation of Teachers (1989–94), and Vice-President of the American Federation of Teachers (1974–1994). She led what has been called one of the “mightiest teachers unions in the nation.” Vaughn was famous for her fashion sense and her no-nonsense negotiation style in contract talks. Her ability to build consensus between the leadership team, the teachers and school support staff garnered respect from those in and out to the educational system. Vaughn spent much of her career trying to reform the educational system. Through her vision, the CTU Quest Center was created to give school professionals a place to design more effective teaching methods and student learning techniques. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley called Jacqueline Vaughn “a courageous and tireless champion for men and women working in our most noble profession, teaching.”

Early career

Born Jacqueline Barbara Robinson on July 27, 1935 in St. Louis, MO. but moved to Chicago after both parents died at an early age. She was raised by an aunt, Mae A. Bibbs, a first grade teacher at Douglas Elementary School. Bibbs helped to guide the young girl to a career as a teacher. Vaughn is an alumnus of Morgan Park High School (1952) and graduated from Chicago Teachers College in 1956. She worked various teaching assignments before becoming a special education teacher at Einstein Elementary School and later a language arts specialist. During that time Jacqueline rose through the ranks of the Chicago Teachers Union. She served as a union delegate from 1957 – 1961, field representative from 1961 – 1963, Elementary Functional Vice President from 1963 – 1968.

Chicago Teacher’s Union

In 1968 Vaughn was elected to Executive leadership in the C.T.U. as recording secretary under then President, John Desmond. In 1972, Vaughn was elected vice-president, a post she held until Robert Healey stepped down as president in 1984. Vaughn became one of Chicago’s most visible union leaders during her tenure as CTU president, making regular appearances on the nightly news voicing the concerns and interests of both teachers and students during difficult negotiations with the Chicago School Board. Between 1969 and 1987 the union authorized nine strikes to improve educational conditions.

1987 Strike

The strike in 1987 lasted 4 weeks, from September 8 to October 4 and resulted in a pay increase for teachers and reductions in class size. It was the longest strike in Chicago history. Vaughn once said “I think that teacher’s strikes should not have to occur, but just as it is for other workers, the strike is the ultimate weapon when there’s a total breakdown in the negotiating process.”


Vaughn died on January 22, 1994 after a long battle with breast cancer. In 1992, Under her direction the Chicago Teachers Union became the first labor organization to receive a $1 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation to fund the CTU Quest Center. The center provides teachers and paraprofessionals with continuous learning opportunities that can help improve teaching and student learning. On April 1, 1993, Wilson High School on the northwest side of Chicago was renamed Jacqueline B. Vaughn Occupational High School after the former special education teacher and labor leader. The school provides special needs students with practical skills to become a viable part of the greater community. On March 11, 1998, Roosevelt Road in the south Loop area of downtown Chicago between The Dan Ryan Expressway and Museum Plaza by the city’s lakefront was officially renamed Honorary Jacqueline B. Vaughn Way .