Stand up for facts and support PolitiFact.
Now is your chance to go on the record as supporting trusted, factual information by joining PolitiFact’s Truth Squad. Contributions or gifts to PolitiFact, which is part of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Poynter Institute, are tax deductible.
I would like to contribute
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren tells a different story today than she once did about how she lost a teaching job shortly after graduating from college.
The Massachusetts senator now says she lost the job because she was pregnant. She didn’t say that in the past. Is it possible to reconcile the two accounts?
PolitiFact went back to her past and present comments, and reviewed publicly available documents on the matter.
The current controversy centers on Warren’s teaching job at a public school district in Riverdale, N.J., in the early 1970s.
The Washington Free Beacon and CBS News reported recently that they obtained minutes from school board meetings in Riverdale, which is about 30 miles northwest of New York City.
The minutes, which the Free Beacon posted online, say the school board approved offering Warren a part-time teaching contract in August 1970; offered her a "second-year" contract in April 1971; and that Warren resigned in June 1971.
So, the school board had formally offered to renew Warren’s teaching job.
But neither report gave further detail and neither attributed the information. In all likelihood, the news reports were based on information provided by the school board or the school district. And if Warren had been forced out of the job because she was pregnant, it’s not likely school officials would have said so publicly.
One thing that’s important to remember: At the time, it was common for women to be forced out of teaching jobs after they became pregnant.
Here’s a look at how Warren has explained what happened:
"I was married at 19 and then graduated from college, actually, after I’d married," Warren said in an interview on a show produced by the University of California, Berkeley. "And my first year post-graduation, I worked — it was in a public school system, but I worked with the children with disabilities. And I did that for a year. And then that summer — I actually didn’t have the education courses, so I was on an ‘emergency certificate,’ it was called."
So, Warren indicates that her lack of credentials might have been an issue. Regardless, the school board offered to renew her job.
Warren noted that she later "went back to graduate school and took a couple of courses in education and said, ‘I don’t think this is going to work out for me.’ And I was pregnant with my first baby. So, I had a baby and stayed home for a couple of years, and I was really casting about, thinking, ‘What am I going to do?’ And my husband’s view of it was, ‘Stay home. We have children, we’ll have more children, you’ll love this.’ And I was very restless about it."
Warren’s story is different as a senator and on the presidential campaign trail.
In her 2014 memoir, Warren wrote: "By the end of the school year, I was pretty obviously pregnant. The principal did what I think a lot of principals did back then — wished me good luck, didn’t ask me back for the next school year, and hired someone else for the job."
That version of the story is similar to what Warren has said on the presidential campaign trail.
"By the end of the first year, I was visibly pregnant, and the principal did what principals did in those days: Wished me luck and hired someone else for the job," Warren said at a campaign appearance in Carson City, Nev.
"All I know is I was 22 years old, I was six months pregnant, and the job that I had been promised for the next year was going to someone else," Warren said in an interview with CBS News, CBS reported. "The principal said they were going to hire someone else for my job."
She added: "When someone calls you in and says the job that you've been hired for for the next year is no longer yours. 'We're giving it to someone else,' I think that's being shown the door."
Warren's campaign confirmed that the principal at the time, Edward Pruzinsky, is deceased.
CBS said that when it asked Warren why she told a different story in 2007, Warren said her life since her election to the U.S. Senate in 2012 caused her to "open up" about her past.
"After becoming a public figure, I opened up more about different pieces in my life, and this was one of them. I wrote about it in my book when I became a U.S. senator," she said in a statement from her campaign, according to CBS.
The day after the CBS story, Warren defended herself in a tweet, saying: "When I was 22 and finishing my first year of teaching, I had an experience millions of women will recognize. By June I was visibly pregnant—and the principal told me the job I'd already been promised for the next year would go to someone else."
Update: This story was updated shortly after publication with the principal's name.
Interview, Elizabeth Warren campaign spokesman Chris Hayden, Oct. 8, 2019
YouTube, Elizabeth Warren campaign speech (13:45) in Carson City, Nev., Oct. 5, 2019
University of California, Berkeley, Elizabeth Warren’s "Conversations with History" interview (6:20), March 7, 2007
Washington Free Beacon, "County Records Contradict Warren’s Claim She Was Fired Over Pregnancy," Oct. 7, 2019
The Evening News (Paterson, N.J.), "Riverdale School Board Gets Go-Ahead on Teachers Pact," June 22, 1971
The (Newton, N.J.) Herald-News, "Riverdale board hires correctionist," July 8, 1971
A Fighting Chance, Elizabeth Warren’s memoir, page 14