Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has made a habit of telling audiences at campaign rallies how she lost her beloved job teaching children with special needs at a public school when she became “visibly pregnant.” However a recently-unearthed video from 2007 suggests she left because she lacked the necessary education qualifications.
Warren’s biography has been central to her pitch to voters. For example, in Franconia, New Hampshire, in August — the town hall meeting that marked the start of her latest surge — she said (emphasis added):
I have known what I wanted to do since second grade. You may laugh — you didn’t decide ’til third grade, fourth grade. [Laugher] Not me, man. I have known since second grade: I wanted to be a public school teacher. Can we hear it for America’s public school teachers? [Applause] Oh, I knew — and I invested early. I used to line my dollies up and teach school. I had a reputation for being tough, but fair. [Laughter] I’m just kidding. I loved it, I loved it. And I never wavered from what I wanted to do. But by the time I graduated from high school, my family didn’t have the money to pay for a college application, much less to send me off to a four years at a university. So, like a lot of Americans, I have a story that kind of has a bunch of twists and turns in it. And here’s how mine goes. I got a scholarship to college — yay! — and then, at 19, I fell in love, dropped out, got married, took a minimum wage job. [Laughter] It was my choice, and it was going to be a good life. But it wasn’t a dream. I thought I’d given up on ever being able to teach school. And then, and then — I found it. I found a commuter college, 45 minutes away, that cost $50 a semester. And for a price I could pay for, on a part-time waitressing job, I finished my four-year diploma, I became a special needs teacher — I have lived my dream job! [Applause] Now do I have any special needs teachers here? [Applause] Oh, good — I’ve got some. Got some here. Fabulous. Back me up on this: teaching special needs is not a job, it’s a calling. And I loved it. I truly loved it. I still can remember the faces — I had little ones. Still remember their faces. And I probably would still be doing that work today, only my story has some more twists and turns. And here’s how the next twist goes. By the end of my first year in teaching, I was visibly pregnant. And the principal did what principals did in those days: wished me luck and hired someone else for the job. Okay, so I’m at home, I’ve got a baby now, no chance to get a job. What am I going to do? And the answer is: I’ll to go to law school!
Warren told a similar story at the last Democratic Party presidential primary debate in September (emphasis added):
By the time I graduated from high school, my family didn’t have money for a college application, much less to send me off to four years at a university. And my story, like a lot of stories, has a lot of twists and turns. Got a scholarship, and then at 19, I got married, dropped out of school, took a minimum wage job, thought my dream was over.
I got a chance down the road at the University of Houston. And I made it as a special needs teacher. I still remember that first year as a special needs teacher. I could tell you what those babies looked like. I had 4- to 6-year-olds.
But at the end of that first year, I was visibly pregnant. And back in the day, that meant that the principal said to me — wished me luck and hired someone else for the job.
So, there I am, I’m at home, I got a baby, I can’t have a job. What am I going to do? Here’s resilience. I said, I’ll go to law school.
However, Warren’s current version of the story contradicts a version she told during a recently-resurfaced interview in 2007, when — as a Harvard Law School professor — she described her career path (4:42 to 7:49, emphasis added):
I’m of that generation where there were only two things that a woman could do if she wanted to do something other than stay home, and that was: she could become a nurse or she could become a teacher. And so there were some awfully able women who taught me from grade school on. And what they opened me up to was the possibility that I could become a teacher. And, frankly, that’s when I went off — When I went off to college, the whole idea was so that I could be a teacher. That’s what I wanted to do … I came to college on a debate scholarship. I was 16 years old when I graduated from high school. And I got a full scholarship in debate — that was room, board, tuition, books, and a little spending money. It was a fabulous scholarship. At George Washington University. If I would debate for them. It was sort of the equivalent of an athletic scholarship, only this was one that actually a girl could get, even though there weren’t very many girls in debate, either. I was going to be a teacher. And I quickly switched over and decided what I wanted to do was work with brain injured children. And so I got my degree in speech pathology and audiology, which meant that I would be able to work with children who had head trauma, and other kinds of brain injuries. And that’s what I did. .. I was married at 19, and then graduated from college, actually, after I’d married. And my first year of post graduation, I worked — it was within 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. And I 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 I stayed home for a couple of years, and I was really casting about, thinking what am I going to do. … And so I went back home to Oklahoma … for Christmas, and saw a bunch of the boys that I’d been in high school debate with, and they’d all gone on to law school. And they said, “You should go to law school, you’ll love it.” And I said, “You really think so?” And they said, “Of all of us who should have gone to law school, you’re the one who should have gone to law school.”
There are consistent themes in these stories, such as that Warren wanted to teach children with special needs — as well as some puzzles (such as her claim that she could not afford to apply to college, then received a scholarship).
But there are also contradictions — and the most glaring is the different reasons given for her leaving her teaching job.
In the 2007 version of the story, the reason for her leaving her job was that she lacked the necessary education qualifications and was on a special contract — not because a male principal dismissed her for becoming pregnant. It was her subsequent studies in education, not discrimination, that convinced her to choose a different career path.
However, on the campaign trail, Warren has chosen to tell what Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher describes as a story in which “[t]he central idea has always been that she was living her dream of being a public school special ed teacher until some villainous Mad Men-era principal put the kibosh on the whole thing because of her baby bump.”
The program that interviewed Warren is called Conversations with History, a project of the University of California. The story about the contradictions appears to have been broken first by blogger Jeryl Bier, who in turn credited left-wing Jacobin magazine wrier Meagan Day, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, for the information.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.