Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Catherine Goggin, 1855-1916

By Moses Awinsong, Monica Burney, and Jill Monroe, MA students
Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, Illinois

President and Financial Secretary, Chicago Teachers' Federation, Chicago; Women Representative, Permanent Charter Commission, Illinois State.

Catherine Goggin was born to Irish-Catholic immigrant parents in the New York Adirondacks near Lake Champlain in 1855. As a child, she moved with her family to Chicago, where she attended the Franklin School and Central High School. In October 1872, she began teaching in the primary department of Clarke School. After remaining single all her life, Goggin died in Chicago in 1916 when she was struck by a Marshall Field's truck while crossing the street. Her death deepened the movement for road and pedestrian safety because the truck had no fender, something which people argued could have prevented her death.

Goggin began her activism by using her connections in Chicago society to convince Governor John Altgeld to support a bill on teachers' pensions which passed the Illinois Senate in 1895. Goggin then helped found the Chicago Federation of Teachers (CFT) was elected its president with the help of Margaret Haley, an associate and prominent suffragist of Chicago. A year later, after Illinois went financially bankrupt and failed to pay teachers, Goggin and Haley fought the Illinois Board of Equalization over the under-taxation of twenty-three corporate bodies, arguing that the state could pay teachers if such illegal under-taxation was avoided and the accumulated tax of over $1,000,000 paid back. The case went to the Illinois Supreme Court. In November 1901, Goggin and Haley won the case and ensured corporations paid taxes commensurate with their income and profits. Goggin also championed the efforts at raising teachers' salaries. She opposed and worked against the Harper Bill (1899), a bill which sought to centralize administration of Chicago schools, to increase male teachers' population and pay over females, and to require teachers to acquire a college education. Goggin and Haley succeeded in defeating the bill and won a pay raise for female teachers. She later served as the CFT's Financial Secretary until her death.

Following the success of CFT at reforms in education for teachers' welfare, Goggin and Haley used CFT as an organization to further other social reforms, like woman suffrage and child labor. They joined the Chicago Federation of Labor and were active in the quest for woman suffrage in Chicago, though Goggin's close friend Haley was the more active of the pair. In 1914, Goggin was a representative of women in the Chicago City Council's permanent charter commission, one of few political openings for women in Chicago at the turn of the century.

Though she was most noted for her work in teaching reform, Goggin was involved in a number of women's groups, including the Catholic Woman's National League (in which she served as recording secretary from 1897-1900) and the Chicago Federal Union of Labor. Her own group, the CFT, was also known for its suffrage work. In 1903, Goggin spoke at the Annual State Suffrage Convention in Joliet, IL. Along with two other women, she headed a debate on the question of "Should an Educational Qualification for Suffrage Be Applied to Women?" Though her position in this debate is not known, her involvement shows her concern with woman suffrage and woman's rights.

In her lifetime, Goggin claimed to have had over 300 marriage proposals, though she never accepted any of them. She dedicated her life to teaching, holding that a woman who teaches "learns to govern, not to be governed."


"‘Best Friend' of Teachers Dies in Street." Chicago Daily Tribune, January 5, 1916.

"Catherine Goggin v. Board of Education et al." The Chicago Legal News: A Journal of Legal Intelligence, vol. 37, August 27, 1904.

Catholic Woman's League. Constitution and by-laws of the Catholic Woman's National League, organized 1893 under the general incorporation law of the state of Illinois, 1897-98. (Chicago: The Catholic Women's League, 1898), 60.

"Gallery of Local Celebrities," Chicago Daily Tribune, November 3, 1901.

Hard, William. "Margaret Haley, Rebel." Time Magazine, vol. 1, December 1906, 231-237.

"Leave Hope of Marrying Behind, All Ye Women Who Enter Here." The Journal of Education 63, no. 16, (1906), 425–26.

"Miss Goggin Wins Fight: Teachers Elect Her President..." Chicago Daily Tribune, March 26, 1899.

"Miss Goggin's Disciples: Many Spinsters Indorse the Nine ‘Causes' Promulgated by the Head of Their Sisterhood." Chicago Daily Tribune, April 15, 1900.

Munro, Petra. "Educator as Activist: Five Women from Chicago." Available at:

O'Reilly, Mary. "Teachers Pay Tribute To Life Of Miss Goggin: Meeting of Federation Hears Praise of Work of Dead Educator." Chicago Daily Tribune, January 30, 1916.

Rousmaniere, Kate. Citizen Teacher: The Life and Leadership of Margaret Haley. SUNY Press, 2005.

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, Susan Brownell Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Ida Husted Harper. History of Woman Suffrage: 1900-1920. Fowler & Wells, 1922.

"The Progress of Women," The Independent, July 6, 1914.

Thomas R. Partisans and Progressives: Private Interest and Public Policy in Illinois, 1870-1922. (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992).

"Thousands Pay Last Respects to Miss Goggin: Throngs View Body as It Lies In State In the City Hall." Chicago Daily Tribune, January 8, 1916.

"Why She is Miss Goggin: President of Federation Argues for Spinsterhood." Chicago Daily Tribune, April 8, 1900.

"Women and Social Movements in the United States." Accessed October 21, 2016. px?name=Goggin%2c+Catherine%2c+fl.+1900.

"Women Meet at Joliet: Program for Annual State Suffrage Convention." Chicago Daily Tribune, October 7, 1903.

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