Feldman, Sandra(1939– ) union leader; born in New York City. Growing up poor—she would later credit the public school system for "saving my life"—she graduated from Brooklyn College and took an M.A. in English literature from New York University (1964). As a young woman she joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and was arrested several times on civil rights marches in the South. She began as a substitute teacher in the New York public schools and in 1963 got a full-time appointment, teaching 4th grade. In 1966 she became a field representative for the United Federation of Teachers; by 1981 she became the union's executive director; by 1983 she was its secretary; and by 1986 she became its president, succeeding Albert Shanker (who had long praised her as the effective administrator). She was the first woman to head this union, the largest local union of any kind in the U.S.A., representing some 85,000 teachers, guidance counselors, and teachers aides, and she became known as a tough and dedicated advocate of the labor union movement and the cause of public education. She was married to Arthur H. Barnes, onetime president of the New York Urban Coalition; they had no children. She collected art and was an avid reader of fiction.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.