In the early years of the 20th Century, there were no financial provisions for teachers after their retirement.
Beginning in 1913, the House of Delegates of the New York State Teachers’ Association (NYSTA) was the voice of active teachers. Membership in NYSTA gave active teachers the opportunity to enhance their professional lives. Historically, retired teachers also participated in NYSTA. However, as early as 1920 there were those who were concerned for the welfare of the rapidly growing number of retires teachers. There was no New York State Teachers’ Retirement System until 1921.
Meanwhile, at the far-western end of the state, the Buffalo Women Teachers’ Association was encouraged to assist a group known as “Friends of Retired Teachers”. For over 25 years, the “Friends” had been trying to improve the status of retired educators in the Buffalo area. Then during the 1940’s, the soaring cost of living caused retired teachers throughout the country to focus on the need for statewide retired teachers’ organizations that would be dedicated to protecting and improving retirement benefits.
In the fall of 1946, about a hundred retired educators gathered at a grammar school in Albany to establish a Retired Teachers’ Association, the first in New York, and in this country. Then in October 1947, the “Friends” in Buffalo called a meeting of retired teachers, and the Western Zone was created.
Teachers who had a voice in their welfare before retirement quickly welcomed an opportunity to have a voice after retirement. Through the action in 1923 of the NYSTA House of Delegates, New York State had been divided into zones. It was now becoming clear to the leaders of their zones that a separate statewide organization was needed to represent retirees.
In November 1949, presidents of the Eastern, Western, and Central Western Zones met to begin making this a reality. Meetings continued ~ including Central, Southern, and Southeastern Zones ~ to discuss a constitution for a state organization and legislation to benefit retired teachers.
On November 18, 1951, representatives from the six zones met in Rochester and elected officers to serve the newly formed New York State Retired Teachers’ Association (NYSRTA) . By the following year, Northern, North Central, Northeastern, and Long Islands Zones had come on board, making a true statewide organization, and completing the structure of the Association.