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National Association of Social Workers project : oral history, 1977-1981.

Project: National Association of Social Workers project.
(see all project interviews)
Phys. Desc. :Transcripts 2,496 leaves.
Location: Columbia Center for Oral History
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Scope and Contents

This series of interviews was conducted by Vida S. Grayson, ACSW, and a trained oral historian, for the National Association of Social Workers, to provide a history of social work as it evolved from community charities, chests and other philanthropic agencies into a highly structured professional and academic discipline in the United States between the 1920s and 70s. Mrs. Grayson interviewed prominent figures from both the academic and practicing sectors of the "second generation" of social workers, who discuss the emergence of the three separate schools of social work theory: the New York Freudian, Pennsylvania Rankian, and the Chicago school of public welfare. The participants consider the pros and cons of this factionalism in the field. While several propose doctrinaire adherence to the theories of a particular school, others contend that the on-going debates between case-workers and group-workers, and Freudian vs. Rankian analysts, as well as the division of practitioners into medical, psychiatric, and public assistance sub-groups, ultimately debilitated the entire profession. They reflect on how the incorporation of European scholarship as well as various methods and data from the social sciences, law and medicine, particularly psychoanalysis, helped formulate a common base of social work theory; and they consider how the Depression changed social work agencies, the role of World War II in increasing male participation in social work, and the ways in which United States assistance to developing nations produced a comparative and international perspective on social work theory. Several participants discuss persecution of radical social workers by their colleagues, and of the profession in general by the House Un-American Activities Committee and its followers; the growth of a sub-group of minority social workers dedicated to adapting social work methods to the specific needs of disadvantaged minorities; the difficulties of combining a professional with an academic career, as well as a career with a family life. Others comment on the failure of social work to establish itself as a respected profession comparable to law and medicine and suggest various ways it can do so. "First generation" social workers discussed (cont.)include Margaret Leal, Porter Lee, Gordon Hamilton, Charlotte Towle, Mary Richmond, Ruth Smalley, Sophonisba Breckinridge, Edith Abbott, Jane Addams, Graham Taylor, and Edward Lindeman. Participants and pagination: Harriett Bartlett, 237; Arthur Dunham, 443; Arlien Johnson, 193; Gisela Konopka, 616; Inabel B. Lindsay, 326; Helen Harris Perlman, 354; Gladys Ryland, 163; Gertrude Wilson, 164.


Access Conditions

Permission required to cite, quote, and reproduce. Contact the National Association of Social Workers for information.

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