SOCIAL WORK AND SOCIAL REFORM: SELECTED WOMEN SOCIAL WORKERS AND CHILD WELFARE REFORMS, 1877-1932

ELIZABETH KENNEDY HARTLEY, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

Although social work has claimed social reform as a goal, critics suggest that reform has been dropped in favor of professionalization, bureaucracy, and casework. Other critics conclude that social work has not attempted significant reforms and has been willing to compromise on issues. This research focused on several women who represented the profession in an era notable for child welfare reforms. This research is based on their published writings and an extensive selection of unpublished letters. Josephine Shaw Lowell represents a transition in social thought. She is known for her work in charities; her early ideas reflect an ideology that endures. Reform meant the reform of people. However, a paradigm shift in social thought occurred as Lowell observed that working families were unable to support themselves. At her most innovative Lowell called for widow's pensions, the living wage, and a share of ownership of industry for workers. Julia C. Lathrop, a protege of Jane Addams associated with social reform in Chicago, the settlement house, the Juvenile Court, and state provisions for widows with children, came to prominence in Illinois. As Chief of the Federal Children's Bureau, Lathrop developed a package of welfare measures designed to enable families to carry out their traditional role. The use of a single agency, the broad concept of welfare, and the cooperation of levels of government developed under her leadership. Lathrop became outspoken in support of international programs and world peace. Florence Kelley became a Socialist while a student in Zurich. Her correspondence indicates the translation of this theory to benefit the American family. She presented her beliefs within a moralistic framework, demanding social change. Kelley selected child labor as the issue to initiate long-term reforms. The child raised in a traditional family and freed for education would bring about the ideal society of the future. Each of these reformers became more radical, believing in broad and incremental social reform, including child welfare issues. Although these reformers held traditional views of family roles, they sought government support to enable familes to stay together. They claimed the child-caring role for women, but defined it as central to society. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.)

Subject Area

Social work|Biographies

Recommended Citation

HARTLEY, ELIZABETH KENNEDY, "SOCIAL WORK AND SOCIAL REFORM: SELECTED WOMEN SOCIAL WORKERS AND CHILD WELFARE REFORMS, 1877-1932" (1985). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI8610839.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI8610839

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