Three Women Who Impacted Social Work in the US

03-05-2018

Each day, social workers tirelessly assist and better the lives of millions of residents in their communities. March is “Social Workers Month” and, at VNA Health Group, we have the privilege of working with hundreds of social workers. This dedicated team of kind, caring and thoughtful men and women work both with our patients in the field and also support staff in our office.

"They are our resource advocacy gurus, our therapeutic leaders, and our champions of compassion," said Social Work Manager Ellen Koehler, MSW, LCSW, "I am humbled to learn from each and every one of our visiting social work staff who serve in patient homes, long-term care facilities, and our system hospitals, as well as those addressing the bereavement needs of the greater community. Just as important, any social worker working in this office is always willing to serve a fellow colleague in need. This is a cohesive, loyal team that is dedicated to not only the core of Social Work’s values but the mission and vision of the agency as well."

Although it may be hard to believe, social work hasn't been around for very long. An organized approach to assisting people in distress first came about just prior to the turn of the 20th century. Over the past 150 years, social work has helped families and communities grow together through innovation and equality. In March, we also celebrate Women’s History Month. Meet three women who paved the way to social work as we know it today.

Jane Addams

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Known as the "mother" of social work, Jane Addams was the founder of Hull-House in Chicago. Addams and the residents of Hull-House helped pass critical legislation and influenced public policy on public health and education, free speech, fair labor practices, immigrants’ rights, recreation and public space, arts, and philanthropy. She was dedicated to improving the lives of those in poverty and fought for social justice and women's suffrage. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the first American woman to receive it, for her improving the lives of women and the poor.

Frances Perkins

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The first female elected to the U.S. cabinet, Frances Perkins served in settlement houses in Philadelphia and in Jane Addams’ Hull-House in Chicago. Perkins was an American sociologist and advocate for worker's rights. A close friend and supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Perkins served as the US Secretary of Labor from 1933 - 1945. Under her leadership, she helped solidify many aspects of the New Deal to help the U.S. recover from The Great Depression.

Alice Walker

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Alice Walker is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author best known for her 1982 novel, The Color Purple. Although the book is fictional, the story was a painful example of the experience of minorities in the U.S., bringing their real stories to the forefront of civil discourse. She was also an active participant in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, which inspired many of her poems and stories. Walker worked as a social worker, teacher and lecture after graduating from college. According to Walker's website, her books have been translated into more than two dozen languages and sold more than 15 million copies.