By Linnea Anderson
Archivist, Social Welfare History Archives
Hours spent doing research and writing exhibit text for the Archives and Special Collections department’s current exhibit, “The job is never done”: Fifty Years of Documenting Social Welfare History, uncovered many interesting documents, facts and quotes – a few of which were used for the exhibit.
Here are a few of the curator’s favorites from the exhibit!
I found a letter that beautifully encompasses the “back story” of Great Depression-era New Deal legislation captured in the Archives. The letter was sent to Senator Robert F. Wagner, an author of the Social Security Act of 1935 and the National Labor Relations Act, from Paul Kellogg, editor of the progressive reform magazine, Survey. Kellogg was also a member of the Advisory Council on Economic Security to the Committee on Economic Security established by President Franklin Roosevelt to draft social security legislation. But is gets better! The annotations on the letter are by Frances Perkins, secretary of labor in the Roosevelt administration and the first woman to serve in the cabinet. Together, these three were some of the important figures, working either in public or behind the scenes, in the creation of federal social legislation during the 1930s. (From the Survey Associates records.)
This photograph is of a protest at the National Conference on Social Welfare by the Association of Black Social Workers and National Welfare Rights Organization in 1969. Archival collections document a fundamental shift in the social work profession and in social worker-community relations in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This dynamic continues to the present day, in part, through culturally competent social work practice standards. (Photograph from the Margaret Berry papers.)
The arts were an integral part of community center programs and are well-documented in the Archives. The rich variety of sources on the arts is a wonderful example of an unexpected story related to the history of social work.
These photographs are interesting examples of arts program documented in the Archives.
“Sunshine and Shadow” pageant at Neighborhood House in Louisville, Kentucky. Circa 1920.
Aaron Copland conducting students of the Henry Street Music School in New York in the world premiere of his opera, “The Second Hurricane,” in April, 1937 at the Grand Street Playhouse. (From the National Federation of Settlements and Neighborhood Centers records and the Henry Street Settlement records.)
- “When you scratch the outcry against “the dole,” you find that it merely echoes propaganda put out in high places, reflects some childhood teaching, is a defense for the wealthy, or is a serious fear lest we undermine local responsibility, or set up a pork barrel that will be worse that any we have known…The first three objections are a mixture of dope, emotion, and class interest. The last two are subject to rational discussion…” (Paul Kellogg. Testimony given at an unemployment relief bill hearing before a subcommittee of the Committee on Manufactures of the United States Senate. Paul Kellogg papers. December, 1931.)
- “… in order also to maintain a proper balance between consumption and productive capacity, a nation-wide system of social insurance shall be established which shall draw its funds from higher incomes and divert them into purchasing power for the necessities of life of those who derive their livelihood from wages, salaries, or self-employment, and not from investments.” (Mary Van Kleeck. Memorandum regarding employment insurance and unemployment compensation. National Association of Social Workers records. 1931.)
- “If the future is to find the settlement a more integral part of its community – – as I believe it should be – – rather than an outside growth, it must be more representative of the various groups comprising its constituency.” Mary Adams, Southwark Neighborhood House. (Excerpts from Settlement Goals for the Next Third of a Century. National Federation of Settlements records. 1926)
- “Moderation in the pursuit of security is no virtue, and extremism in uprooting negligence is no vice….” From a note attached to a letter regarding building renovations and security in the Archives office files, circa 1985.
‘The Job is Never Done’ quote
The quotation that inspired the exhibit title is from Eveline M. Burns’ presidential address to the National Conference on Social Welfare in 1958, “Social Welfare is our Commitment.” Eveline M. Burns was a professor of economics at Columbia University, an influential authority in the development of social security programs, and active in the leadership of social service organizations.
- “What made the great leaders of the past so influential was their commitment to a cause. They cared desperately about people, they had a vision of the good life, they were morally indignant about one or more social evils. Thus armed, they had the courage never to accept defeat and to bear with frustration, disappointment, and the realization that the job is never done.”
There were so many interesting discoveries in the Social Welfare History Archives’ collections that I am not able to include them all in this post. To see more, visit the exhibit (on display until May 22 at Elmer L. Andersen Library) or contact the archives to learn more!