2010-11-26 / Columnists

The Progressive

By John Paul Culotta

Jane Addams, pictured on the right. Jane Addams, pictured on the right. My wife is a social worker. She worked many years serving the elderly and their families with their needs when they became infirmed. In recent years many social workers have made comfortable livings serving the more privileged of our society face the turmoil of divorce, deaths in their families, and the overcoming of phobias. All of us need assistance and counseling and this type of social work is commendable and necessary. At the same time, most social workers are people who dedicate their careers assisting the least fortunate of our society, sometimes in dangerous neighborhoods with miserable compensation. Too often social work has become a tool of social and political bureaucracy that leaves many to view the profession in an unfavorable light.

It is noteworthy that this year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Jane Addams, a pioneer of the profession in this country. She was a formidable woman who started the settlement house movement when she founded Hull House in Chicago, Illinois. Settlement Houses were beacons of hope and assimilation for the multitude of immigrants and poor who were forced to live in the horrible slums of American cities. These settlement houses were places of advice, education, culture and recreation. Addams encouraged women to be involved in the development of their communities. She encouraged brave women to develop the profession despite the dismay of their families and society. Eleanor Roosevelt admired Jane Addams. Addams also gave women an example as to how to use political and social pressure for the poor.

Often Addams found her ideas, especially her opposition to war as a method to settle differences, unpopular and controversial. Her efforts were rewarded when she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.

Social work is a noble profession and working for peace and social justice needs recognition. Please read about Jane Addams and remember the need for people who are dedicated to the ideals so lacking in our society today.

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