In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Women and Macro Social Work Practice

  • Introduction
  • Textbooks
  • Anthologies
  • Reference Works
  • Women-Founded and Women-Run Organizations
  • Women in Administration and Management
  • Women and Leadership
  • Women and FundRaising
  • Women in Macro Social Work Education
  • Women Conducting Macro-level Research

Social Work Women and Macro Social Work Practice
F. Ellen Netting, M. Lori Thomas
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0101


This article primarily identifies historical and contemporary resources on women’s roles and activities in social work practice within US organizations and communities (macro practice), including a sampling of readings on international women’s efforts. While the majority of references are focused on social work research and practice, relevant references from colleagues in women’s studies, feminist history, and various other disciplinary perspectives are included. For the purpose of this entry, women in social work macro practice are engaged in decision-making and participatory processes that occur in programmatic, organizational, community, and policy arenas. Early historical references focus on women’s roles and gender division prior to the development of social work as a profession in (1) the development and oversight of benevolent (charitable) work, (2) the reform of social problems, and (3) the rights movement prior to and during the Progressive Era in the United States. Contemporary references elucidate what is known about women’s roles in founding and running organizations, community organizing efforts, and policy analysis and implementation. Finally, resources on women’s content and female faculty in macro social work education and research are provided.


The textbooks in this section make a special effort to integrate content on women and are not intended to be inclusive. Barusch 2015 is a policy text. Appleby, et al. 2011 and van Wormer and Besthorn 2017 are for a human behavior audience. Finn and Jacobson 2016 and Netting, et al. 2017 offer practice textbooks that integrate macro and micro content. These five books are good resources for foundation learning. Day and Schiele 2013, a history text, is a helpful supplement in beginning courses on social welfare. Lengermann and Niebrugge 2007 is an insightful treatment of contributions made by women theorists and is an eye-opening view of how women’s theoretical contributions have been subjugated.

  • Appleby, George A., Edgar A. Colon, and Julia Hamilton, eds. 2011. Diversity, oppression, and social functioning. 2d ed. Boston: Pearson.

    Chapter 7, written by Barbara Worden, is “Women and Sexist Oppression.” Following an introduction to the person-in-environment (PIE) classification system for problems in social functioning and the empowerment framework, macro analysis based on feminist epistemologies, gender roles, and the feminization of poverty are explored.

  • Barusch, Amanda Smith. 2015. Foundations of social policy: Social justice in human perspective. 5th ed. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.

    Chapter 12 in the section “Vulnerable Populations: Discrimination and Oppression” is on “Women” and incorporates content on gender-relevant policy. In addition, this chapter focuses on women’s roles, reproductive rights, violence against women, workplace issues, military service, and political equality.

  • Day, Phyllis J., and Jerome Schiele. 2013. A new history of social welfare. 7th ed. Boston: Pearson.

    A special effort is taken to include women’s history, women’s movements, and women’s issues throughout this history textbook.

  • Finn, Janet L., and Maxine Jacobson. 2016. Just practice: A social justice approach to social work. 3d ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    A feminist approach is used in this introductory practice textbook, integrating micro and macro practice within the principle of social justice. Finn and Jacobson offer an historical context of the profession’s progressive roots and encourage critical thinking about women’s roles.

  • Lengermann, Patricia Madoo, and Gillian Niebrugge. 2007. The women founders: Sociology and social theory, 1830–1930. Long Grove, IL: Waveland.

    Lengermann and Niebrugge describe how women sociologists and social theorists were written out of sociology textbooks until feminists began to reconstruct women’s social science contributions in the 1980s. Specially, they include Harriett Martineau (b. 1802–d. 1876), Jane Addams (b. 1860–d. 1935), Charlotte Perkins Gilman (b. 1860–d. 1935), Anna Julia Cooper (b. 1858–d. 1964), Ida B. Wells-Barnett (b. 1862–d. 1931), Marianne Weber (b. 1870–d. 1854), The Chicago Women’s School of Sociology (b. 1890–d. 1920), and Beatrice Potter Webb (b. 1848–d. 1943).

  • Netting, F. Ellen, Peter M. Kettner, Steven L. McMurtry, and M. Lori Thomas. 2017. Social work macro practice. 6th ed. Boston: Pearson.

    Throughout this text, there is content on women’s historical and contemporary roles within the context of macro social work practice. Issues related to intersectionality, sexism, gender, and feminist theories are highlighted.

  • van Wormer, Katherine, and Fred Besthorn. 2017. Human behavior and the social environment: Groups, communities and organizations. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    This textbook integrates feminism and women’s issues throughout and defines basic assumptions and concepts of feminism, antioppression, and empowerment as a foundation for all chapters.

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