In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Social Work Luminaries: Luminaries contributing to the founding of social work practice, policy, and research in the United States

  • Introduction
  • Stephen Humphreys Gurteen
  • Josephine Shaw Lowell
  • Jane Addams
  • Graham Taylor
  • Mary Ellen Richmond
  • Homer Folks
  • Robert Weeks DeForest
  • Edward Devine
  • Paul Underwood Kellogg
  • Edith Abbott
  • George Edmund Haynes
  • Grace Abbott
  • Susan Myra Kingsbury
  • Isaac Max Rubinow
  • Mary Ann van Kleeck
  • Ida Maud Cannon
  • Mary Cromwell Jarrett
  • Porter Raymond Lee
  • Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch
  • Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge
  • Eduard Christian Lindeman
  • Kenneth L. M. Pray
  • Frances Perkins
  • Julia Jessie Taft
  • Arthur Dunham
  • Bertha Capen Reynolds

Social Work Social Work Luminaries: Luminaries contributing to the founding of social work practice, policy, and research in the United States
Charles D. Garvin, Lorraine M. Gutiérrez, Larry E. Davis
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 July 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 July 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0287


Oxford Bibliographies in Social Work includes three articles describing the scholarly writings of a select group of deceased social workers who have been especially prominent and influential in the profession within the United States. The authors refer to these individuals as social work luminaries. These three articles can be used to identify the publications of prominent individuals who have been most influential in the development of social work. We identified these individuals by first reviewing the biographies of significant social workers from the Encyclopedia of Social Work, edited by Cynthia Franklin (Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers Press, 2014), and obituaries collected by the Council on Social Work Education since the publication of the Encyclopedia of Social Work. From this list, the authors reviewed the biographical material and publications, selecting the most-prominent luminaries for each of the three articles. For each luminary, a brief biographical overview and one to five annotated citations of their most important publications are provided. Respectively, the three articles describe the publications of luminaries (1) who were involved in the founding and creation of the social work profession in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, (2) who subsequently contributed to the clarification and elaboration of social work practice and theory, and (3) who contributed to social work theory and scholarship in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. This article focuses on luminaries who contributed to the founding of the profession. They came to their work from different backgrounds and began the process of creating the field’s theoretical, ethical, and historical foundations. The earliest luminaries in this list contributed to the foundations of social work, with the later luminaries working on defining the field, its scope and functions, and its role in larger health and human services systems. These luminaries include those who established some of the first schools of social work in the nation. These bibliographies are ordered in chronological order on the basis of when the individual made his or her most substantial contributions to social work. These individuals and their work must be seen in the context of the eras in which they worked. The language they sometimes used could be viewed by some in the 2020s as archaic, patronizing, sexist, racist, or offensive. Some of their work may express views, such as eugenic policies, that are antithetical to the profession in the early 21st century. The authors think it imperative that those in the field recognize these historical trends and views in order to see how our field has evolved and also how it has always reflected the context and values in which it exists.

Stephen Humphreys Gurteen

Gurteen (b. 1836–d. 1898) was a founder of the first Charity Organization Society (COS) in the United States while he was an ordained Episcopal priest and assistant minister at St. Paul’s Church, Buffalo, New York. Born in England, he immigrated to the United States and worked as a minister and Latin teacher. Gurteen was put in charge of Buffalo’s relief work during the depression of 1873–1878. After visiting England in the summer of 1877 to observe efforts to assist the poor, he proposed a COS for Buffalo that would involve prominent businesspeople representing a variety of religious faiths. The Buffalo COS launched in December 1877. From 1884 to 1886 he served as rector of a church in Springfield, Illinois. In 1886 he retired to New York City, where he pursued an interest in early English literature. In Gurteen 1877 he identifies the specific processes and procedures for engaging in charitable work that were very significant in the development of “scientific charity.” A subsequent publication, Gurteen 1882, expanded the practice of scientific charity.

  • Gurteen, S. H. 1877. Phases of charity. Buffalo, NY: Haas, Nauert & Klein.

    This book argues that investigation must be the “basic axiom” and “cardinal principle” of charity. He presents methods for formal, structured investigation as essential for effective COS operation. This book was influential in the development of methods to regulate relief practices, contain costs, and “cure social dependency.”

  • Gurteen, S. H. 1882. A handbook of charity organization. Buffalo, NY: S. H. Gurteen.

    This book developed the concepts of scientific charity to include the importance of moral support and friendship between the charity worker and the poor as a means for addressing problems of “pauperism,” a 19th-century term for those living in chronic poverty.

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