In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Social Work Luminaries: Luminaries Who Contributed to Social Work Theory and Scholarship in the Late 20th and Early 21st Centuries

  • Introduction

Social Work Social Work Luminaries: Luminaries Who Contributed to Social Work Theory and Scholarship in the Late 20th and Early 21st Centuries
Charles D. Garvin, Lorraine M. Gutiérrez, Larry E. Davis
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 November 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 November 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0292


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. We refer to these individuals as social work luminaries. These three bibliographies 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 in the Franklin’s article on Encyclopedia of Social Work and obituaries collected by the Council on Social Work Education since the publication of the Encyclopedia of Social Work. From this list we reviewed the biographical material and publications, selecting the most prominent luminaries for each of the three articles. For each luminary we provide a brief biographical overview and one to five annotated citations of their most important publications. 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 presents social work luminaries who made major contributions to research and practice in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Luminaries in this era often made more use of scientific findings than those luminaries in the previous two articles. They related practice and theory to the social conditions of this more current period, and they often were concerned about a research-based (i.e., empirical) practice and incorporated contemporary ideas of social justice into their thinking. In this period, as in the previous one, most luminaries fell into one of several categories in terms of their contributions to social work scholarship, although several luminaries contributed to more than one category. We have organized this article around these different categories, which include contributions to social work methods; specific fields of service; the overall field of social work; diversity, multiculturalism, and empowerment; and social work research.

Luminaries Who Focused on Social Work Methods

Different methods for social work practice continued to develop during the late 20th and early 21st centuries. By the 1950s, social work practice was most often defined as consisting of casework, group work, and community organization. During the late 20th century, social work practitioners and scholars began developing methods for practice with families and organizations. Efforts to understand a more unitary perspective on practice contributed to the development of “generalist” approaches. During the 1970s and 1980s, empirical approaches to social casework were developed. This was followed by the creation and development of strengths-based methods.

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