Document Type


Publication Date



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Social Work


This paper explores a singular chapter in Social Work, Appalachia and

American culture. Like many other aspects of Appalachian culture and politics, it is

primarily a tale of extended effort for what proved to be a lost cause. Like many

other chapters in the history of the social work profession, it is a tale of a bright

beginning and insufficient follow-through. It is an optimistic narrative of expected

and unanticipated consequences that have proven to be beneficial for the culture

and economy of the region. It is also a deeply political narrative, if only because it is

dramatically at variance from both the boldly heroic and utilitarian myths of origin

that the social work profession usually offers and the view of social work usually

offered by the other social sciences. In the former views, social workers often

construct for themselves myths of origin in which wise and insightful predecessors

foresaw the need for the modern profession in the daily details of the sooty

industrial city. In the latter views, early social work is usually presented as a largely

ineffective, female dominated, idealistic, pre-scientific and even slightly daft

collection of do-gooders with little impact on culture or history and no real idea of

the meaning of science.



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