NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Myrtle Brooke (1872 - 1948)
Myrtle Brooks was a native of Canton, Georgia who spent most of her life in Montevallo, Alabama. In 1948 she became the chairperson of the Department of Psychology and Education at the Alabama College for Women, now the University of Montevallo.
In 1924, she organized a sociology department. At that time, Alabama was one of only a few states operating child welfare programs. She recognized the need for trained workers, and in 1925 she began the first two-year undergraduate social work curriculum in the state, and one of the first in the nations. Her students gained field experience in Shelby County.
Louise Pittman, former director of the Bureau of Family and Children’s Services of the State Department of Pensions and security recalls “Miss Brooke had a remarkable capacity to demonstrate to young workers the need to help people help themselves. She stimulated her students to think as well as care.”
Miss Brooke is remembered as saying, “We never do anything for a client that he can do for himself or that we can persuade his family to do for him. This takes time, but it is worth time to see a family pull itself up by its own bootstraps.“
Under her leadership, the University of Montevallo became the training center for social work in Alabama as a primary site for social work conferences, institutes, and short course of intensified study.
Her work with the Shelby County Board of Public Welfare and the county Child Welfare Board helped further understanding of the needs of people and the resources available for meeting those needs, and was directly related to the growth of the state welfare program. She was also a leader in the establishment of the first statewide mental health organization and the Alabama Conference of Social Work.
This extraordinary teacher, executive and scholar, who initiated the first Alabama degree program in social work, was a beloved University of Montevallo professor for forty years.