NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Eileen Blackey (1902-1979)
Eileen Blackey had a capacity to sort out the needs in a society in which social work has a unique contribution and to shape a curriculum geared to prepare students to effectively meet those needs. After graduation from the University of Wisconsin she began to teach. Early in her career she became aware of social work and enrolled at Smith College where she earned her master's degree.
Blackey established the school of social work at the University of Hawaii. During the winter she worked at that university and, during the summer, she taught at Smith. Toward the end of the 1930s, she joined the faculty of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. In the beginning of the 1940's, she was persuaded to join the public welfare staff in Florida to assume responsibility for in-service training. Before the World War II ended, she left to establish a School of Social Work at the University of Puerto Rico.
In 1945 she was recruited by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency to assist in the tracing of children taken from their families by the NAZIS and returning them to their homes. This entailed working with the governments of many countries. Blackey gained a broad view of different cultures from this experience.
Around 1948, she joined the Central Office staff of the U.S. Veterans Administration (VA) Social Work Service. The VA medical section was given a drastic overhaul. There was a push to establish affiliation with U.S. medical schools. The Social Work Service reflected this emphasis on education by initiating a close relationship with U. S. schools of social work and working to develop in-service staff training programs. Blackey was a leader in this endeavor.
Blackey completed the doctoral program at the Case Western Reserve University School of Social Work. She then accepted a job offer from Israel to combine the schools of social work existing in three universities into one strong school within the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Education in the field of social work was considered important and held a high status in the government. After five years, the school was successfully established. In 1978, Hebrew University gave Blackey an honorary degree. Blackey's growing reputation brought many requests for consultation from other schools in that part of the world.
Blackey was also Dean of the School of Social Work at the University of California, Los Angeles--a school that had fallen on hard times because of inadequate administration. Blackey had the school in good running order when she retired.