NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Margaret Blenkner (1909-1973)
Margaret Blenkner's pioneering work in research on services for the elderly has been the benchmark for subsequent research and policy making. She achieved international recognition for her expertise in social research.
Blenkner grew up on a ranch in Montana. She was graduated from the University of Washington, and earned a master's degree from the University of Minnesota and doctor of social work degree from Columbia University. She was on the Temporary Inter Association Committee, which formed NASW as a representative of the Social Work Research Group, and was a member of the first Board of Directors at NASW. She also was a prominent leader in the American Public Health Association, the National Council on Aging, and Gerontological Society.
When she became Associate Director of the Institute for Welfare Research with the Community Service Society of New York, she collaborated with others to develop the Hunt Movement Scale, an attempt to quantify and specify social work interventions. She initiated studies isolating predictive factors in the intake interview. She then became the first director of research at the Benjamin Rose Institute in Cleveland, directing two landmarks experimental studies on protective services for the aging and home aide services for the elderly. Her study findings about services to the elderly often were contradictory to established wisdom and agency practices; hence, she found herself in many confrontational situations with agency policy makers. Later, she was professor and first director of the Regional Institute for Social Welfare Research at the University of Georgia School of Social Work, and at the time of her death, she was professor and project director of the Chronic Disease Module Project, College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University.
Although she did not create new statistical or methodological tools, Blenkner's work illustrated the transfer of basic science tools to applied fields. She recognized and worked to overcome the profession's resistance to evaluative research and also developed a collegial relationship with other social work researchers, which evolved into the early social work research group. A collection of her writings are available at the NASW National Social Work Library.