NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Eveline Burns (1900-1985)
Eveline Burns was one of the pioneers of the Social Security Act and a professor at Columbia University for more than 30 years. As a staff member of the Presidential Committee on Economic Security in 1934, she helped formulate the specifics of the Social Security Act as it was eventually passed by Congress. She was later director of research for the Committee on Long-Range Work and Relief Policies of the National Resources Planning Board. The committee's report published in 1942, shaped the public assistance and work programs as they developed throughout the 1940's. Through her teaching at Columbia of comparative social security systems, she helped educate a generation of scholars in the United States who carried on important research in the 1950's and 1960's.
Burns began her teaching at Columbia on the economics faculty. From 1946 until her retirement in 1967, she taught in the Columbia University School of Social Work. Credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of social policy studies in this country, she helped develop the doctoral programs in social work at Columbia and served as the program's first chairperson.
Dr. Burns was born in London, England. She received a BS in 1920 and a Ph.D. in 1926 from the London School of Economics. She was married to Arthur Robert Burns also an economist in 1922 and the two came to the United States in 1926. They traveled across the country for two years on a Laura Spelman Rockefeller Fellowship, and then joined the economics faculty at Columbia in 1928. They became U.S. citizens in 1937.
Among the honors received by Dr. Burns was a Florina Lasker Award in 1964 for contributions "as an outstanding authority on social security systems throughout the world." In 1968, she received the Blanche Ittlesson Award for her contributions to social planning. She received numerous honorary degrees and was elected an honorary fellow at the London School of Economics.
Burns traveled extensively under the auspices of the State Department. In 1958-59, she was American delegate to the International Conference on Social Work in Tokyo. She was President of the National Conference of Social Welfare, 1957-58, and vice President of the American Public Health Association from 1969-1970. She was also active in the Consumers' League, the American Association of University Women and the American Association of University Professors.
She was author of nine major published works and more than a hundred articles. She was a consultant to a number of government agencies including the United States Treasury, the Federal Reserve Board, the New York State Department of Labor, the U.S. Children's Bureau, the Federal Advisory Council on Employment Security, the National Public Advisory Committee on Regional Economic Development and the President's Task Force on Inter-maintenance.
Following her retirement as a professor at the Columbia University, she continued to remain active in the field and serve as a consultant to private and public agencies. A few months before her death, she participated in the special conference and celebration commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Social Security Act.