NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Mary Antoinette Cannon (1884 - 1912)
Mary Antoinette Cannon was a social worker and educator whose pioneering contribution was in the field of medical social work. She created courses in psychiatry and medicine in schools of social work and helped establish the Social Services Employees Union. Cannon also organized the American Association of Medical Social Workers in 1918 and was its first secretary.
Cannon was an early advocate of and helped introduce the concept of biopsychosocial focus to social work’s understanding of illness. She facilitated the standardization of the need for an inter-professional approach to medical care. Cannon integrated the fields of economics, biology, history, anatomy and physiology with psychology and social work.
Mary Antoinette taught social work at the New York School of Social Work (now Columbia University School of Social Work) until the early 1940’s. She spent a year as Director of Social Work of the University of Puerto Rico and, from 1948 to 1952, was a consultant to the New York Office of the Commonwealth’s Department of Labor.
Cannon conducted the first social workers’ workshop in Puerto Rico with a group of social workers from the New York City Department of Welfare in 1953. She was also active as Director and Secretary of the Board of the James Weldon Johnson Community Center in Harlem.
Cannon earned her graduate degree in social work from Bryn Mawr in 1907. She was among the first workers to join the Social Service Department of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Significant Achievements and Awards
1922 – 1923: President of the American Association of Hospital Workers
1921: Appointed Executive Secretary of the Committee on Training for Hospital and Dispensary Social Service, a committee of the American Hospital Association
Cannon, M.A. (1935). An experiment in providing instruction for relief workers. Bulletin of the New York School of Social Work, 29(1).
Cannon, M.A. (1934). Social Case Work. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Cannon, M.A. & Klein, Ph. Social Case Work: An outline for teaching, with Annotated Case Records and Sample Course Syllabi. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.