NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Karl DeSchweinitz received an undergraduate degree in Humanities in 1906, a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1907, and an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Morovian College. He will remembered primarily for his work in public welfare in the administration of public relief and the development of standards for administration of social work programs.
Later he shifted his emphasis to social welfare coordination. He accepted a post as executive director of the Community Council of Philadelphia, a position he remained in until 1936. He served during this time on the committee of 100 on unemployment which created the Pennsylvania State Emergency Relief Board to secure public funds. This activity in 1936 furthered DeSchweinitz' career interest in the public welfare sector. He was appointed as the first Secretary of Public Assistance of Pennsylvania in July 1937. By 1938 DeSchweinitz established himself as a social work educator serving as a director of the Pennsylvania School of Social Work from 1933 to 1936. He helped negotiate a formal affiliation in the School of Social Work with the University in 1936. He returned to the Pennsylvania department as its director from 1938 to 1942. He left this position to become a training consultant for the Federal Social Security Board in Washington, D.C. where he focused on the development of training materials and procedures for administration of social security.
Beginning in 1950 and continuing into his retirement in 1958, DeSchweinitz was associated with the School of Social Welfare at the University of California at Los Angeles. Whereas much of his early teaching was spent on the administration of social welfare, this period of his career is characterized by an emphasis on social welfare history and its contributions to understanding and acting upon contemporary social welfare issues. He was a primary force in the creation of the Social Welfare History Group and served as its first chair. He provided consultation nationally and abroad on social security issues. DeSchweinitz wrote many books and papers. Major sources of material regarding DeSchweinitz may be found in the collection of the Karl and Elizabeth DeSchweinitz papers housed in the social welfare history archives at the University of Minnesota and also in various writings.