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Loula Friend Dunn (1896-1977)

Loula Dunn spent over 40 years of her life in public welfare, at both the state and national levels. She began her career as a caseworker, later served as head of the Alabama Department of Public Welfare, and then became executive director of the American Public Welfare Association (APWA).

After attending Alabama Polytechnic Institute – now Auburn University and the University of North Carolina, she began her social work career as a caseworker with the State Child Welfare Department in 1923.

Ten years later, Miss Dunn had served as field representative, casework supervisor and assistant director. In 1932, she was named director of the Social Service Division of the newly created Alabama Relief Administration, in which capacity she served until pressed into service on the national level with the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, and later the Works Progress Administration. Working at WPA headquarters in New Orleans, Miss Dunn supervised the program in 12 states. She returned to state-level service in October 1937, when she was appointed the second Commissioner of Public Welfare in Alabama.

During her tenure as Commissioner, Miss Dunn made her mark on public welfare in the state. Her many activities included serving as President of the Alabama Conference of Social Work, serving on the board of three state training schools, as a member of the State Defense Council, and as the Governor’s representative to the 1940 White House Conference on Children in Democracy. She also played an active role in developing undergraduate training for social work in the state. In 1940, she received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Alabama College at Montevallo.

She resigned as Commissioner in 1948 to become Executive Director of the APWA. On the occasion of her resignation as Commissioner, she was universally lauded – by the state press, her associates, and public officials for the excellence and dedication of her public service.

Miss Dunn was the APWA’s first woman executive. From 1948 until her retirement in 1964, she played a key role in bringing together social welfare leaders from all over the country to help study and draft legislation establishing many federally funded social work welfare programs. She influenced many, and during her long career she maintained close associations with such public figures as Eleanor Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and Nelson Rockefeller.

Social Work Pioneer - 1995

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