NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Sara A. Collins Fernandis (1863-1951)
Fernandis, a contemporary of Jane Addams, founded the first Black Social Settlement House in the United States in Washington, D.C. She received her MSW degree from New York University. She became a role model for all African American women in social work
Throughout her career, she was active in Baltimore in helping improve the conditions of African Americans. She was one of the organizers of the Interracial, Interfaith Association. She was also instrumental in the organizing of Henryton State Hospital as a sanitorium for African American tuberculosis patients. She has been included in the publication "Pioneers in Professionalism: Those Who Made a Significant Difference 1880-1930".
Hers was a life long career of organizing social welfare and public health activities in the segregated Black communities of the period. She organized the Women's Cooperative Civic League in Baltimore which worked for improved sanitation and health conditions in Black neighborhoods. Ms. Fernandis became the first Black social worker employed by the Baltimore Health Department in the early 1900's. She lived to see her goal of "establishing the public purpose" begin to be achieved.