NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Judith Hall Gresham
Judith Hall Gresham provided leadership for the development of pioneer child welfare programs in Alabama. Her work encouraged professional education, and consistently held to the principle that there could be no status quo or ordinary way of doing things. She developed an early child-centered statewide program based on sound legislation, which has insured its continuance over the years.
Gresham became a member of the Alabama Department of Child Welfare staff in 1925 and served there for thirty-nine years. She believed that public social services should be available to every child in the child's community. To that end, she worked to ensure this concept was implemented in both law and practice. She was a strong advocate for the preservation of children's rights as individuals, with full regard for the rights of natural parents.
Her first job was as a child labor inspector, in the state child welfare department. She later became a caseworker and received various promotions. She was named to head the Bureau of Child Welfare when it was created in 1930s, and served in that position until her retirement in 1964. Under her leadership, Alabama was the first state to have its state plan approved for Child Welfare Services under the Title VI of the Social Security Act, a major program development in the 1930s. Gresham was active in many state and national organizations, including the Child Welfare League of America and the American Public Welfare Association. She also headed the Alabama Mental Health Association and was active in the American Association of Social Workers. She was also active in community and civic organizations in her home community of Melbrook, Alabama.