NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Jane M. Hoey (1892-1968)
Hoey was a social worker, a welfare administrator and a government official. Her pioneering effort was as the Director of the Bureau of Public Assistance and later the Bureau of Family Services within the Social Security Administration. She was responsible for implementing the provisions of the Social Security Public Assistance Act and the organization to carry out the program. She remained in this job for nearly 20 years. For nearly two decades Jane Hoey counted among the handful of powerful women in federal government.
Her career began in local government in 1916 when she was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Board of Child Welfare of New York City. Her superior was Harry Hopkins. The two spent much of the next fourteen years working together in duties that paralleled one another. From 1917 to 1921 Hoey was Director of Field Service for the Atlanta Division of the American Red Cross. In 1923 she became Secretary of the Bronx Committee of the New York TB and Health Association. She later was appointed Director of the Welfare Council of New York City. Hoey remained on the Welfare Council for ten years.
Hoey was devoted to advancing her profession. She was a well known local figure and speaker who forged strong attachments with the settlement house movement and its leaders. The Welfare Council was itself a watchdog for professional standards and brought greater unity to social work within the city. In 1925 Hoey was Chairman of the New York Chapter of the American Association of Social Workers. In 1928 she served as President of the State Conference of Social Work. She was also an executive officer of both national organizations and president of the National Conference of Social Work in 1940-41. By 1935 Harry Hopkins and other close associates had gone to Washington to work in Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal administration. The President created a Committee on Economic Security in 1934 and in addition to Harry Hopkins, Francis Perkins served on this committee. She supervised appointments to a number of advisory bodies that helped formulate the Social Security Act. Hoey joined the COE's Committee on Child Welfare and after the law's enactment in 1935 became Director of the Bureau of Public Assistance within the Social Security Administration.
Hoey spent most of her twenty years as an official trying to persuade government and state officials to comply voluntarily with federal expectations. She developed and required a statistical reporting system and set up a special unit to assist the states in getting professional staff. Her personal effort brought professionalism to the administration of public welfare in many states. Hoey's position was not protected by civil service and she was dismissed when Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Republicans took control of the executive branch in 1953. After leaving the Bureau she became the Director of Social Research for the National Tuberculosis Association.
She received a bachelor of arts degree from Trinity College, Washington, D.C. in 1914 and earned a master's degree in political science from Columbia University and a diploma from the New York School of Philosophy, both in 1916. The Jane M. Hoey Chair in Social Policy was established by the Columbia School of Social Work in 1967.