NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Adeleine Johnesse (19-1981)
Adeleine Johnesse, known as "Johnnie" across the country, was a pioneer in the development of vocational rehabilitation services for the mentally ill. She was born in a mining camp near Seven Devils, Idaho in the early 1900's. Her father was a mining engineer. Her mother, a political activist, became well known as the women who made the seconding speech to nominate Franklin Roosevelt at the 1932 Democratic Convention. Adeleine grew up in mining camps in Idaho. She later went to the University of Michigan where she received her Masters in Social Work.
In the 1930's she became a field work supervisor for the University of Chicago School of Social Services Administration. She supervised both at Michael Reese Hospital and, during World War II, at the American Red Cross. In 1945 she came to Washington to join the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. This office was in the process of implementing the Braden-Lafollette Act of 1943 which provided for an expanded program of vocational rehabilitation; permitted the certification of grant-in-aid to state agencies; and considerably increased the scope of services, including making the mentally disabled, emotionally disturbed and mentally retarded eligible for all services on the bases of the same criteria as the physically disabled. Her position was that of special assistant to the Director of the Office of Vocation Rehabilitation, Mary Switzer, with responsibility of directing services for the mentally disabled.
She concentrated on educating state officials concerning the needs of the mentally ill and the mentally retarded, on involving social workers as members in multi-discipline teams involved with the assessment of individuals and the working out of vocational rehabilitation plans, and on making information available to mental health and social agencies concerning vocation rehabilitation services. This included a series of publications, the support of research conferences and research demonstration projects, community placements and half way houses for the mentally ill recently discharged from mental hospitals and community workshops for the mentally disabled. In the 1950's, she developed a series of collaborative activities with the National Institute of Mental Health, including research conferences and a series of regional meetings designed to encourage collaboration between state mental health programs, state mental hospitals and vocational rehabilitation services. This was the first series of national meetings that gave some concentrated effort to the development of after care programs and the mental hospital releases. After her retirement from federal service in the early 1970's, she continued to live in Cabin John, Maryland until her death in February 1981. Her hobbies were those of gardening, Great Danes and Irish Setters.