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Arlien Johnson (1894-1988)

Johnson was a renowned social work educator who regarded herself as a community organizer and social policy person. In actuality, her areas of expertise and practice were considerably broader; she was a social reformer in the tradition of Sophonisba Breckenridge and the Abbott sisters of the University of Chicago and, indeed, she was their protege.

Johnson went to the University of Southern California in 1939 to move its 20 year old School of Social Work into the mode of the professional MSW, and soon brought the school to its present status among the top schools in the nation. She was a social activist, much in demand for her ideas, her support, and consultation among all levels of government and public and voluntary agencies in the United States and Western European countries. Her students came from all over the world; she was accessible to them throughout her life, helping in a variety of ways to fulfill the social work missions they had undertaken.

Through her persuasiveness and her teaching activities, Johnson shaped a great deal of social policy in California and at the federal level. She was instrumental in enlisting the support of lay and professional persons in establishing the Mental Health Association of Los Angeles and the California Mental Health Association, in organizing the San Fernando Child Guidance Clinics. She also was instrumental in introducing school social work into Southern California schools and social services into public health programs.

Johnson was president of the American Association of Schools of Social Work, the California Conference of Social Work, and the National Conference on Health and Welfare. She was active in NASW, the International Conference of Schools of Social Work, holding various elected positions in each. She served on county, state, and national commissions. She was the recipient of many awards and honors. The Arlien Johnson Social Work Library is an enduring tribute to her as an educator and social worker.

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