NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Betty Reid Mandell
Betty Reid Mandell has broken new ground for more than four decades in the area of community organizing, welfare rights, and the empowerment of economically-disadvantaged women. She seized the opportunity to commit herself to welfare rights as an arena of social action in the early 1960’s, just as the organized welfare rights movement was gaining momentum. She established one of the first welfare rights groups in the country, as well as the only one in the state of Iowa at that time.
Her advocacy work with her students caught the eye of the liberal governor, who encouraged Mandell and her students to lobby the legislature for an increase in A.F.D.C. grant money, which as Mandell had already publicized, was well below the level of need. The lobbying effort led to an increase in funding. This same level of commitment continued with her move to the University of Connecticut and, finally, at Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts. She was one of the founders of Survival News, a newsletter devoted to informing the public about the lives and needs of the welfare poor and their encounters with public bureaucracy. She also helped establish Survivors Inc., an advocacy group run for and by its low-income members. Mandell has been instrumental in organizing low-income students on college campuses and she was asked to join a media project financed by Haymarket People’s Fund to improve media reporting in welfare issues.
In 1967, Mandell moved to Hartford Connecticut where she became Project Director for the Parent Research project (fund by NIMH.) and a professor at the University of Connecticut.
Mandell served as an assistant and associate professor at Boston State College’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology from 1969 – 1981. She directed the social work program and served as Acting Chair of the department for a year.
Mandell taught at Bridgewater State College from 1981 to 1994. Her courses included social welfare policy, community organizing, and social work practice with women, minorities and the poor. She did not keep her teaching confined to the classroom, taking students out “to the streets” to advocate and lobby for reform. Mandell served as a member of the Base Curriculum Project, which constructed a base curriculum for human service workers at ten Massachusetts state colleges. She helped secure Title XX funding for this program. While at Bridgewater, Mandell began her collaboration with Ann Withorn, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. The collaboration led to the founding of Survival News.
After her retirement from teaching and research, Mandell has stayed active, continuing to write editorials to newspapers such as the Boston Globe and contributing observations and articles to Survival News.
Betty Mandell received her M.S.W. from Columbia University in 1952. She received her M.A. in religious education from Union Theological Seminar and her B.S. in sociology from Colorado State University.
Significant Achievements and Awards
1997: Lifetime Achievement award from Boston's Rosie’s Place, the first drop-in and emergency shelter for poor and homeless women in the country
1994: Recognition for outstanding service by the Women’s Studies Program at Bridgewater State College
Betty Reid Mandell has written dozens of books, book chapters, articles, and reviews. Some of the highlights are:
Mandell, B.R. & Schram, B. (2012). An Introduction to Human Services: Policy and Practices. (8th edition.) Pearson.
Mandell, B.R. (Ed.) (2010). The Crisis of Caregiving in America: Social Welfare Policy in the United States. New York, NY:Palgrave Macmillan.
Mandell, B.R. (1997). Downsizing the welfare state, New Politics 6(2), 33-38.
Mandell, B.R. (1995). Why can’t we care for our own children? Feminist Economics, 1(2), 99-104.
Mandell, B.R. (Ed. and contributor) (1975). Welfare in America: Controlling the “Dangerous Classes”. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.