NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Maryann Mahaffey (1925-2006)
Maryann Mahaffey was born in Burlington, Iowa. She graduated from Cornell College, Iowa, in 1946, and earned her MSW from the University of Southern California. She worked as staff supervisor and group organization director for the Metropolitan Detroit Girl Scouts and later worked for the Wayne University of Social Work for 25 years and became a full professor. She moved to Detroit, Michigan, with her husband iin 1952. She worked as a social worker and advocate in public housing, community centers, and welfare rights groups.
In 1970 she ran for a Wayne County Commissioner, at a time when women were an oddity in politics. She did not win the seat, but was elected to the council in 1973. She was a member of the council for 31 years, including 12 years as president. She brought her social work sensibilities to the council. She pushed the city to create and fund a rape crisis unit; she pushed for legislation that regulated homeless shelters and apartment rentals, and she expanded the city's healthcare benefits to include gay couples.
She chaired the Michigan Social Work Council from 1965-1967, and also served as its legislative lobbyist from 1965-1968. She inaugurated a graduate internship program with the Council, and worked to pass a social workers' registration law. She was the founder and steering committee member of Women in Social Welfare from 1972-1974, and a Michigan delegate to the founding convention of the Women's Political Caucus. She served on the NASW Committee on Housing and Urban Affairs; was a Detroit Chapter Delegate to the Delegate Assembly in 1973; chaired the NASW National Public Relations Committee from 1972-1975; and represented the International Federation of Social Workers at the first U.N. Conference on the Status of Women in 1975.
She ran for the Board of NASW in 1972 and she became the first female elected president of NASW, serving from 1975 to 1977. As NASW president she developed a different cooperative relationship with the Council of Social Work Education and the International Federation of Social Workers. She also proposed a pioneer social work tribute program to recognize pioneers like Jane Adams, Mary Richmond, and Bertha Reynolds. This proposed program was defeated by the Board of Directors in 1977. She also established the First Task Force on Gay Issues, NASW's Political Action for Candidate Election (PACE) was instituted, and during her term the first conference on social workers in politics was held in 1977.