NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Laura Morris was born in Washington, DC in 1921. She graduated from Temple University in 1942 and received her MSW from the New York School of Social Work in 1945. She moved to New England when World War II ended.
Laura B. Morris began her social work career in Boston in 1948. Her career spanned five decades in Boston and culminated in her retirement from the Fortune 500 Company, Digital Equipment Corporation. She was the first African American woman and social worker to hold the position of Urban and Social Affairs Consultant from 1978-1991. During this period at Digital, she worked to fulfill her philosophy that "Industry must have responsibility to its community. An industry's relationship with a community involves families and children, not only workers and other businesses". (Cited in Practice Digest, September, 1982).
Her unique form of industrial social work expanded the earliest social work traditions of Mary Richmond and the Charity Organization Society's work with industry from the individual perspective to a much broader community-oriented perspective. Her pioneering efforts in Massachusetts were based on the assumption that businesses and communities should be partners engaging in joint problem-solving in neighborhoods. Working on important "people" issues, she worked with the senior and middle management at Digital to develop external relationships and build programs which involved the hiring and retention of minority and female employees, improving the quality of life in the Greater Boston local neighborhoods and other Massachusetts communities, launching child care projects, and in general, calling attention to the needs of children and families and using technology for the visually impaired. She is noted in Boston for her ability to help business find new ways to work collaboratively with communities and her skills in increasing awareness of diversity issues and socioeconomic problems among members of the business sector.
Laura used her social work knowledge and skills from her clinical group work, community and systems training not only in the business environment, and in a variety of health, academic, public and private social welfare institutions. Since her retirement in 1991, she has continued to use her expertise to promote diversity and to advocate for the African American elderly as well as others in need.