NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Helen Pinkus (1919-1978)
Helen Pinkus was widely known in the field of social work. She received her A.B. degree from Stanford University. Shortly thereafter, she entered Smith School of Social Work where she earned her MSW in 1946. Her first job was with the Veterans Administration Hospital in Cleveland in the psychiatric section. In 1951, she joined the faculty as Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan. She remained in academic work for the rest of her professional career.
She was asked to be a member of a team of social work educators under the leadership of Miss Helen Wright for a special project sponsored by the International Corporation Administration and under the direction of the Council on Social Work Education. This was a technical aid program to underdeveloped countries and was responsible for helping in the development and expansion of opportunities for social work education. In this program, Pinkus taught for two years at the University of Baroda School of Social Work in India. On her return, she joined the faculty of the Smith College School of Social Work as Associate Professor. She taught casework during the summer sessions and was responsible for the development of field work placements and faculty supervision of graduate students placed for their field practice periods in social agencies, clinics and hospitals located throughout the country. During the period she was at Smith, 1958-1975, she was granted leave to complete her work for a doctoral in Social Work from Columbia University. In 1975 she left Smith for the School of Social Work in the Virginia Commonwealth University specifically to develop a doctoral program where she remained until her death in 1978.
Helen Pinkus made a significant contribution to social work. First through the caliber of her teaching; the on-going development of block field work placements, and through her activity in national profession organizations. She was an active member of the National Association of Social Workers, the American Orthopsychiatric Association, the Council of Social Work Education, and the Federation of Clinical Social Workers. In all of these organizations she was an able spokes-woman for the importance of the clinical social workers point of view in the development of the profession. Her early death at the age of 59 was a great loss.