NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Martha K. Selig (1912 - 2006)
Martha Selig was a social work leader for more than sixty years - a pioneer for professional women, an advocate for families and children, a successful fund raiser and an ally to those who share her vision for a better life for all New Yorkers. Her career span included case worker, supervisor, director of an agency, and first director of community planning at Federation of Jewish Philanthropies and later as foundation executive and agency consultant.
Selig graduated as a Greek and Latin major from Hunter College in 1932. She continued her education at City College, receiving a graduate degree in education in 1933 which was followed by a Master of Social Work degree from the New York School of Social Work in 1939.
After working as a case worker, case supervisor and agency director, Mrs. Selig moved to a temporary position in 1946 at the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies and stayed for 25 years. As Executive Director for Community Services, she was responsible for fiscal and program analysis and the allocation of $24,000,000 annually to 130 social service agencies.
While at the Federation she served on several state and city commissions on mental health, alcohol abuse and child care as well as the Mayor's Commission on Child Care and the study of children in placement in the period 1948-1950.This groundbreaking study led to the transfer of thousands of children from residential placement back into the community as well as the closing of large orphan asylums.
Mrs. Selig was a consultant to a number of organizations, primary among these was her association with the Jewish Board of Family and Children Services beginning in 1974. She was active in raising funds for their Westchester residential programs at Hawthorne Cedar Knolls, the merger of the then Jewish Board of Guardians and the Jewish Family Service.
While at the Jewish Board of Family and Children' Services she developed it as a major postgraduate training program. In 1993 the training program was renamed the Martha K. Selig Educational Institute to ensure continuation. An extension of this initiative was the subsequent creation of The Center for the Study of Social Work Practice, a partnership between JBFCS and Columbia School of Social Work, the first practice research center in the country. Another major program accomplishment included the creation of The Rita H. And Stanley J. Kaplan Center in mid-Brooklyn, which brought together under one roof seven JBFCS programs.
She was visiting Professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and at several schools of social work in New York as well as in Israel. She was instrumental in establishing the Baerwald School of Social Work in Israel, the Hunter College School of Social Work and the Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University. She was the author of many articles on critical issues in the field of human welfare, compiled in a volume entitled "To Serve the Community Best".
Her many honors included: President of the National Conference of Jewish Communal Services in the 60s; Hall of Fame of Hunter College of the City of New York; Who's Who of American Women; Who's Who of American Jewry and Who's Who of Professional Women.