NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Loraine Bedsole Tunstall (1879-1953)
Loraine Bedsole Tunstall was the founder of Alabama's public welfare program. She was instrumental in the establishment of the State Child Welfare Department in 1919, and was that agency's first director. In addition, under her leadership, the Public Welfare Act of 1935 was enacted only thirteen days after the Social Security Act of 1935 was passed by the Congress.
The soundness of her philosophies in regard to public social services which had been demonstrated throughout the years in the foundations that she laid in Alabama, withstood the inevitable changes in society. Her interest began with the child labor movement; she was dedicated to improving services to children and she was instrumental in ensuring the passage of progressive adoption laws. Her husband, a state legislator, provided her with guidance on legislative matters.
After her death, her brother in 1972, established a $500,000 memorial trust fund for several purposes. For one, the trust would create a living monument to Alabama's foremost pioneer, Tunstall, in the area of public social services through the restoration of the Old Mobile General Hospital. The building was renovated to include offices of the Mobile County Department of Pension and Security and more adequate space for welfare offices so that they could provide improved services to children. Her brother also gave a portrait of Tunstall to the State Department of Archives where the portrait now hangs. Her papers and other memorabilia are available at the Alabama State Department of Archives.