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NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Agnes Van Driel (1890 - 1951)
Agnes Van Driel was a nationally-known social worker who began her career in the early days of relief work in Chicago during the early part of the 20th century. She was awarded membership in the Charity Organization Department of the Russell Sage Foundation in 1918 and worked closely with Mary Richmond during her time there. Her assignment at the Foundation was to suggest how Chicago relief agencies could create programs for employment relief during the next period of hard times in Chicago.
Van Driel established a training program for public assistance agencies and was at the Bureau of Public Assistance in 1936, shortly after its creation. While there, she became Chief of the newly-established Division of Technical Training. The division was part of the Social Security Administration in Washington, DC. She remained at that position until ill health forced her to retire in 1951.
After a brief stint in public school education, Van Driel began her social work career as District Superintendent of the United Charities of Chicago. She then became an instructor at Loyola University’s School of Social Work, eventually being promoted to full professorship at Loyola’s Department of Sociology.
As an active and well-known supporter of Catholic social services, she was invited to be a keynote speaker at the Wisconsin State Council of Catholic Women’s Organizations in 1929. She was also a featured speaker at a joint conference of the Missouri Association for Social Welfare and Kansas Conference of Social Workers, held in 1944.
She was also a field representative for the Emergency Relief Commission in Illinois and helped the American Red Cross with disaster work following a tornado in Illinois. Van Driel was a member of the Governor’s Service Bureau for Women.
Agnes Van Driel received her M.S.W. from Loyola University’s School of Social Work (then known as the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy). She earned her A.B. from the University of Nebraska. Van Driel also took courses at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Administration and the London School of Economics.
Van Driel was a charter member of the Chicago chapter of the American Association of Social Workers and a member of Alpha Kappa Delta, the Women’s University Club of Chicago, the National Conference of Catholic Charities, and the American Sociological Society.
The Council on Social Work Education created the Agnes Van Driel Award for unique and outstanding endeavors in professional social work education.
Van Driel, A. (1942). Public welfare practice and man’s social heritage. The American Catholic Sociological Review, 3(3), 170-175.
Van Driel, A. (1940). Staff development in the public assistance programs. Social Service Review, 14(2).