NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Helen Witmer (1898 - 1979)
Helen Witmer was best known for her contribution to research in the Child Guidance Movement. She was Director of Research at Smith College School for Social Work from 1929 - 1949, and in 1949 became Professor in the Department of Social Welfare at the University of California. At that time she also became Director of Fact Finding for the Mid-Century White House Conference on Children. Later she was a Director of the Division of Research in the Children's Bureau.
Witmer was born in Lansford, Pennsylvania. She received her A.B. from Dickinson College in 1919, her M.A. from the University of Wisconsin in 1923, her Certificate in Social Work from Bryn Mawr College in 1924, her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in 1925; she did Post-doctoral study in research at the London School of Economics from 1927 to 1929.
Her social work related positions started with the National Council of Parent Education in 1924. This was a part-time research assignment. Other part-time research assignments in the 30's and 40's included those with the National Committee for Mental Hygiene, the Commonwealth Fund of New York, the Philadelphia Council of Social Agencies and the Cambridge- Sommerville Youth Study in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
She was the author of a number of publications including a series of papers on social insurance and poor relief published in the Social Service Review, a study of Psychiatric Clinics for Children published by the Commonwealth Fund in 1939; a book on psychiatric interviews with children published by the Commonwealth Fund in 1947. She was also Editor of a publication entitled Pediatrics and the Emotional Needs of Children; and another Commonwealth Fund publication entitled, Teaching Psychotherapeutic Medicine.
She was active in a number of professional organizations including NASW, American Public Health Association and the National Conference on Social Welfare.