NASW Pioneers Biography Index

The National Association of Social Workers Foundation is pleased to present the NASW Social Work Pioneers®. NASW Pioneers are social workers who have explored new territories and built outposts for human services on many frontiers. Some are well known, while others are less famous outside their immediate colleagues, and the region where they live and work. But each one has made an important contribution to the social work profession, and to social policies through service, teaching, writing, research, program development, administration, or legislation.

The NASW Pioneers have paved the way for thousands of other social workers to contribute to the betterment of the human condition; and they are are role models for future generations of social workers. The NASW Foundation has made every effort to provide accurate Pioneer biographies.  Please contact us at to provide missing information, or to correct inaccurate information. It is very important to us to correctly tell these important stories and preserve our history.  

Please note, an asterisk attached to a name reflects Pioneers who have passed away. All NASW Social Work Pioneers® Bios are Copyright © 2021 National Association of Social Workers Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

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Golda Edinburg Photo
Golda Edinburg* (1924-2012)

From 1971 through 1986, Golda Edinburg volunteered on the Department of Mental Health and Retardation Area Board of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in Waltham, Massachusetts. During this time period, area boards played a pivotal role in the planning and development of community-based systems of care for persons with mental illness and persons with mental retardation. Under her leadership as its President, federal funding was secured to establish The Center for Mental Health and Retardation Services, Inc. (at that time, known as the Metropolitan Beaverbrook Mental Health and Retardation Center) as an independent community mental health center. After its incorporation in 1977, Ms. Edinburg served as a member of The Center's Board and in both executive officer roles of President and Vice President until 1986. In these roles, Ms. Edinburg provided the vision and leadership that strategically guided The Center from its infancy to a thriving community mental health and mental retardation center.  In 2002, the agency changed its name to The Edinburg Center.

Golda Edinburg directed the social work department at McLean hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts from 1956 through her retirement in 1993. This is the longest period that a social worker has given direction to a social work department in a private psychiatric hospital in the United States. She developed an outstanding department, and was recognized throughout the country for her contributions to clinical social work practice. 

In developing the department and the role of social work throughout the Hospital's programs, Edinburg was guided by the goals of providing quality care and improving the quality of life for the mentally ill and their families. She was a catalyst in the development of a number of programs which served as models throughout the country. One of her initiatives was a program she developed with Metropolitan State Hospital. Social work interns from McLean who were interested in having experience with the chronically mentally ill, were assigned a patient at Metropolitan State who they saw several times each week, with Edinburg providing weekly group supervision. The progress made by patient and intern was astounding. Smith College School for Social Work uses case material from this program to teach about serious mental illness. The program terminated when Metropolitan State developed an integrated social work department with an intern training program.

Edinburg grew up in Massachusetts.  She received her bachelors degree from the University of Massachusetts, and her MSW from Boston University School of Social Work in 1946. Before going to McLean, she worked as a psychiatric social worker in the Bedford VA hospital, as a senior case worker in Beth Israel Hospital, and as a supervisor of psychiatric social work in the U.S. Naval Hospital in Chelsea.

She wrote or co-authored a number of articles related both to clinical practice and to the concepts and principles involved in developing a social work program within a hospital. With her boundless energy, Golda contributed to the social work profession in many ways through her: leadership and presentations at workshops and conferences; her extensive consultation on clinical and/or administrative issues in social agency, medical and mental health settings; and her work with NASW chapter and national activities including the Commission on Health and Mental Health, co-chair of the Knee/Wittman Awards program and as a Delegate to many Delegate Assemblies.

Edinburg was honored by the Massachusetts chapter, NASW; Boston University School of Social Work as Alumnae of the Year; the National Academies of Practice; and the National Network of Social Work Managers.  In 1995, she received the NASW Foundation Knee/Wittman Outstanding Achievement Award.  Over her entire professional career, which spanned five decades, Edinburg distinguished herself as  leader in the field of mental health as a social worker, educator, administrator and community activist. 

"Golda Edinburg will be missed by the entire social work community.  She will be remembered for her unwavering dedication to providing quality care and improving the quality of life for persons with mental illness and their families."

Golda Edinburg - A Pioneer with a Purpose

Newly Inducted NASW Social Work Pioneer Hortense McClinton 2015

Nominate A New NASW Pioneer

Please note, Pioneer nominations made between today’s date through March 31, 2023, will not be reviewed until spring 2023.

Completed NASW Pioneer nominations can be submitted throughout the year and are reviewed at the June Pioneer Steering Committee Meeting. To be considered at the June meeting, submit your nomination package by March 31. To learn more, visit our Pioneer nomination guidelines.

New Pioneers 

Congratulations newly elected Pioneers!  Pioneers will be inducted at the 2023  Annual Program and Luncheon. Full biographies and event details coming soon.