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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Jane Addams Photo
Jane Addams* (1860-1935)
From January 1998 NASW NEWS

The life and work of Jane Addams (1860-1935), founder of Hull House and Nobel Peace Prize winner, demonstrated the ethics and values that became the basis of the 100-year-old social work profession.

Addams established both Hull House and the American settlement house movement in 1889 on Chicago’s West Side after being inspired by her visit to the world’s first settlement house, London’s Toynbee Hall.

Programs at Hull House—including an employment bureau, lunchroom, children’s clubs and classes in music, languages, painting and mathematics—became models for other American settlement houses, according to the Encyclopedia of Social Work.

But settlement houses were more than clubs and classes. They grew out of Addams’ and her associates’ desire to rectify what they believed were gross and unjust differences in the opportunities available to the different social classes, wrote Frank J. Bruno in Trends in Social Work, 1874-1956.

Addams was driven to better understand the poor and improve their lives. She and other Hull House residents—including Julia Lathop, Florence Kelley, John Dewey, Alice Hamilton and Edith and Grace Abbott—lived among the people they helped.

Hull House residents also shared an approach to social service that differed from their contemporaries who assisted the poor under the auspices of the Charity Organization Society (COS), according to a March 1990 Social Work article by Donald Brieland.

COS members acted as gatekeepers to aid by visiting poor people’s homes and making decisions about whether they needed and deserved assistance.

But Addams and her colleagues believed receiving aid needn’t be a degrading experience. "We have all accepted bread from someone, at least until we were fourteen," she once remarked.

An expert practical reformer, Addams lobbied Illinois lawmakers for legislation to benefit the poor while serving as neighborhood sanitation officer. She also challenged powerful and often corrupt ward bosses, wrote Allen F. Davis in American Heroes: The Life and Legend of Jane Addams.

Concern about the effects of war on social progress led Addams to a prominent role in the formation of the National Progressive Party in 1912 and to her 1915 presidency of both the Women’s Peace Party and the Women’s International Peace Congress at The Hague. Afterwards, she persisted in her pacifist work, which won her the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize.

Newly Inducted NASW Social Work Pioneer Hortense McClinton 2015

Nominate A New NASW Pioneer

Completed NASW Pioneer nominations can be submitted throughout the year and are reviewed at the June 2021 Pioneer Steering Committee Meeting. To be considered at the June meeting, submit your nomination package by March 31, 2021. To learn more, visit our Pioneer nomination guidelines.

New Pioneers 

Congratulations newly elected Pioneers!  2020 & 2021 Pioneers will be inducted at the 2022 Annual Program and Luncheon. Full biographies and evet details coming soon.