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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Inabel Burns Lindsay Photo
Inabel Burns Lindsay* (1900-1983)

Inabel Burns Lindsay was the first Dean of the Howard University School of Social Work. Born in St. Joseph, Missouri, she prepared for a teaching career. After receiving her undergraduate degree she entered the New York School of Social Work as an Urban League Fellow from 1920 to 1921. Sixteen years later she completed a Master's Degree at the University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration.

In 1952, Lindsay earned a Doctorate in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh. She taught a few years before beginning her social work experiences as a family welfare practitioner, agency administrator, and social researcher. In 1937, Lindsay joined the Department of Sociology at Howard University as an instructor and assistant in charge of social work under E. Franklin Frazier.

In 1945, a School of Social Work was established at Howard, and Lindsay became Dean. When she retired in 1967, Lindsay was the only female university academic Dean in the Washington, D.C. area. Committed to principles of social justice, she maintained a strong role in professional leadership while promoting the growth of the School of Social Work. Under Lindsay's leadership, the Howard University School of Social Work became the second accredited school in the country serving black students. She published a number of survey papers and articles on community leadership, the elderly, and black participation in social welfare.

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.