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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Elizabeth Jessamine Kauikeolani Low Lucas Photo
Elizabeth Jessamine Kauikeolani Low Lucas* (1895-1986)

Elizabeth Jessamine Kauikeolani Low Lucas (also known as Clorinda) was an enabler. She was Hawaii’s Jane Addams. A descendant of Hawaiian and Tahitian royalty and of King Kamehameha I, Clorinda was born just after the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown, and three years before Hawaii was annexed by the United States. She learned early the meaning of the fundamental difference between basic values of her Hawaiian heritage—caring, sharing, trusting relationships, cooperation in work and in play—and the values of competition and achievement, as the measures held by the Caucasians.

Guiding her wide-ranging professional activity was the long-term goal of the community, a society that would value and respect all people and would be socially just for all. Her concern was that all children have the opportunity to develop the necessary skills, a personal sense of values and opportunity to guide daily living, and problem solving capacities that would enable them to take social responsibility for themselves, and as citizens, to maintain humane and just society for the future.

For three years following her graduation from Smith College (BA Degree) in 1917, Mrs. Lucas worked in New York City for the National Board of the YWCA in the Division of Education for Foreign-born Women. She was the first Hawaiian to have professional social work education. After she received the Diploma (equivalent to MSW) from the New York School (now Columbia University School of Social Work) in 1937, she returned to Hawaii as the Oahu County Chief of the relatively new Department of Public Welfare, then as Director of Public Child Welfare. In 1943, she was asked to develop a pupil guidance program (school social work) in the state Department of Public Instruction. She served as Director until she retired in 1960.

Mrs. Lucas was the first woman to be selected as a member and rotating chair of the board of trustees of the Queen Liliuokalani Trust, which serves orphaned and destitute Hawaiian children. With her leadership, units of the Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center were established on the main Hawaiian Islands. Mrs. Lucas served as President of the Board of Directors of Kapiolani Children’s and Maternity Hospital, Chair of the State Commission on Children and Youth, Chair of the Kamehameha Schools Advisory Council, and International President of the Pan Pacific and Southeast Asian Women’s Association.

Her many awards include: Smith College Distinguished Alumni Award, the Distinguished Service Award for Home, School and Community Services of the Hawaii Congress of the PTA, the David Malo Award of the West Honolulu Rotary Club, and the Francis E. Clark Award of the Hawaii Personnel and Guidance Association. In 1979, Mrs. Lucas was named a "Living Treasure of Hawaii" by the Buddhist Honpa Hongwanji Mission.

NASW Social Work Pioneer - 1995

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.