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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Amy Gordon Hamilton* (1892-1967)

Amy Gordon Hamilton was social work educator at the New York School of Social Work at the Columbia University School of Social Work from 1923 to 1957. She also had several other associations. She was a Relief Administrator for the New York State Temporary Emergency Relief Administration taking a leave of absence from the school from 1935 through 1936. Earlier she had been Associate Director of Social Services and later, Adviser on Research at Presbyterian Hospital, New York City. In addition she was an International Social Welfare Advisor through work with the Church World Services and the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration from 1944 until 1952. At the Jewish Board of Guardian, in New York City she was a Research Consultant from 1947-1950.

Gordon Hamilton was a teacher and a writer of great renown. She was inspirational in the classroom, drawing upon a classical education as well as a sound practice background. She had clear ideas and strong beliefs about the direction and quality of social work education. This led her and other faculty to the development of the Doctoral Program in Social Work Education. She was an outstanding contributor to social work literature. Her style of writing reflected a facility for language, as well as clarity of thought. Her most important work was, The Theory and Practice of Social Case, whose first edition was published in 1940. This edition represented the first full effort since Mary Richmond's, Social Diagnosis, to define and examine the process of social casework. This book and its later edition (1951) remained basic texts in social work education over many years.

As the outgrowth of her work with the Jewish Board of Guardians, she published Psychotherapy in Child Guidance (1947). Although this book was sympathetic to psychoanalytic theory she made a strong distinction between psychoanalysis which she believed was outside the field of social work and psychotherapy. In the 1951 edition of Therapy and Practice of Social Casework she clearly integrated psychoanalytic theory while retaining its foundation in the traditional concrete services approach to casework. Hamilton served as Associate Dean to the New York School of Social Work between 1952-1955. She retired entirely in 1957 as a result of her continuing poor health. At that time she was the first Editor of the new National Association of Social Work journal named Social Work.

Throughout her academic career she coupled practice-related activities with her writings. As a result her written work showed a constant evolution of her thinking. It can be said that "person-situation" and "knowledge-values" were the two foci of her theory of practice in casework. She believed that the integration of scientific knowledge and social values were the basics of practice.

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.