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 © 2019 National Association of Social Workers Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

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Jessie Donaldson Hodder
Jessie Donaldson Hodder* (1867-1931)

Pioneering Contributions

Photo printed with permission from Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University. 

Jessie Donaldson Hodder was a pioneering reformer in the areas of child welfare, medical social service, and criminal justice. She was best known for her innovative contributions to the welfare of incarcerated girls and women as superintendent of the Massachusetts Reformatory for Women from 1911-1931. While there, Hodder embraced significant reforms in education, social service delivery, scientific management, and legislative advocacy.

Career Highlights

Hodder arrived in Boston in 1906 and became a house mother (or matron) at the Industrial School for Girls in Lancaster, Massachusetts. She helped change the school into a model of progressive reform in housing young women charged with delinquency, and vagrancy, and defied prevailing customs that required the institutionalization of illegitimate children. She also took the innovative stance that fathers should be sued for child support.

In 1907, Hodder served as an outpatient counselor at Massachusetts General Hospital. She was appointed Superintendent of the Massachusetts Prison and Reformatory for Women in 1911. During her tenure, she shortened the work day to allow for creative and therapeutic activities. She also valued the contributions of sociology and psychology to understand delinquency, and formulate effective, and humane policies. The institution remains open and is known as the MCI-Framingham.

Significant Achievements and Awards

Hodder frequently delivered papers at the conferences of the National Conference on Social Welfare and the National Prison Association. In 1921, she visited and wrote about her impressions of European women’s prisons and reformatories. In 1925, she served as a delegate to the International Prison Congress, held in London. She was appointed to the National Crime Commission in 1927 by President Calvin Coolidge and to the Wickersham Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement in 1929 by President Herbert Hoover.

Significant Publications

  • Hodder, J. D. (1909). What is being done for girls who go wrong. The Pedagogical Seminary, 16(3), 361-366.
  • Hodder, J. D. (1920). Indenture of Prisoners: An Experiment. Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology, 29-32.

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.