Jane Addams is known for being the mother of social work. However, she did not fit the image of the “traditional” lady of her times. She was seen as radical, bold, and unconventional. In a time when women were not allowed to vote; people like Jane Addams and the women of Hull House did the unthinkable and advocated for themselves and others.
Jane Addams practiced what is known today as macro practice social work. Macro practice does not follow the rules, it changes the rules. Somehow social work has gotten soft along the way. The profession has abandoned its mission on building the “infrastructure of society” and left the responsibility to people outside the profession. As a result, the rules were changed and so has the focus. We can see this in the language used in social work today. Many times social work is mentioned as the “safety net” of society. Jane Addams was against seeing her work as “charity” she saw it as “lateral progress” or “civic housekeeping.” Instead, she saw her work as an investment in society and stated, “I am always sorry to have Hull House regarded as philanthropy.” Jane Addams believed the progress of society was measured not by the elite, but by the “weakest link.” This view is still not popular, but we are still playing by the rules that people “need to pull themselves up by their boot straps.”
We could all be inspired by Jane Addams. She was a fierce pioneer who was not afraid to go against social norms. She did not wait for change to happen. This is also what is needed to change society. Advocacy and community organizing inspires growth and progress however many times this means challenging the status quo.
It’s time for the social work profession to stop being led and start leading society again.
Written by Lydia Long, SW Student
SJS Staff Writer
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