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100 Years Empowering Change: An Online History of the Smith College School for Social Work

Members of the class of 1918 of the Smith College School for Social Work

Members of the 1918 class of the School for Social Work. Photographer unrecorded. Digital image #2042. College Archives, Smith College, Northampton, MA.

100 Years Empowering Change

The Smith College Special Collections and the School for Social Work (SSW) collaborated to create an online history to commemorate the first training school for social workers in the United States. See 100 Years Empowering Change: A History of the Smith College School for Social Work

The online exhibit highlights the extensive Social Work Archive housed in the Special Collections. It was first started by Vida Simenas Grayson, B.A. 1957, M.S.S. 1960, who saw the vital link between the SSW and the social work profession. She launched the “Social Work Archive” to preserve “for historical research the papers and interviews of leaders in social work education and practice.” In addition to collecting papers, she spent almost forty years interviewing important social work professionals, transcribing the interviews, and housing the recordings and transcriptions in the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College. Kelly Anderson continued the project with videotaped interviews in the 2010s. The website hosts Anderson’s interview of Monica McGoldrick. 

At the 65th Anniversary of the SSW, she wrote that the Social Work Archive would “document the building blocks of our theory of practice. The collection will encompass the pivotal figures, both men and women, who through their writings, teaching or clinical work, advanced the basic concepts of social work practice. The individuals selected will not be limited to Smith graduates, but since the School’s history is closely linked with leaders in social work education, a number of Smith alumni and faculty members will be represented.”

You will find the fruits of Grayson’s dedicated work to build the Social Work Archive in the pages of the exhibit. Unless otherwise noted, Lauren L. Anderson collected the documents, edited the videos and recordings, and wrote the explanatory notes for this exhibit. She has a Ph.D. in African American History from Michigan State University, was an assistant professor at Luther College in Decorah, IA, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Kentucky. She is currently working with the Smith College Special Collections to create the online exhibit.

See the SSW website for more information about the centennial celebration.

Share Your Stories

Since its founding, the Social Work Archives within the Smith College Special Collections has been shaped and strengthened through the generosity of thousands of individuals who have supported it. The rich and diverse collections in Special Collections are the result of the thought and effort of generations of loyal alumnae, faculty, librarians and archivists, and friends of the college. Please share your stories with us.

Donations of collections or single items that directly support or complement the Social Work Archive should be brought to the attention of the appropriate curator. If your materials relate to the Smith College School for Social Work, please contact Nanci Young. If your materials are more generally related to the history of the social work profession, please contact Maureen Callahan.

Sophia Smith Collection: Maureen Callahan, Sophia Smith Archivist

College Archives: Nanci Young, College Archivist