Jane Addams is known for being the mother of social work. However, she did not fit the image of the “traditional” lady of her time. 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.
The profession has abandoned its mission of 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, and we are still playing by the rules that people “need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”
We could all be inspired by Jane Addams because she was a fierce pioneer who was not afraid to go against social norms. She did not wait for change to happen, and this is what our society needs to help facilitate change. Advocacy and community organizing inspire 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.