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Harry Hopkins and Frances Perkins

Today, the vital necessity of social work as a profession is well established within the United States. However, a century ago, social work did not exist as a formal academic or professional discipline. Although some Americans were in engaged in the active pursuit of social justice, the practices and standards that established much-needed consistency and definition in social work had not yet achieved widespread acceptance.

Harry Hopkins and Frances PerkinsThe fact that the profession could attain the consistency and self-regulation necessary to spread so rapidly in the latter half of the twentieth century is due in large part to the diligent work of some of the originators of professional social work, whose unrelenting efforts on the part of disadvantaged peoples garnered widespread approval. This paper will focus on the groundbreaking achievements of two such pioneers of social work, Frances Perkins and Harry Hopkins. A biographical summary of the lives and works of Perkins and Hopkins will be presented, followed by a description of the philosophy of social service of both Perkins and Hopkins. Then, the contributions made to the field by Perkins and Hopkins will be recounted. Finally, in conclusion, I will offer my personal justification and interest in focusing on these two individuals and their contributions to the field.

Frances Perkins was born in Boston, Massachusetts on April 10, 1880. She was raised primarily in Worcester, Massachusetts, where her parents owned and operated a modest stationary store.  Her academic prowess was established with her successful completion of her high school degree at Worcester Classical High School, among a largely male student population. Perkins then attended Mount Holyoke Women’s College, studying the sciences.

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