Note: This entry is an update to Dr. Marx’s previous article, “Current Issues and Programs in Social Welfare.”
George W. Bush took office as the 43rd President of the United States in 2001. It was only the second time that the son of an American president had later also become president. Bush, a Republican like his father, had defeated Democratic candidate Al Gore from Tennessee in one of the closest and most contested presidential elections in U.S. history.

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The organization of municipal charities and corrections should be carried out in line with the principles of efficiency. The cities’ activities for social welfare should all of them be administered by a permanent staff of well qualified experts. This means a fair and practical merit system for the civil service. There is an increasing tendency to recognize the professional character of social work and to admit that training and experience are necessary, and this will receive increasing recognition on the part of all people who appoint workers to social service positions, whether they are civil service boards or not. One difficulty at the present time is that there is not an adequate number of qualified people seeking these positions or of people qualified to hold them if they got them. There must be increased training for public service. The difficulties connected with establishing the civil service of cities on a higher plane are not insurmountable and nobody is justified in dismissing this problem as a hopeless one. In fact, it is the special duty of social workers to see that the public service is improved and elevated in every possible way.

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I think I will tell you a little story that brought home to me how important it was that in every community there should be someone to whom people could turn, who were in doubt as to what were their rights under the law, when they couldn’t understand what was happening to them. I happen to go every now and then to a certain mining community and in that mining community there are a number of people who came to this country many years ago. They have been here so many years that they have no other country. This is their country. Their children have been born here. They work here. They have created great wealth for this country, but they came over at a time when there was not very much feeling of social responsibility about giving them the opportunity to learn the language of the country to which they had come, or telling them how to become citizens, or teaching about the government of this country….

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The oldest and most infamous organization in America for exploiting this population is Tammany Hall of New York, which the great classic historian, Professor Guglielmo Ferrero, recently compared to the very similar organizations that were formed for exploiting the city of Rome during its decadence. For fifty years and more this body has perverted civilization in New York, using the great politically untrained population for this purpose. Its political saloon-keepers have killed unnumbered multitudes of these people through excessive drinking; its political procurers have sold the bodies of their daughters; its contractors and street-railway magnates have crowded them into the deadly tenement districts by defrauding them of their rights of cheap and decent transportation; and its sanitary officials have continuously murdered a high percentage of the poor by their sale of the right to continue fatal and filthy conditions in these tenement districts, contrary to law. Meantime they have kept control of the population they have exploited by their cunning distribution of wages and charity.

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The Maid Narratives

On July 12, 2014 By

The stories personalize the sufferings by these southern black women who worked as young children in the cotton fields and who managed somehow to raise their children and protect their men folk in a racially hostile environment. The economic oppression they endured was echoed by legal constraints that always favored the dominant race at their expense. The norms of segregation, as the book explains, were enforced by white men bent on suppressing black men and keeping them away from their women. At the same time, these men had access to black women, a fact of which they often took advantage. The term segregation to the extent that it means separation of the races does not really apply. In any case, the social system that evolved following slavery. Consider the tremendous legal battles that ensued to keep the races separate in the schools and universities.

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Insuring Democracy

On April 30, 2014 By

But all children, it seems to me, have a right to food, shelter, and equal opportunity for education and an equal chance to come into the world healthy and get the care they need through their early years to keep them well and happy. And though one may not trust oneself to direct their lives, every mother should encourage them to self-confidence and should give them the feeling that whatever happens in life, there is a place where they can turn for understanding and help.

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A Poem Written in 1897

Over the hill to the poor-house I’m trudgin’ my weary way —
I, a woman of seventy, and only a trifle gray —
I, who am smart an’ chipper, for all the years I’ve told,
As many another woman that’s only half as old.

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An examination of the profession’s history, especially the development of education can help in understanding current issues related to its unity and what is the most appropriate role for the social worker. It won’t solve them, that will take a strong resolve by the current profession.

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Attempts to define the remedial field often lose more than they gain in elaboration. Once stripped of the categories – “mental health,” “corrections,” “retardation;” unen­cumbered by the labels – “multi-problem family,” “emotionally disturbed child,” “juvenile offender;” and liberated from the technical jargon – “psycho-social diagnosis,” “therapeutic intervention,” the remedial field may be seen in its essence: which is, quite simply, people helping people.

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Physicians frequently have had important parts in National Conferences, but seldom as physicians and almost never as bridging persons between medicine and social welfare. For instance, in the 1932 Conference Dr. ‘Richard Cabot gave the presidential address and Dr. Ray Lyman Wilbur was one of the principal speakers. However, Dr. Cabot, who was somewhat out of step with some of his medical colleagues, spoke more as the founder of medical social work than as a representative of the medical profession, while Dr. Wilbur, past president of the American Medical Association, formerly dean of one of the leading medical schools in the country, and at the time chairman of the precedent-setting Com­mittee on the Costs of Medical Care, spoke in his capacity as Secretary of the Interior, a political appointment under President Hoover, and only mentioned medical concerns in passing in his address on the United States Children’s Bureau.

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