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John E. Hansan, Ph.D. — developer of the Social Welfare History Project
John E. Hansan, Ph.D. — developer of the Social Welfare History Project

Pioneering social worker John E. (Jack) Hansan, Ph.D. (1930 – 2019), launched the Social Welfare History Project in 2010. Recognizing the power of the World Wide Web as an information-sharing platform, Hansan created the site to help the public understand and appreciate the history of social reform and social welfare services that have strengthened the fabric of American society.  The Social Welfare History Project reflected not only on glory and greatness, but also explored the acts of omission and commissions of hurt and discrimination.

Working with a Scholars Advisory Committee, Hansan wrote articles and organized materials for six years. In spring 2016, seeking to safeguard the project’s future, he invited VCU Libraries to assume responsibility for the website.  For the next two years, Jack Hansan continued to have an active presence as the guiding light for this locus of collaborative study and knowledge creation.

The history of social welfare is an interdisciplinary study of the evolution of organized activities related to social reform and social service. Research materials related to this history include the papers, records and publications of individuals, local volunteer groups, national private organizations, and the state and federal government agencies that have provided and regulated social services. Charity groups and social welfare organizations often work on behalf of people whose voices have not been heard widely in American history. Therefore, the archives of social welfare history serve as a resource for learning more about women, children, minorities, immigrants and refugees, the elderly, the poor and persons with disabilities.

While designed for broad public use, the site includes links and references to key archives, libraries, scholarly websites and other sources of reliable information that we hope will be useful to students, researchers and scholars.

Social welfare’s rich and fascinating history touches on activities of a great many people beginning primarily in the 20th century. Individuals or organizations interested in contributing to this site may contact VCU Libraries at




The Social Welfare History Project encompasses contemporary scholarship and historic documents. Articles on this site come from a broad range of sources, including materials that are offensive or contain negative stereotypes. VCU Libraries provides access to these items to support research and inquiry.