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Anderson, Joseph P.

in: People

Joseph P. Anderson (1910-1979) –  Settlement Worker, Administrator and First Executive Director of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW)


Joe Anderson
Joe Anderson
Photo: NASW Foundation

Due to his extraordinary vision and distinguished leadership, Joseph Anderson’s pioneering work achieved lasting results. The formation of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) are, in themselves, monuments to the pioneering work of Joseph (Joe) P. Anderson. During WW II, his persuasive ability attained inclusion for social workers with the establishment of the Committee on Social Work and Defense Mobilization. The magnitude of his leadership extended internationally by ensuring social welfare policies were included in the charter of the United Nations and rebuilding the International Conference on Social Work.

Anderson received his master’s in social work from Case Western Reserve University School of Applied Social Science in 1932. Early in his career, he directed a community organization for a settlement house; administered an emergency relief organization; led the Group Work Division of the Pittsburgh Health and Welfare Federation; directed community relations for that city’s housing authority; and served as chief of the Leasing Occupancy Division of the Federal Public Housing Authority from 1941 to 1943.

As executive director of the American Association of Social Workers (AASW) in 1943, his first challenge was dealing with the problems of social work in war time. His persuasiveness with the War Manpower Commission led to organization of the Committee on Social Work and Defense Mobilization where his efforts won long-delayed recognition for the profession. He was prominently associated in the preparation of materials to ensure inclusion of social welfare policies and programs in the charter of the United Nations. After WWII he was instrumental in helping to rebuild the International Conference on Social Work, and served as acting secretary general of this organization from 1947 to 1948.

It was his conviction about the importance of a unified social work profession that led him to promote the development of a single membership association and to serve as the primary staff person of the planning group for the new association. Largely through Anderson’s vision and guidance, seven associations merged in 1955 to form a single membership body, NASW. He was the unanimous choice to become the first executive director and acted as executive director from 1955 to 1969. At the time of hisretirement he stated that he had attended sixteen delegate assemblies, participated in 150 board meetings, and made a thousand visits to chapters.

For several years prior to the establishment of the Council of Social Work Education, Anderson was secretary of one of the predecessor organizations, the American Organization of Schools of Social Work, and was instrumental in drafting the organizational plan for the Council.

Anderson’s qualities of leadership and infinite energy led to many governmental and voluntary organization consultant appointments. He was the Social Welfare Consultant to the Department of State; an adviser on personnel and teaching for the U. S. Children’s Bureau; a member of the National Advisory Committee on the White House Conference on Aging; a member of the Advisory Committee on International Activities of HEW; and an active planner of the White House Conference on Children and Youth.

In 1962, Anderson was given a Distinguished Service Award by the National Conference on Social Welfare for his outstanding contribution to the integration of the social work profession into a single membership association. In 1967 his alma mater Case Western Reserve University awarded him an honorary doctor of laws degree.

Originally Published: NASW Foundation

How to Cite this Article (APA Format): NASW Foundation (2004). Joseph P. Anderson (1910-1979) – Settlement worker, administrator, and first executive director of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved [date accessed] from