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de Schweinitz, Karl

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Karl de Schweinitz (1887-1975) —  Social Welfare Administrator, Educator and Historian


Editor’s Note:  At the end of the biography are two documents that enhance the career and significance of Karl de Schweinitz’s contribution to social work and social welfare. The first is a list of presentations  and selected publications. Next is a document titled: Biographical Notes on the Career of Karl de Schweinitz by Elizabeth de Schweinitz researched and transcribed by Ian Lewenstein.

Karl de Schweinitz
Karl de Schweinitz

Karl de Schweinitz was a welfare administrator, teacher, and author whose primary concern was the history and philosophy of social welfare. He was born on November 26, 1887, in Northfield, Minnesota to Paul and Mary Catherine (Daniel) de Schweinitz. The family moved to Pennsylvania when Karl was very young. He earned a bachelor’s degree in humanities from Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1906 and another from the University of Pennsylvania a year later. Moravian College awarded him an honorary doctorate of letters in 1932.

On October 4, 1914 he married Jessie Logan Dickson, from whom he was later divorced. They had two children, Mary and Karl, Jr. He married Elizabeth McCord on August 29, 1937. De Schweinitz died on April 20, 1975 in Hightstown, New Jersey.

Karl de Schweinitz’s involvement in the field of social welfare evolved gradually during the early years of his professional life. After an initial involvement in the newspaper activities, he became the executive secretary of the Pennsylvania Tuberculosis Society in1911, where he was responsible for publicity and health education. Two years later he became a member of the executive staff of the Charity Organization Society (COS) of New York (now the community Service Society), where he handled publicity and editorial work. It was during these years that he came to know many of the early twentieth century leaders in the social welfare movement. Although he was with COS until 1918, he spent the years 1917-1918 on assignment to the American Red Cross, where he wrote two of his first publications. As general secretary of the Family Service of Philadelphia (until 1925, knows as the Philadelphia Society for Organizing Charity) from 1918-1930, de Schweinitz was involved in family social work and administration relief. During this same period in his career, de Schweinitz was active in the movement that led to the formation of the America Association of Social Workers and served on its first board of directors.

From 1930-1936 he was executive director of the Community Council of Philadelphia, a coordinator for 215 welfare, health and civic agencies involved in social welfare. In addition to this position, he and Jacob Billikopf led the formation of the Committee of 100 on Unemployment, whose purpose was to raise and disburse funds for financial aid to the unemployed. The committee soon concluded that only public funds could adequately meet the financial need and urged state legislation that created the State of Emergency Relief Board. De Schweinitz served the Philadelphia County local board under this program until 1935.

From January 1936 to January 1938, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Assistance employed de Schweinitz, first as director of the emergency relief program and later as deputy director of the welfare department, where he was responsible for the management of unemployment relief and public assistance. In July 1937, he became the first Secretary of Public Assistance, a post created by legislation that established state administration of financial aid through county boards. He resigned this post amid controversy concerning the efficiency of the department’s operations and its relation to the local politics.

In addition to his administrative and civic responsibilities, de Schweinitz entered the field of social work education. From 1933 through 1936 he was both director of the Pennsylvania School of Social Work and William T. Carter Professor of Child Helping at the University of Pennsylvania. The dual position aided him in the negotiations that resulted in 1936 in the School of Social work’s formal affiliation with the University. After a two-year absence, he returned as the School’s director from 1938 until 1942, working to broaden the curriculum and strengthen the faculty. He also taught classes in social administration, emphasizing the need for professionally educated social workers.

As training consultant for the Federal Social Security Board in Washington, D.C. de Schweinitz analyzed the knowledge and skills required for procedures. He continued in this vein by conducting institutes on social insurance and public welfare s director of the committee for Education and Social Security of the American Council on Education from 1944 to 1949.

The years 1959-1958 were spent primarily at the University of California at the Los Angeles School of Social Welfare, where his teaching emphasized the relationship of the history of social welfare to the current needs, services, and social problems. During this period he also accepted several short-term assignments. In June 1950, he was the consultant on professional education for the U.U. Public Health Service at the National Conference on Aging. From May to September 1951, he served as head of a Point IV Program social security mission to the Egyptian ministry of Social Affairs in Cairo. The mission reviewed and extended Egyptian training programs in the social security and community development. In 1952 de Schweinitz returned to the Middle East as a United Nations consultant to the Third Social Welfare Seminar for Arab States, a three-week session for officials and scholars held in Damascus, Syria. During 1956-1957 he did research and lectured in the Department of Social Administration of the London School of Economics as a Senior Fulbright Scholar.

Following his retirement from UCLA I 1958, de Schweinitz devoted most of his time to work on a history of poor relief and social insurance from antiquity to the present. The project remained unfinished at his death. He accepted a brief assignment in September 1958 to advise the Ministry of health and Welfare in Venezuela on the development of education for social work. Between 1959 and 1963 he occasionally taught seminars in social history and social programs at the Florence Heller Graduate School of Brandeis University. In 1963 he and Elizabeth were co-recipients of the Florina Lasker award for their contributions to the field of social work.

During the course of his career, de Schweinitz wrote a number of important and influential pamphlets and books. During his association with the American Red Cross he wrote Home Service (1917) and This Side of the Trenches with the American Red Cross (1918) and completed Manual of Home Service (1918), which had been started by Mary Richmond. Two of his most influential publications emerged from his years with the Family Society of Philadelphia. The Art of Helping People Out of Trouble (1924) sought to interpret the emerging principles and methods of social casework in a way that would make them understandable and applicable by individuals not trained as social workers. Growing Up (1928) has been described as the first book to introduce young children to the story of reproduction, birth, and growth. It has gone throughout four United States editions and has been published in eight different languages.

Karl de Schweinitz working on "England’s Road to Social Security" 1940
Karl de Schweinitz working on “England’s Road to Social Security” 1940

England’s Road to Social Security (1943), a pioneering work in the social welfare history, was completed while de Schweinitz was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, although it was not published until later. Training in Social Security (1943) resulted from his work with the Federal Social Security Board. People and Process in Social Security (1946) was an outgrowth of his activities with the American Council on Education. Interviewing in Social Security (1961), co-authored with Elizabeth, drew on experience both of them had had developing social security in-service training programs.

The work that was to cap his writing career, the history of poor relief and social insurance, never reached completion. Begun in 1954 as The Dilemma of Need, de Schweinitz later began extensive revisions and renamed the work They Spoke for the Poor and for the Common Weal, but he had not completed the revisions at the time of his death.


1945    “The Function of the Liberal Arts College,” paper given at annual meeting of the American Association of Schools of Social Work, 1945. The Compass, April 1945.

1946    “The Place of Authority in the Protective Function of the Public Welfare Agency,” with Elizabeth de Schweinitz, given at the National Conference of Social Work, 1946. Child Welfare Bulletin, 1946. Reprinted in Child Welfare, June 1964.

1947    People and Process in Social Security, the American Council on Education, Washington, D.C.

1948    “The Development of Governmental Responsibility for Human Welfare,” presented for the 100th Anniversary of the Community Service Society, Spring, 1948. Public Welfare, 1948, and issued as a pamphlet by the American Public Welfare Association; Social Work and Human Relations, anniversary papers, Columbia University Press, New York, 1949.

1948    “For Career Service in Social Security,” published as a pamphlet by the American Council on Education, August 1948.

1949    “The Content of the Public Assistance Job,” with Elizabeth de Schweinitz. Originally published in two parts in the Social Work Journal for July and October 1948. Reprinted as a pamphlet. 1964 Translated into Japanese by the Japanese College of Social Work.

1950    “Qualifications for the Local Public Welfare Administrator from the Viewpoint of Planning a Training Program,” given at the National Conference of Social Work, 1950.

1952    Social Security for Egypt, International Technical Missions, Federal Security Agency, Social Security Administration, Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.  Egyptian Edition translated into Arabic by Abdel Fattah el Zayat, Ministry of Social Affairs, Cairo, Egypt.

1952    “The Land of Egypt Today,” The Survey, March 1952.

1955    “Social Work in the Public Social Services,” Social Work Journal, July 19, 1955.

1956    “Social Values and Social Action—The Intellectual Base as Illustrated in the Study of History,” given at a meeting of the Council on Social Work Education, Buffalo, N.Y. January 27, 1956. The Social Service Review, June 1956.

1959    “The Past as a Guide to the Function and Pattern of Social Work,” given at the colloquium celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the School of Social Work, University of Pennsylvania, June 1959. Published with four papers of the colloquium under the title, Frontiers for Social Work, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1960.

1961    Interviewing in Social Security, with Elizabeth de Schweinitz, U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Social Security Administration, U.S. Government Printing Office.

1962    Interviewing in the Social Services, edited from the original for more general use by Dame Eileen Younghusband, published for the National Institute of Social Work Training, by the National Council of Social Service, London, England.

1966    Interviewing in Social Security, Dutch Edition (adapted and written in Dutch).

1967    Interviewing in Social Security, Israeli Edition translated into Hebrew and published by the National Insurance Institute, Jerusalem, Israel.


References: Karl and Elizabeth De Schweinitz Papers. Box 1, Folder 1. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Social Welfare History Archives. Minneapolis, MN.

How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Social Welfare History Project (2011). Karl de Schweinitz (1887-1975) — Social welfare administrator, educator and historian. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved [date accessed] from

Elizabeth and Karl de Schweinitz
Elizabeth and Karl de Schweinitz

Biographical Notes on the Career of Karl de Schweinitz by Elizabeth de Schweinitz

November 26, 1887: Born in Northfield, Minnesota.

1906: Moravian College, A.B

1907: University of Pennsylvania, A.B. — Having entered Moravian College as a sophomore and graduating in three years, Karl decided to use a fourth year in undergraduate study. Long before this he had determined not to enter the ministry, the traditional profession of one de Schweinitz male in each generation, but when he received his first A.B. he had not decided what work he wanted to do.

1907-1911: Newsman — Even as a child he had an urge to write, and began early. He was on the reportorial staff of The Pennsylvanian (U. of P. student newspaper), and on graduation got a job on The Philadelphia Public Ledger, and later on another paper, both no longer in existence. Subsequently he was press representative of the University of Pennsylvania. Newspaper work also attracted him as an adventure, and his most dramatic assignment was as a member of a small party in a balloon ascension for a flight of 2 ½ hours, twice narrowly avoiding an abrupt and fatal termination.

1911-1913: Executive Secretary, Pennsylvania Tuberculosis Society. TB was a major concern in health and welfare at this time, and the chief work of the Ex. Sec. was directing a program of publicity and health education.

1913-1918: Member of executive staff of the Charity Organization Society of New York (C.O.S.)  This job, a large part of which was writing, appealed to him because he was curious about the charity organization movement. Why were the people in that field so sure of the importance of what is now called social case work? What was this new skill which they preached? He came to know personally many of the leaders in social welfare in the early years of the 20th century. They were pioneers, intellectual and social adventures, reformers who foresaw a quick improvement in social conditions. They talked with optimism of “doing themselves out of a job.”

1917: Home Service (joint author with Porter P. Lee), American Red Cross publication. Most of Karl’s time in 1917-1918 was spent in writing for the American Red Cross—on assignment from the C.O.S. In 1917 the charity organization societies discontinued their administration of civilian (i.e., disaster) relief as agents of the Red Cross and began helping to develop, in its chapters, both disaster relief and a home service to the families of men in the armed forces.

 1917: 1st Manual of Home Service (joint author with Mary B. Richmond).  The Manual of Home Service was commenced by Miss Richmond and completed by Karl.

1918: “This Side the Trenches” with the American Red Cross. The Red Cross issued a million copies of “This Side the Trenches,” for use in young peoples’ societies in churches.

Karl and Elizabeth de Schweinitz
Karl and Elizabeth de Schweinitz

1918-1930: General Secretary, Philadelphia Society for Organizing Charity, changed in 1925 to Family Society of Philadelphia and later Family Service of Philadelphia. The change in title in 1925 reflected a nationwide trend toward an emphasis on the cultivation of family life and on helping families in which there were serious personal and family problems. The Philadelphia Society was one of the leaders in this development. Soon after coming to the COS, Karl was closely identified with the movement which preceded the formation of the American Association of Social Workers (now National Association of Social Workers), working with conviction for a professional organization rather than a union. He was on the first Board of Directors in 1921, and later exercised a significant influence in the decision that the New Association should have its continuous financial base in the dues of its members.

1924: The Art of Helping People Out of Trouble, Houghton-Mifflin, Boston.  This book had a great appeal in the 1920s to laymen as well as social workers, and was the means of recruiting people to social work. It developed and illustrated attitudes and principles which were emerging in social case work at this time, and which are in general just as good today as they were then. For example: consideration and respect for every individual as a person regardless of his personality or behavior, and the necessity of trying to see the situation from his point of view; the fact that problems are involved for all of us in the adjustment to life, which are not simple and easily solvable; the recognition that our understanding of another person is always limited and partial; that a person of his own strength may be able to overcome even great problems; that this “…is vastly more important then for us to have the satisfaction of helping him,” and that “…as long as he does not run counter to the lives of others our service is greatest when we await his call for assistance.”  By the 1930s many factors including the influence of psychoanalysis were changing case work method. The Art of Helping People out of Trouble seemed over simplified and dated as a text for case work training. In 1968, feeling that the book was no longer useful, Karl refused to give permission for its reissuance, when a publisher requested it.

1928: Growing Up, The Macmillan Company, New York. This was the first book to introduce young children to the story of reproduction, birth and growth, and at the time seemed very daring. It took courage for The Macmillan Co. to accept it. It has had four editions in the U.S., it has been published in Great Britain and Australia, and translated into nine other languages.

1929-1930: Secretary, Committee of 100 on Unemployment. Aimed at telling Philadelphians about the seriousness of unemployment in their city, this Committee was an unconventionally initiated project. Jacob Billikopf of the Federation Jewish Charities and Karl appointed themselves Chairman and Secretary respectively, and compiled a mailing list of persons whom they invited to pay for admission to luncheon meetings where they were given facts, not generally publicized, about unemployment and the unemployed. In substance, the Committee was only two close colleagues acting independently of the organizations of which they were the executives. These luncheons culminated on Nov. 7, 1930, in the meeting which led to the formation of the Philadelphia Committee on Unemployment Relief.

1930-1936: Executive Director, Community Council of Philadelphia 1930-1933; 1933-1936 part-time. The nationwide trend toward united, cooperative action in social welfare helped to precipitate this new Council, with the most inclusive representative membership yet to be brought together in the metropolitan area—215 welfare, health and civic agencies. Its expressed purpose was research and coordination, and its aim was to apply the scientific method to planning in social welfare. The major part of its research and action was directed toward the effect of the rising unemployment upon people, and the measures which could be taken. More than a dozen studies were made and published in the first three years, followed by several more in the next two. Ewan Clague, later U.S. Commissioner of Labor Statistics, was in charge of the research which was under a joint committee of the Pennsylvania School of Social Work and the Council. Karl was active in the nationwide movement to obtain Federal aid in unemployment relief, and among other things testified in 1932 and in 1933 before a U.S. Senate committee studying legislative proposals.

1930-1932: Secretary, Philadelphia Committee for Unemployment Relief. Raising and administering money for unemployment relief, this Committee was coping with the city’s most pressing problem during these years. The people, both lay and staff, most concerned with the work of the Community Council were also involved in work of the Committee. Dealing with unemployment relief took precedence over everything else. Horatio Gates Lloyd, an outstanding Philadelphia banker, was Chairman and Karl was Secretary. Their close working relationship was all the more interesting because years before, when they had not met and Mr. Lloyd had only heard of Karl’s work in the SOC, he regarded him as an irresponsible young man who had committed the unpardonable sin of overspending the relief budget; while Karl mistakenly thought Mr. Lloyd hard-hearted and only money minded. (At the time, 1919, the aim of relief agencies was to meet the needs of the people whom they served. A balanced budget was not regarded as essential, and Board members took a benign attitude toward the practice of incurring deficits.) But from a skeptical beginning, the two men had worked together for over ten years with growing confidence and liking and they made an unusually effective combination. Early in the summer of 1932, the Committee, for lack of funds, was forced to terminate its work. Convinced that only public funds could meet the need, it urged a special session of the state legislature, which was called. The legislature, meeting for eight critical weeks when practically no relief was available, created the State Emergency Relief Board, with local boards; and appropriated money for its work. Karl was one of four members of the discontinued Committee for Unemployment Relief who were appointed to serve on the Philadelphia County Relief Board, and he served through 1935.

1932: Moravian College, LHD

1933-1936: The William T. Carter Professor of Child Helping, Univ. of Penn.  Conducting a course in human relations for undergraduates was the major responsibility in this assignment, but it produced an important relationship with the University.

1933-1936: Director, Pennsylvania School of Social Work.  Karl’s work at this time in the School, with which since the early 20s he had had a close association, was largely reorganizing its finances and starting the negotiations for affiliation of the School with the University of Pennsylvania. The first degrees were conferred by the University in 1936.

1934 (summer): Lecturer on Social Welfare, University of Puerto Rico

January 1, 1936-January 5, 1938: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Director of Emergency Relief. For the first eleven months the job was as Director of Emergency Relief only. Deputy Director of the Welfare Department.  In December, 1936, responsibility for the state-federal program of assistance to the aged, dependent children, and the blind, was added. This was a time of long hours, demanding work, and great exhilaration. Social workers were very hopeful that a new and better deal was coming for poor people.

Secretary of Public Assistance. On July 1, 1937, Karl became the first Secretary of Public Assistance, a position in the Governor’s cabinet newly created under the legislation establishing state administration of public assistance through county boards. He left this post six months later, resigning rather than turning over to patronage an administration pledged to be nonpolitical. As he had hoped, his resignation helped to arouse public opinion, and his politically appointed successor could not carry out what some of the politicians, state officials and legislators had wanted.

1938-1942: Director, School of Social Work, University of Pennsylvania.  The curriculum was broadened during these years. New courses were initiated and new teachers of strength and diversity brought to the faculty.

1942-1944: Training Consultant, Social Security Board, Washington, D.C.  He was drawn to Washington because of all that was going on in the field of Social Security, and his desire to take part in this new program. He was wanted by the Board partly to help upgrade staff, as part of the war effort. He felt that social workers should be leaders in the development of public assistance, but with new focus and methods, changing substantially the traditional case work approach. He was equally interested in the social insurances, though he did not consider them in the category of social work. He conducted a study (issued in 1943) on Training for Social Security which has sought to discover (1) whether there is a basic knowledge and skill underlying the administration of all the income maintenance programs then under the Social Security Board, and if so what is its nature; (2) how personnel learn their jobs and what facilities exist or are needed to promote their learning.

 1943: England’s Road to Social Security, University of Pennsylvania Press.  The actual writing of this book was completed before he left the Pennsylvania School. It has been used a great deal, particularly in educational institutions both in the U.S.A. and in Britain; and teachers in schools of social work welcomed the Perpetua edition (paperback) which came out in 1961 and is still in print.

1944-1950: Director, Committee for Education and Social Security of the American Council on Education, Washington, D.C.  The training job in government led to this work. He and Robert M. Ball (now Commissioner, Social Security Administration), who was associated with the Committee for three years, had a wonderful time developing material, writing, and giving Institutes for people in the public social services, especially top personnel from national, state, and local staffs in Public Assistance, Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Unemployment Compensation. S. took an active part in the Institutes; and many authorities both in and out of government made invaluable contributions.

1946: People and Process in Social Security, American Council on Education, Washington, D.C.  Based in part on the training study and in part on the project under the American Council on Education, the book is still in use, but out of print. The Council has recently been requested by a commercial publisher for permission to reprint it.

1950-1958: Professor of Social Welfare, University of California at Los Angeles.  The years at UCLA were chiefly occupied by teaching which Karl thoroughly enjoyed. One of his absorbing interests was in showing the relevance of history to the social welfare of the present. The University was generous about giving time for the activities noted below.

 1951: Chief, Social Security Mission under the Point IV Program, Ministry of Social Affairs, Cairo, Egypt (May to Sept). Requested by the Minister of Social Affairs in Egypt, this was the first Point IV (later A.I.D.) program in Egypt, and the first social welfare mission anywhere under Point IV. S. was appointed as Karl’s assistant, and they worked as a team.

1952: Social Security for Egypt, American and Arabic editions.  While in Egypt, Karl wrote the monograph Social Security for Egypt, with the understanding that the Egyptian official who was their liaison with the government would translate it into Arabic, which was done that same year.

1952: U.N. Consultant, 3rd Social Welfare Seminar of the Arab States, Damascus, Syria.  A three week session of government officials and scholars which included study as well as discussion.

1956-1957: Senior Fulbright scholar, with London School of Economics as the host institution. A grant was also given to S. to act as assistant in research, and for both of them it was a most delightful and enlivening experience. They were in London a full year gathering material for a book, The Dilemma of Need, which is still in process (March, 1970). In addition to research, they had the opportunity to take part in the Department of Social Administration of the London School of Economics; and to become acquainted with many of the social agencies—their staffs, programs, and problems. They accepted speaking and other engagements in a number of cities, their longest assignment outside London being a week’s institute at the University of Swansea in Wales.

1958: Professor Emeritus, University of California at Los Angeles. We returned to Washington, D.C. in February, 1958, after Karl’s final semester at UCLA. Primary work since then has been continuing the writing of The Dilemma of Need, but with interruptions for other activities, a few of which are noted below.

1958 (September): Consultant to the Ministry of Health and Welfare in Venezuela, on the development of education for social work.

1959: “The Past as a Guide to the Function and Pattern of Social Work.” Published in Frontiers for Social Work by the U. of P. Press. Originally a public lecture, this was followed by three seminars with the faculty of the U. of P. School of Social Work, on the teaching of history.

1959-1963: Seminars on social history and social programs at the Florence Heller Graduate School, Brandeis University.

1961: Interviewing in Social Security, joint authorship with Elizabeth de Schweinitz. Published by the Social Security Administration, U.S. Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare.  This booklet has been used in other countries, and in 1967 was translated into Hebrew and published by the Israeli National Insurance Institute.

1962: Interviewing in the Social Services (an adaptation, for more general use, through editing, by Dame Eileen Young—husband of Interviewing in Social Security).  This adaptation of the book written for the Social Security Administration was the first publication of the National Institute for Social Work Training in London. It has been widely used, not only in the United Kingdom and in the U.S., but in other countries as well.

1962: Florina Lasker Award “To honor a husband and wife team, Karl and Elizabeth de Schweinitz, who have given life and meaning to the concept of service through public welfare.”

1965: Growing Up, 4th edition Revised.  Changed in essential ways, this edition has been translated into Dutch, Spanish, and Catalan, and published in 1968, in Amsterdam and in Barcelona.

 Concluding Remarks

There has been a pattern in Karl’s working life (sixty years to date), the major threads of which are: writing with emphasis on history, and on the underlying attitudes and methods essential in providing social services; teaching, chiefly social welfare history and current social programs; administration of agencies whose function is, in whole or in part, to deal with financial need.

Along with whatever his full time job happened to be, Karl has almost always been writing. Mostly this was done at night and on weekends or vacations; and with all its ups and downs this has been more stimulation and satisfaction than drudgery.

He has had a constant interest in making clear and vivid to people generally, the purposes and methods of social work; or to the worker in an agency the underlying meaning of the job he is doing. When he went to the State job in Pennsylvania, his deputy said after Karl’s first meeting with the State Board, “Now we know what it is all about.” As training consultant for the Social Security Board, one of the first things he did, at the same time that he was working with top staff, was to have classes for the punch card operators—not on their daily tasks, but on their part in a vitally important new service. In his books and articles, different as they are, he has tried to give facts with simplicity, but also with the kind of organization, emphasis and illustration which makes the subject come alive. Recently he wrote to a boy who inquired about the writing of Growing Up, “I believe that the straightforward truth is always best but that the words in which it is told should be pleasant to read, and should try to convey the beauty and wander of life.”

He has a strong and continuing concern for poor people, and for the ways that social services are provided. His belief that the poor and handicapped are primarily the responsibility of government began early, and he advocated this with vigor in the 1920s when many social workers thought it would be disastrous to have relief administered by governmental agencies. He has always thought that public money should be spent by public agencies, and that they should provide the essential framework of money and services for people in need. Much of his writing and teaching emphasizes and reinforces the concept that government, in its administration of services, can be efficient, and also considerate of the individual.

He has a great zest for new ideas and hence for new projects and he especially enjoys examining a particular activity or process to discover its distinctive characteristics; its unique essence.

His interests in history has been an ever present thread in Karl’s life. In 1956, following the annual conference of the Council on Social Work Education at which Karl read his paper on history (“Social Values and Social Action—The Intellectual Base as Illustrated in the Study of History”), he was one of half a dozen social workers and historians who established what has become the Social Welfare History Group. This is composed of social workers interested in history, and of historians with a special interest in social welfare. He was its first chairman.

From his beginning years in social work, one of Karl’s deepest satisfactions was the association, and the friends he made, with board members and other laymen who were giving invaluable leadership and support to social welfare. The continuation of this has, in many ways, enriched all his work as well as his personal life.

In the New York C.O.S. he found women making their special contribution on equal terms with men. This confirmed his conviction about the ideal relationship between men and women (which had an early start as evidenced by a poem he wrote at age 11 or 12 entitled “The Women of Greece and Rome!”). He has apparent pleasure in working as part of a team; always more than generous in his appreciation of his partner’s contribution, and quite oblivious of his creative leadership.

March 1970

References: Karl and Elizabeth De Schweinitz Papers. Box 1, Folder 1. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Social Welfare History Archives. Minneapolis, MN.

How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Lewenstein, I. (2011). Karl de Schweinitz (1887-1975) — Social welfare administrator, educator and historian. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved [date accessed] from







2 Replies to “de Schweinitz, Karl”

  1. I came across this information while processing a scrapbook that was recently donated to the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem, PA, by the granddaughters of Karl de Schweinitz. The scrapbook was compiled by Karl de Schweinitz and contains photos, letters, newspapers articles, and other items regarding Karl de Schweinitz’s life and work. The scrapbook has been added to the existing records group “De Schweinitz Family Papers”.
    In our finding aid we added information to the records you hold. The finding aid is accessible through our website (see: online finding aid). We also have the papers of his father Paul de Schweinitz, and of Edmund de Schweinitz.


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