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Hathway, Marion

in: People

Marion Hathway (1895-1955) —  Social worker and Educator.


Marion Hathway
Marion Hathway
Photo: Public Domain

Marion Hathway was born in North Tonawanda, New York, July 31, 1895, the daughter of William W. and Alice R. Hathway. Her family later moved to Denver where she graduated from the Denver High School East Side with the class of 1911. She then went to Radcliffe where she graduated in 1916 with a major in social ethics and economics. During her college years she became interested in social work and religious and reform organizations. She worked for settlement houses, religious societies, and women’s suffrage.

Upon graduation she accepted a teaching position in Miss Seaburg’s Preparatory School in Mendon, Massachusetts. During World War I Hathway served as a statistician for the United States War Department personnel department. In 1920, she moved back to Colorado to assist in establishing YWCA facilities in Wyoming. While working for the YWCA, she developed an interest in vocational guidance work and studied for a summer (1920) at Columbia University. After her summer at Columbia, she became assistant director of the Denver Public Schools Bureau of Child Welfare where her chief responsibilities were in the areas of vocational guidance, placement, and scholarship aid for public school students.

Having become more seriously interested in social work as a career, Hathway entered the University of Chicago where she earned a master’s degree in 1927. Her thesis, published in the social service monograph series of the University of Chicago Press as The Young Cripple and His Job, was a study of vocational training and placement opportunities for physically handicapped children in Chicago.

After finishing her master’s degree, Hathway became an instructor of sociology at the University of Washington, where she remained until 1931. While in the Seattle area, she became active in the community’s social agencies and served on the budget committee of the Community Fund, the board of directors of the Washington Society for Mental Hygiene, and the Special Committee for Industrial Problems. While with the Community Fund, she assisted in a number of studies of the Seattle area, one of which was published as The Cost and Volume of Social Work in Seattle. From 1927-1931 she served as executive secretary of the Washington State Conference of Social Work. As executive secretary, she worked to develop district and regional conferences throughout the state. These conferences functioned to some extent like local councils of social agencies.

As she assumed an increasing number of social work positions in the Seattle area, Hathway felt that in order to realize her full capacities as a teacher and social worker, further formal study was essential. In 1928, she began Ph.D. work at the University of Chicago under the direction of Sophonisba P. Breckinridge and Edith Abbott. In 1931, she received a university fellowship and began work on her dissertation, The Migratory Worker and Family Life, published by the University of Chicago Press in 1934. In March, 1933, Hathway received her doctorate.

In 1932 Hathway joined the faculty of the Division of Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh. Serving several years as assistant director of the Division, she continued there until 1938, when the Division was reorganized and she resigned to become executive secretary of the American Association of Schools of Social Work (AASSW). While serving as the AASSW secretary, her office remained at the University of Pittsburgh. Hathway left the AASSW position in 1941 and rejoined the University of Pittsburgh faculty as professor of public welfare. In 1951, Hathway again resigned, citing dissatisfaction with developments in the School of Social Work as the major factor prompting her action. After leaving the University of Pittsburgh Hathway joined the faculty of Bryn Mawr College as director of the department of social economy. She remained there until her death in 1955.

While on the Pittsburgh faculty, Hathway spent the summer of 1941 as a visiting professor of social work at the University of Hawaii. The summer of 1944 was spent as visiting professor of social work at the University of Puerto Rico. During the summer of 1945, she worked as a consultant for the New York State Department of Social Welfare. During the 1936-1937 school year, she served as visiting professor of social economy at the American University while on leave from the University of Pittsburgh.

Throughout her career, Hathway was active in numerous professional organizations. She was closely involved with the American Association of Schools of Social Work, serving as executive secretary (1938-1941), president (1942-1943), and as chairman and member of several committees. She was also a member of the National Conference of Social Work executive committee (1947-1950) and the American Association of Social Workers national board (1942-1945).

Aside from professional social work organizations, Hathway participated in many other activities, organizations, and movements. Among these were the University of Pittsburgh Senate, the American Association of University Professors, the League of Women Shoppers (Hathway was national vice president), the Pittsburgh Council of American-Soviet Friendship, Inc., the Russian War Relief Committee of Pittsburgh, the Institute of Labor Studies (Northampton, Massachusetts), the Federation of Social Agencies of Allegheny County, the Progressive Party, and several government advisory committees. From 1948 to 1953, she also served as editorial consultant in social work for the Houghton Mifflin Company.

Hathway was always a devoted teacher and an able scholar. Her correspondence reflects a genuine interest in her students during their course of studies and throughout their careers. During her career, she published monographs and more than 50 articles dealing with all aspects of the profession. Hathway was interested not only in the mechanics of the social work profession, but also in the reasons why people needed the social worker and what rights the individual had to social betterment and social welfare within the democratic system.

During the late 1940’s and into the 1950’s, Hathway was charged by a few prominent Pittsburgh citizens and officials with participating in “leftist” and Communist front activities. Suspicion about

her political activities grew from Hathway’s controversial role as leader of the Progressive Party campaign in Pittsburgh and her membership in the national Wallace for President Committee. In 1949, she was listed among the sponsors of the Cultural and Scientific Conference for World Peace at which, it was alleged by the local press, “Russian communists and their sympathizers were invited to denounce the United States” (Pittsburgh News, July 25, 1951). She was also active in labor movements and in the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship. In 1950, Judge Blair F. Gunther accused Hathway of teaching “young folks that there is something wrong with this country” (Pittsburgh News, March 17, 1950) and demanded that the state of Pennsylvania cut off all aid to the University of Pittsburgh if Hathway was not discharged. No charges were substantiated and no legal action was taken.

Although Hathway kept her maiden name for her professional life, she married Theodore R. Parker, a history professor at the University of Pittsburgh, on June 6, 1936. Hathway died on November 18, 1955. After his wife’s death, Theodore Parker retired to St. Petersburg, Florida.

SourceUniversity of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Social Welfare History Archives. Minneapolis, MN. More Information is available at:

How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Social Welfare History Project (2011). Marion Hathway (1895-1955) — Social worker and educator. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved [date accessed] from