There is in both Ann Oakley’s book Women, Peace and Welfare: A Suppressed History of Social Reform, 1880-1920 and in Emma Rees’ review of it an important omission – the significance of social workers to the story of women, peace and welfare.
Oakley’s important book draws attention to the forgotten (she would argue, suppressed) story of women’s involvement in peace activism and social welfare history. She introduces us to the “difficult women” to whom her father took exception, including Charlotte Towle and Eileen Younghusband; and her book is full of accounts of the contribution that these (and many other) women made to the development of social welfare and social science in the UK and the US.
And yet she fails to point out that many of these women were social workers. Their entry to the public arena came via the new university diplomas in social study that appeared in the years up to and after the Second World War; they were committed to building the profession of social work as a means of creating a more just society.
So, while I salute Oakley’s book, I would remind readers that there is another forgotten or suppressed story here – the role that social work and social workers have played in social welfare and social science history.
School of Social and Political Science,
University of Edinburgh (celebrating 100 years of social work)