Richmond, Mary Ellen

Richmond, Mary Ellen

(1861–1928) social worker; born in Belleville, Ill. Raised mainly by women relatives in Baltimore, Md., and with only a few years of formal education through high school, she took a clerical job in New York City (1878–80) and then returned to Baltimore to work as a bookkeeper. Taking a job with the Baltimore Charity Organization Society in 1889, she soon impressed its male leaders with her abilities and was appointed its general secretary in 1891. An early advocate of the need to fully understand the problems of the poor and to train professional social workers, she was one of the first Americans to employ the British term "case work" for this new approach to social work. In 1900 she became the general secretary of the Philadelphia Society for Organizing Charity and soon gained a national reputation—through both her own policies and her writings—for her progressive and professional views on social work. In 1909 she was named director of the Charity Organization Department of the Russell Sage Foundation. Her book, Social Diagnosis (1917), laid the theoretical foundation for many of the modern practices of social work.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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