Towle, Charlotte Helen

Towle, Charlotte Helen

(1896–1966) social work educator; born in Butte, Mont. Growing up in a mining town, she heard her family discuss labor and management issues, and by the time she graduated from Goucher College (Md.) (1919), she was already determined to be a social worker. She worked for the Red Cross and the Veterans Bureau, then in a neuropsychiatric hospital in Tacoma, Wash. (1924–26) before studying at the New York School of Social Work (1926–27). Dissatisfied with the by-then conventional casework approach of the day, she was drawn to a more psychological approach to social work, working in Philadelphia and then returning to New York City (1928–32). She then went to the University of Chicago, where, as a professor at the School of Social Service Administration (1932–62), she was a pioneer in establishing the psychosocial approach to social work. Through her classes, articles, and such books as Social Case Records from Psychiatric Clinics (1941) and The Learner in Education for the Professions (1954), her influence spread far beyond Chicago's school to other social work schools in the U.S.A. and England. In 1945 she gained some notoriety when she wrote a government manual, Common Human Needs, in which she asserted that all people had a right to food, shelter, and health care; it was attacked by some as advocating socialism and the government ceased printing it; but the American Association of Social Workers continued to print it. She held many key posts with professional and governmental organizations.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.