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Benjamin E. Youngdahl Papers

Identifier: SW 211

Scope and Content Note

The Youngdahl papers cotains mostly correspondence, but there is also a large section of his speeches, speech drafts and notes. These reflect his concern with social work education, social action, and the nature of social work. The collection begins with his work in Minnesotapublic welfare, but the bulk of the papers are from his years at Washington University. Photographs, clippings, articles, course materials, memorabilia and memoranda are also included.

A set of Minnesota state welfare publications (1935-1961) and conference proceedings materials (1934-1940) are being held separately in the Social Welfare History Archives Pamphlet Collection. Please see the Separated Materials entry for details regarding these items.


  • 1916-1968
  • Majority of material found within ( 1940-1962)

Language of Materials


Use of Materials

Open for use in Social Welfare History Archives reading room.


Please contact the Archives for copyright information.

Biographical Note

Benjamin E. Youngdahlwas born in 1897 and became a distinguished public welfare administrator and social work educator. A native of Minnesota, Youngdahl was a member of a prominent Swedish Lutheran family. The collection includes personal correspondence from his brothers, Reverend Reuben Youngdahl, former Minnesotagovernor and federal judge Luther Youngdahl, and sister, Ruth Youngdahl Nelson. He was educated at Gustavus Adolphus Collegein Minnesotaand at Columbia Universityin New York.

From 1923 to 1933, Youngdahl was a professor of sociology and economics at Gustavus Adolphus College. He became director of social service for the Minnesota State Emergency Relief Administrationin 1933 and was appointed director of public assistance under the Minnesota State Board of Controlin 1937. A period of controversy surrounding the new public welfare programs culminated in Youngdahl's resignation in 1939. The records documenting this controversy form one of the richest parts of the Youngdahl papers.

Following his resignation, Youngdahl took a post as an associate professor of social work at Washington Universityin St. Louis, where he spent the remainder of his career in social work education. In 1943, he was appointed as a professor of social work. Following a year spent with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), he was appointed dean of the George Warren Brown School of Social Workin 1945. Youngdahl retired as dean in 1962, but continued to teach and remained active in social work. He died in 1970.

Throughout his career, Youngdahl was an active leader in many social work organizations, thus exercising a decisive influence on the profession of social work and social work education. From 1947 to 1948, he was president of the American Association of Schools of Social Work. Three years later, from 1951 to 1953, he became president of the American Association of Social Workers. In 1955, he was elected president of the National Conference of Social Work, later named the National Conference on Social Welfare.

Youngdahl published many speeches and articles on social work, a portion of which are in his papers. His honors include an LL.D. from Gustavus Adolphus Collegein 1954 and citations from Gustavus Adolphus Collegeand Washington Universityin 1960 and 1961, respectively. He was the recipient of the 1963 Florina Lasker Awardfor his concern for civil liberties.


11.5 Linear Feet (147 folders; 2 legal folders; 1 oversized container)


The collection contains the personal and professional papers of noted public welfare administrator and social work educator, Benjamin E. Youngdahl. Personal correspondents include Harry Truman, Adlai Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey, and John F. Kennedy. Materials documenting Youngdahl's career in the academic and public sectors form the bulk of the collection.


The collection has been arranged into six series. These follow the course of Youngdahl’s career, his own subject arrangement of the papers, and the inclusion of the supplemental materials. Within each series, most of the folders are arranged alphabetically. The series are:

  1. 1. Personal, Family, and General, 1916-1968.
  2. 2. Poems, 1920-1961.
  3. 3. Minnesota Era, 1933-1939.
  4. 4. Washington University, 1939-1968.
  5. 5. Organizations, 1939-1968.
  6. 6. Speeches, Notes, and Publications, 1919-1969.

Other Finding Aid

Unpublished inventory available. Please contact Archivist for more information.

Acquisition Information

Youngdahl gathered together the material for this collection from his papers in his office at Washington Universityand at his home. When the papers arrived at the Social Welfare History Archives in 1965, they filled eight Paige boxes and were arranged both in subject folders and miscellaneous folders.

The supplement to the collection was given to the Social Welfare History Archives in several installments from October, 1966 to November, 1969.

Related Materials

Kent B. YoungdahlPapers. Minnesota Historical Society. St. Paul, MN.

Louis H. TowleyPapers, Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries. Minneapolis, MN.

Youngdahl, Benjamin E. (1963). Social work in an agitated world… New Orleans: Tulane University School of Social WorkAlumni Organization.

Youngdahl, Benjamin E. (1966). Social action and social work. NY: Association Press.

Separated Material

The following items are being held in the Social Welfare History Archives Pamphlet Collection, but are identified as part of these papers. Please contact the Archivist to access the separated materials.

  1. Set of Minnesota state welfare publications, 1935-1961.
  2. Minnesota State Conference and Institute of Social Work, Proceedings, 1934-1936.
  3. Missouri Association for Social Welfare, Selected Papers Presented at State Conference, 1940.

Partial Subject Guide

The Partial Subject Guide is a locally constructed list of prominent topics, organizations and personalities in the papers. It uses natural language terms rather than Library of Congress Subject Headings. The guide is not comprehensive and does not include all subjects contained in the papers. Significant materials documenting Youngdahl’s main concerns, especially social work education, social work as a profession, and social action, are listed here. However, documents relating to these subjects can also be found elsewhere in the papers.

How to Use the Guide.The guide highlights significant subjects, particularly those that are documented across different folders and series. It identifies the folder(s) in which a particular subject is located. In order to request folders listed in the subject guide, patrons will need to obtain the number of the box where the folder is stored by using the Detailed Description section of the finding aid. The Detailed Description section lists all the boxes in the Youngdahl papers and shows the folders that are stored in each box. If needed, an archivist can provide assistance in determining the correct box number.

  1. “A Time for Burning” --Folders S2, S3
  2. Abele, Ralph --Folder S7
  3. Academic freedom --Folder 34
  4. Ad Hoc Committee on the Triple Revolution --Folder S25
  5. Addams, Jane, 1860-1935 --Folders 114, 116
  6. African Americans -- admission of --Folders 29, 57, 58, 114
  7. American Civil Liberties Union --Folders 29, 79, S1
  8. American Red Cross --Folders 29, 67
  9. Bruno, Frank John, 1874-1955 --Folders 25-27
  10. Child welfare --Folders 42, 83, 108, 110, 112, 114-116
  11. Civil rights --Folders 11, 25, 57, 58, 105, 111, 114, S4, S26
  12. Colcord, Joanna Carver, 1882-1960 --Folders 25-27
  13. Disarmament --Folder 102
  14. Elections -- United States (1952) --Folders 6, 25, 74
  15. Elections -- United States (1956) --Folder 7
  16. Elections -- United States (1960) --Folder 99
  17. Florina Lasker Award --Folder S10
  18. Gellhorn, Edna --Folders 3, 32
  19. George Warren Brown School of Social Work -- Folders S19-S26
  20. Great Depression --Folders 14-21, 117
  21. Gustavus Adolphus College --Folders S8, S13, S14
  22. Hobby, Oveta Culp, 1905 -- -Folders 25, 76
  23. Hoey, Jane --Folders 25, 34
  24. Humphrey, Hubert H. (Hubert Horatio), 1911-1978 --Folders 4, 9, 23, 24, S4
  25. Ickes, Jane D. (Mrs. Harold L.) --Folder S1
  26. Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963 -- Folders 9, 10, 11, 80, 99
  27. Lewis, Ruth --Folders S5, S6
  28. Metropolitan Church Federation, St. Louis -- Folder S7
  29. Mid-century White House Conference on Children and Youth (1950: Washington, D.C.) --Folders 108, 112, 115
  30. Old age --Folders 19, 65, 90, 116
  31. Poverty --Folders 14-21, 110, 118
  32. Public welfare --Folders 6, 8, 14-21, 25, 65, 67, 85, 99, 100, 111, 115, 117
  33. Public welfare -- law and legislation --Folders 12, 44, 100
  34. Public welfare -- Minnesota --Folder 20
  35. Relief --Folders 14-21
  36. Rural life and welfare --Folders 18, 110, 115, 118
  37. Social action --Folders 96, 102, 111, 115-117
  38. Social Action and Social Work -- Folder S12
  39. Social policy --Folder S25
  40. Social work administration --Folders S11, S23-S24
  41. Social work education --Folders 29, 37-44, 71, 72, 86, 87, 99, 111, 115 (see 22-70), S4, S10, S11, S13-S17, S19-S22, S23-S24, S25
  42. Social work -- nature and development --Folders 86, 110, 111, 113-116
  43. Social workers --Folder S25
  44. Social workers -- leadership --Folders 25, 29, 117
  45. Social workers -- professional ethics --Folders 44, 99, 100
  46. Stevenson, Adlai E. (Adlai Ewing), 1900-1965 -- Folders 6, 7, 10, 12, S4
  47. Temporary Inter-Association Council --Folders 76, 99, 102
  48. Towle, Charlotte --Folders 72, 73
  49. Towley, Louis --Folders 3, 17, 42, 67, 113 (see also Folders 14-70)
  50. Towley, Louis and Marie --Folders S11, S18, S19-S22
  51. Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972 --Folder 6
  52. United National Relief and Rehabilitation Administration --Folder S8
  53. W.E.B. Dubois Club --Folder S26
  54. White House Conference on Children and Youth (1960: Washington, D.C.) --Folder 108
  55. World war, 1939-1945 --Folders 110, 111
  56. Yasey, Wayne --Folders S19-S25
  57. Youngdahl, James (son) --Folders 4-5, S2-S3
  58. Youngdahl, Kent (son) --Folders 4-5, S2-S3
  59. Youngdahl, Livia (wife) --Folders S2-S3, S14
  60. Youngdahl, Luther W., 1896- (brother) --Folders 4-5, S2-S3
  61. Youngdahl, Mark (son) --Folders 4-5, S2-S3
  62. Youngdahl, Reuben K., 1911- (brother) --Folders 4-5, S2-S3
  63. Youngdahl, William (nephew) --Folders S2-S3

Processing and Finding Aid Information

The Youngdahl papers comprise two separate acquisitions that form two separate collections. The original, and chief, materials were received in 1965. A supplemental collection of materials was received in several installments from 1966 to 1969. Formerly, the two collections were described in two separate finding aids, making it necessary for patrons to consult multiple documents in order to obtain complete information on the Younhdahl papers. As part of a project to mount finding aids online, the archives has merged the information about the Youngdahl papers into one comprehensive finding aid. Information on the supplemental materials has been integrated into the container list for the papers. Folders of supplemental material are designated with an “S” preceding the folder number.

Benjamin E. Youngdahl Papers, 1916-1968
Jane S. Davis; Revised by Mary L. Ostling
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Social Welfare History Archives Collecting Area