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American Public Welfare Association records

Identifier: SW 54

Scope and Content

The American Public Welfare Association's records offer researchers material regarding public welfare officials' collective efforts to improve themselves and the legislation they must administer. Even though the collection dates from 1930-1970, most of the material hails from the 1950s-1960s.

The collection consists of minutes, correspondence, memoranda, reports, publications, speeches, statements and news clippings generated or collected by APWA.

The collection is organized into three series: Administration, Activities and Reference. The Administration series includes minutes of board of directors and committee meetings plus supporting documentation in addition to the proceedings of conferences and seminars. If the Administration series is considered the records from "inside" the organization, then the Activities series can be thought of as the records generated as a result of APWA's efforts that extended into the "outside" world: legislative activities, publications and other projects. The Reference series includes misc. information and speeches that do not directly relate to APWA's work. APWA's publications and directories are filed in the Social Welfare History Archives' ephemera collection.

The collection has several strengths, chief among them the legislative files. Although APWA headquarters were in Chicago between 1932-1974, the organization maintained a Washington D.C. office staffed by a representative who followed legislation of interest to APWA and occasionally spoke on behalf of the organization. Elizabeth Wickenden served as legislative representative until 1951, when she was succeeded by Marie Lane. Harold Hagen succeeded Lane in 1963.

The legislative files provide a picture of the breadth of APWA's legislative interests: particularly the development of Social Security legislation between 1950-1962. Correspondence between APWA's Executive Director Loula Dunn, Washington representatives Wickenden and Lane, and members of Congress and various public officials provide insight into the APWA's efforts and positions on behalf of Social Security.

Other legislative topics that are well documented are health and medical assistance bills, intergovernmental relations, juvenile delinquency, migratory labor, and reciprocal support of dependents.

APWA's efforts to educate its members while giving public officials a chance to convene and compare experiences are well documented in the conferences and seminars sub-series. Most of the papers that were delivered at APWA regional and national conventions between 1953-1961 are included, and these speeches provide an idea of public welfare workers' concerns and interests over time.

In addition to the legislative files and the papers of conferences and seminars, APWA's efforts in the fields of medical care, Aid to Dependent Children, and aging are documented. Additionally, APWA closely followed the controversial public assistance plan of Newburgh, NY. The researcher can follow this controversy through correspondence, newspaper and magazine articles, public statements, and press releases.

With the exception of the board of director's minutes dating from 1930-1963, the collection is weak in documenting APWA's internal administration. No financial, legal, or personal records are included. Committee records are scant.

Besides staff members Executive Director Loula Dunn, Elizabeth Wickenden, Marie Lane, Harold Hagen, Pearl Bierman, medical care consultant; and Guy Justis, the executive director who succeeded Dunn; the collection contains a variety of material from federal, state and local public officials. They include Katharine Lenroot, Wilbur Cohen, Oveta Culp Hobby, William Mitchell, Katherine Oettinger, Raymond Houston, Val M. Keating, Robert Lansdale, Norman Lourie, Agnes Meyer, Harry O. Page, Jay L. Roney, Charles Schottland, John Tramburg and Ellen Winston. Little information regarding former APWA Executive Directors Frank Band (1931-1936), Fred Hoehler (1936-1943) and Howard Russell (1943-1949) is included.


  • 1930-1970

Language of Materials


Use of Materials

Open for use in Social Welfare History Archives reading room.


Copyright has been retained by the American Public Welfare Association.


A group of public welfare officials attending the 1929 National Conference of Social Work (NCSW) in San Francisco agreed there was a need for an independent professional organization of their own. The group voted to organize such an association at the 1930 NCSW meeting. The American Association of Public Welfare Officials, organized June 12, 1930, in Boston, was the result.

Association founders agreed initially to limit their membership to state public welfare officials and, as the board minutes of June 12, 1930 expressed it, "that the object of the Association should be to make these officials acquainted and bring about a good exchange of information." Later, membership in the association was opened to professional staff members of public agencies at the federal, state, and local levels. Among the first areas of concern were "interstate problems and to promote reciprocity in the transfer of cases to their proper places of residence and to bring about as large a degree of universal legislation as possible in regard to settlement laws," (June 12, 1930 board minutes).

A grant from The Rockefeller Foundation's Spelman Fund enabled the association to hire, in 1931 , its first administrator, Frank Bane, formerly commissioner of the Virginia State Department of Public Welfare. The association grew rapidly, from the initial 151 persons to nearly 1,000 members two years later. In May 1932, the association changed its name to the American Public Welfare Association. (APWA)

One of APWA's earliest activities was promoting passage of the Social Security legislation in 1935. Indeed, Social Security has been one of the organization's long-time interests. APWA faithfully monitored Congressional action on the amendments of the 1950s and 1960s. Among APWA's other legislative interests have been aging, medical care, and Aid to Dependent Children.

APWA also organized annual regional conferences and biennial national conferences, remembering the association's original goal of giving officials a chance for "good exchange of information." Executive Development Seminars were offered in the 1960s to give officials a chance to improve their managerial skills.

For more detailed historical information, the researcher should consult the article regarding the American Public Welfare Association in Social Service Organizations, Peter Romanofsky and Clarke A. Chambers, editors, pp. 131-138. Additionally, Narayan Viswanathan's "The Role of the American Public Welfare Policies in the United States: 1930-1960" (Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University School of Social Work, 1961), offers more detail. To mark APWA's 50th anniversary, the American Public Welfare Association's journal Public Welfare(vol. 38, #1, Winter 1980) contains historical material. (See folder 1:1).


19 Linear Feet (45 manuscript boxes)


The collection consists of minutes, correspondence, memoranda, reports, publications, speeches, statements, and news clippings generated or collected by the American Public Welfare Association. APWA, founded in 1930 as the American Association of Public Welfare Officials, is a professional organization for staff members of public agencies and others interested in public welfare. APWA studies and distributes information regarding legislation and also offers its members professional development opportunities. The collection is particularly strong in documenting the development of Social Security legislation during the 1950s in addition to such other legislative concerns of the 1950s and 1960s as juvenile delinquency, intergovernmental relations, and Aid to Dependent Children.


The collection is arranged in three series:

  1. Administration
  2. Activities
  3. Reference

Other Finding Aid

Unpublished inventory available. Please contact Archives for more information.

Acquisition Information

The collection was a gift from the American Public Welfare Association, received between 1967 and 1973. Copies of the minutes of board of director's meetings were made in 1982.

Related Collection

Related collections include the papers of Fred K. Hoehler (SWB H671) who was APWA executive director from 1936 to 1943, the Loula Dunn collection (SW 48), and the Leroy Halbert papers (SW 26).

Separated Material

Pamphlets, books, and ephemeral material from the following organiziations have been removed to the pamphlet collection.

  1. Ad-hoc Committee for a Guaranteed Income (GAIN)
  1. American Association for Social Security, Inc.
  1. American Association of Social Workers
  2. American Council for the Community
  3. American Council on Education
  4. American Enterprise Association
  5. American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations [AFL-CIO]
  6. American Institute of Actuaries
  7. The American Magazine
  8. American Medical Association
  9. American Nurses Association
  10. American Orthopsychiatric Association
  11. American Parents Committee, Inc.
  12. American Public Welfare Association
  13. California Institute of Social Welfare
  14. Canadian Welfare Council
  15. Chamber of Commerce of the United States
  16. Chicago Jewish Forum
  17. Columbia University
  18. Commerce Clearing House, Inc.
  19. Committee for the Nation's Health
  20. Commonwealth Club of California
  21. Community Research Associates, Inc.
  22. The Council of State Governments
  23. Council on Social Work Education
  24. Editorial Research Reports
  25. Howard University
  26. International Social Service
  27. Labor Press Association, Inc.
  28. Massachusetts Committee on Children and Youth
  29. National Association for Mental Health
  30. National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials
  31. National Association of Manufacturers
  32. National Association of Social Workers
  33. National Committee on Employment of Youth
  34. National Conference on Social Welfare
  35. National Consumers League
  36. National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.
  37. National Council of Jewish Women
  38. National Social Welfare Assembly, Inc.
  39. Nevada Taxpayers Association
  40. New England Free Press
  41. Ohio Chamber of Commerce
  42. Pennsylvania Citizens Association for Health and Welfare
  43. Public Affairs Committee, Inc.
  44. Shearon Legislative Service
  45. Social Legislation Information Service, Inc.
  46. Survey Associates, Inc., The
  47. Tax Foundation, Inc., The
  48. United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization [UNESCO]
  49. United Way [Community Chests and Councils of America]
  50. University of British Columbia, School of Social Work
  51. University of Buffalo
  52. University of California, Berkeley
  53. University of Chicago
  54. University of Southern California
  55. University of Wisconsin
  56. Woman's Foundation, The
  57. Yeshiva University
  58. YWCA

Material Removed From Collection

A number of pamphlets, books and ephemeral material that was published by a variety of social service organizations has been moved to the pamphlet collection. A list of these organizations may be found following the Detailed Description of the Collection.

Processing Information

The collection was processed in 1981-1982 with financial assistance from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

American Public Welfare Association records
Susan D. Steinwall
September 1982
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Social Welfare History Archives Collecting Area