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Swoboda, Marian J.; Roberts, Audrey J. / They came to learn, they came to teach, they came to stay

Wood, Vivian
Chapter 11: Helen Clarke and social work,   pp. 67-71 ff.

Page 68

After the two-year demonstration, Clarke was hired as an instructor. She
taught undergraduate courses, found field placements in such places as the
Family Service Agency, the Y, and the settlement house, and supervised the
undergraduate students placed there. She had about fifteen students in case-
work and approximately fifteen in group work. In 1977, there were 360
undergraduate majors in social work, 280 working for M.S.S.W. degrees and
40 for Ph.D. degrees in social welfare.
Clarke came to Madison with a B.A. degree in English from Smith Col-
lege. She took a one-year leave of absence to get her master's degree in
social work from the University of Chicago in 1926 and took an additional
year at the State School for Dependent Children where she started a foster
child placement service. At Chicago, she was influenced by two pioneer social
work educators, Edith Abbott and Sophonisba P. Breckinridge, both of whom
were lawyers, and by sociologists Robert E. Park and Ernest W. Burgess. She
did her thesis with Burgess - an ecological study entitled "Uniform
Areas for
City-Wide Agencies."
Her approach to social work education was also influenced by her ex-
perience with settlement houses, Clarke explains. Her first job was with
nry Street Settlement in New York City where her mentor was Lillian Wald,
founder of the Henry Street Settlement and a pioneer in settlement work.
"Ms. Wald had an enormous talent for getting the wealthy interested
in ghet-
to conditions," Clarke remembers. "She had a vivid and forthright
way of
getting people to see the labor conditions of the day - the plight of im-
migrants  the poor living in tenements." The social settlement movement
emphasized citizen responsibility for dealing with these problems.
Clarke came to the University of Wisconsin in the heyday of John R.
Commons, Edwin Witte and Selig Perlman. The fledgling science of sociology
definitely took a backseat to the prestigious discipline of economics. Under-
graduate social work education in the recently formed Department of
Sociology had little prestige at a growing university already feeling its
ness - a greatness based on research and graduate education.
But there was increasing pressure from the Wisconsin Department of
Public Welfare to develop social work education. Clarke was a member of the
LaFollette Committee, which was set up to study the welfare system in
Wisconsin. This was during the Depression when the social work faculty (still
a part of the sociology department) developed institutes to train relief
istrators to run the New Deal programs designed to deal with the Depression.
Clarke remembers the training institutes as one of the major contributions
and her colleagues made to the social welfare field. A number of the students
who took these courses became prominent social workers in the state welfare
department and nationally.
During the 1930s, Clarke went to Dean George Sellery and asked what
the place of a woman without a Ph.D. was in the university. The Ph.D. is
credential, but not essential; the thing to do is to write, every teacher
write, she reports him as saying. And write she did. Her first major work,
Social Legislation, which resulted from the influence of Abbott and
Breckinridge, was published in 1940 by the D. Appleton-Century Company. It
was well received, and a second edition was issued in 1957.
John R. Commons, by then an emeritus professor, wrote of Clarke in the
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