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Studies in Midwestern History

Document Type

Article

Abstract

Social work in the Progressive Era was influenced by two contradictory visions of the profession. One called for an empathetic connection between the social worker and the poor that could transform both. The other focused on the dangers the poor posed to middle-class values and sought to use new knowledge in the social and natural sciences to control and protect society from the poor. The case of Frances Cochran, a young Cincinnati social worker from 1912-1916, first at the House of Refuge and then the Juvenile Protective Association, exemplifies the tensions between the two visions of the profession and shows how turning to one could provide psychic security from the other. Cochran hoped initially to connect with young delinquents, but she found it impossible to overcome her class prejudice and ended her career more happily distanced from the poor as she gathered data for studies of Cincinnati’s social problems.

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