Radical women in social work: A historical prespective from North America


  • Therese Jennissen school of social work Carleton University Ottawa
  • Colleen Lundy School of Social Work Carleton University




radical, women, social work


INTRODUCTION: Many challenges that confront social workers today are similar to problems they have faced over the past century – inequality, poverty, unemployment, militarisation and armed conflict, and the challenges of refugee resettlement, to name a few. It is instructive for contemporary social workers to revisit this history and to determine if there are lessons to inform our current struggles.

METHOD: This paper explores the issues faced and strategies employed by radical, politically active social workers, most of them women. These social workers had visions of social justice and were not afraid to challenge the status quo, often at very high personal costs. The radical social workers were expressly interested in social change that centred on social justice, women’s rights, anti-racism, international peace, and they worked in close alliance and solidarity with other progressive groups.

CONCLUSIONS: This article highlights the work of five radical female social workers. Radical social workers were in the minority but they were extraordinarily active and made important contributions in the face of formidable challenges.

Author Biographies

Therese Jennissen, school of social work Carleton University Ottawa

Associate Professor ,Social Work

Therese Jennissen teaches in the area of social poicy and social welfare/social work history. She has published on the impact of ecomomic transformation on women in Cuba and Russia.

Colleen Lundy, School of Social Work Carleton University

Colleen Lundy MSW, PhD is a social work Professor Emeritus at Carleton University, Ottawa Canada. She has taught and published on social work and its engagement with the welfare state and has contributed internationally in this area. She a co-author (with Therese Jennissen) of One Hundred Years of Social Work: A History of the Profession in English Canada 1900-2000 (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier Press, 2011), the first complete history of social work in Canada. The book is based on extensive archival work, secondary literature and oral interviews. She has been involved in a number of international research initiatives that examine social policy and assist in the development of a social welfare state. For four years she was the Academic Director of the Centre for International Migration and Settlement Studies at Carleton and has published in the area.


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How to Cite

Jennissen, T., & Lundy, C. (2018). Radical women in social work: A historical prespective from North America. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 30(3), 45–56. https://doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol30iss3id478



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