Harry Hopkins – Pioneers of Social Work (part 2)

After the First World War, and on retuning to New York in 1921, as the director of the New York Tuberculosis Association, Hopkins became a nationally recognized social work administrator (Kurzman, 1974). Later, he was appointed president of American Association of Social Workers after successfully helping the association to plan a charity contract (Sherwood, 1948). During his tenure as president, he helped in solving the problems of unemployment, child welfare and improving the working conditions of many workers by negotiating with their employers. Through his personal efforts and the help he received from a group of his youthful assistants, he ensured the civil works administration was successful. He succeeded in ensuring the employment of many citizens, thus, benefiting the individuals and their dependents.

Hopkins’ excellent thinking and wit earned him great respect among influential people; as a result, he was named director of Temporary Emergency Relief Administration (TERA). His exemplary and efficient performance as TERA’s executive director attracted the attention of President Franklin Roosevelt, who appointed him as the president of the agency in 1932 (Sherwood, 1948). This led to growth of a long relationship between Hopkins and President Roosevelt’s family, a development that boosted his role in relief programs. Harry Hopkins spent most of his remaining life advocating for the poor and needy people. He lobbied for employment of millions of people and created many programs for the youth, artists and writers. He worked together with Eleanor Roosevelt in addressing various social problems affecting the citizens.

The life and activities of pioneers of social work depict the core mission of social work, to ensure justice to disadvantaged groups or those discriminated against in society. One such pioneer was Harry Hopkins, whose life and accomplishments were the subject of this paper. With his early work in a social settlement afflicted by poverty, Hopkins’ became oriented towards a career in social work. Subsequently, his social work activities span through his engagements in Red Cross during the First World War, to his advocacy of the needs of the poor and needy in his long-term good relationship with President Roosevelt. Outstanding among his achievements, was his successful lobbying for employment of a large group of citizens, which benefited the individuals and their households, thus bettering the status of living in that society.


Hopkins, J. (1999). Sudden Hero, Brash Reformer. New York City: St. Martin’s Press.

Jacobson, W.B. (2001). Beyond therapy: bringing social work back to human services reform. Social Work, 46(1), 51-61.

Kurzman, P. A. (1974). Harry Hopkins and the New Deal.  Fair Lawn, New Jersey: R. E. Burdick Inc. Publishers.

McJimsey, G. (1987). Harry Hopkins: Ally of the Poor, Defender of Democracy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Sherwood, R. (1948). Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History. New York: Random House.

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