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The University and the City
A Centennial View of the
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Camp Farr, University of Chicago Settlement League,

Camp Farr, University of Chicago Settlement League, brochure, 1943. The Settlement League sponsored annual summer outings in Indiana for children from the crowded Back of the Yards neighborhood.

 

Julius Rosenwald. Sophonisba P. Breckinridge, and Graham Taylor to the Trustees of the University of Chicago, August 4, 1920. The creation of the School of Social Service Administration was accomplished with the participation of Julius Rosenwald, University trustee and Chicago philanthropist.

The Urban Laboratory

Shaping Social Work
Taylor immediately reconstituted his courses under the auspices of the Chicago Commons and in 1908, with the aid of a grant from the Russell Sage Foundation, founded the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy, the nation's first full-time school of social work. Julia Lathrop, a Hull House resident, was recruited to direct training in social survey work, and Sophonisba Breckinridge, a political economist in the University's Department of Household Administration, was brought in as her assistant. Breckinridge was the first woman to complete a PhD in political science at the University and the first woman to receive a degree from its Law School. Soon thereafter, Edith Abbott, a Wellesley faculty member who held a University of Chicago doctorate in political economy, joined the staff of the Chicago School.

Although the Chicago School was successful in attracting students, Breckinridge grew frustrated with a curriculum that was limited to vocational training and sources of funding that were increasingly inadequate to meet the needs of the profession. Encouraged by Julius Rosenwald, a trustee of the Chicago School and a trustee and generous supporter of the University, Breckinridge in 1920 negotiated the basis for a merger of Taylor's school with the University. With Taylor's reluctant endorsement, the training curriculum reemerged under University auspices as the School of Social Service Administration (SSA), a graduate program providing education in social service techniques but emphasizing professional studies and a theoretical approach to social issues.

With Edith Abbott as dean, SSA strengthened existing ties within the Chicago social services community and developed new links. Attracted by the school's location and scholarship programs, between a fourth and a third of SSA's student body was drawn from the city of Chicago. Abbott promoted Chicago settings for field research and worked closely with agencies such as United Charities of Chicago in securing placement for graduating students. New specializations such as medical and psychiatric social work were the basis for programs and placements at the University of Chicago hospitals, Cook County Hospital, Children's Memorial Hospital, and other local medical institutions.

Abbott's integration of the SSA curriculum with the social needs of the Chicago community was maintained by her successors following her retirement in 1942. Fieldwork, theses, and monographs by SSA students and faculty continued to emphasize the importance of Chicago as a setting for social analysis and reform. In 1969, following a feasibility study of the need for a clinical field facility and supported by funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, SSA established the Woodlawn Social Services Center. Providing employment services, vocational rehabilitation, youth programs, and early childhood development counseling, the Woodlawn Center marked an effective interaction of academic studies with government policy and the life of a Chicago neighborhood.


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