What You Might Not Know but Need to Know About Sophonisba Breckinridge – Allie Dashow

Who is Sophonisba Breckenridge you might ask? Well, I’m here to tell you!

She was a “social work educator and a prominent member of the “woman’s world” of social work” back in the late 1800’s and early/middle 1900’s who exhibited what a leader really is (Jabour, A., 2012). She spread her own definition of social work, taught her students how to execute research and policy, and promoted the idea of women as leaders in the social work profession.

How did Breckenridge become such a prominent well-known successful figure? Listen up cause I will give you the inside scoop!

As we all know, in any day and age, connections can be essential for a successful future career in any field.  Through forming close relationships with other women such as women mentors, female friends, and feminist colleagues, Breckenridge utilized her resources and full potential to bring about reform and make a name for herself. You would be surprised at her laundry list of accomplishments:

  • Helped establish the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration
  • Became a social work professor
  • Was an author
  • Founding editor of the Social Service Review
  • President of the American Association of Schools of Social Work
  • Was involved in many types of reform: legal aid for immigrants, civil rights for blacks, protective legislation for women workers, and juvenile courts for youths
  • Represented the U.S. at the Pan-American Conference
  • Was on the advisory committee for the Social Security Act

Why is she so important?

For one, she was part of an “international group of social justice reformers who were dedicated to promoting international cooperation and world peace” (Jabour, A., 2012). Additionally, she accomplished major reform in so many different areas. While many believed that professionalization of social work and commitment to social reform could not go together, SHE proved them wrong.

She is a great example of how “personal, professional, and political relationships with other women” can significantly help drive one’s career. Without her old dear friend Marion Talbot, her mentor and colleague, along with her student Edith Abbott, her life might have been drastically different. Talbot was the one who convinced Breckenridge to go to graduate school. Not only that, she helped pay for her education (We all need a friend like that!). In turn, Breckenridge helped her former student Abbott seek employment after graduation. We can even see how she carried on her love and support for other women through her “close faculty-student interaction” (Jabour, A., 2012). She helped created the connection between social reform and research and furthermore helped train and fund other women social work leaders. It’s important to note that while many other social workers at the time engaged in racism, she did the exact opposite and helped African Americans obtain education and opportunities. Overall, Breckenridge played a significant role in the history of social work and deserves recognition.

Jabour, A. (2012). Relationship and Leadership: Sophonisba Breckinridge and Women in Social Work. Journal of Women and Social Work, 27(1), 22-37. Retrieved February 4, 2016.


10 Things the Public Does Not Know About Social Work! – Allie Dashow

  1. Many people believe that social work mainly revolves around psychotherapy and counseling…but I am here to tell you that that is not the case! Social workers “help people help themselves” in a plethora of ways (Vassello, J.D., 2016). While psychotherapy is one aspect of social work, this profession also includes: participating in legislative processes, investigating child abuse, advocating for patients, referring clients to outside resources for financial assistance, legal aid, housing, and education (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 4).  (Fanning, J., n.d.).

help help a brotha out

2. There is a strong tie between social work and altruism, the idea that people selflessly want to help others. Social workers have an “altruistic impulse” to help others in need with whatever problems they may be having (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 4).

3. You may not have known that the Social Work profession consists of two main groups: micro-level work and macro-level work. Micro-level refers to interacting with clients directly face-to-face. On the other hand, macro-level refers to advocating for one’s clients to achieve some goal (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 10).

4. Jane Addams was a social work pioneer who opened the Hull House, a community settlement house that offered “social services and community development programs to neighborhood residents” (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 6). In addition Addams paid for all the expenses herself. If she could do that, then there’s no excuse when it comes time for you take on a challenge.

5. On average, about 4/5 of social work majors are in fact women (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 18).

6. Social justice, a common term used in the social work profession, means that everyone, no matter their race, gender, etc., should have the same basic rights, opportunities, and benefits (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 10).

7. You should know that the social work major explores social work values and ethics, human diversity, social and economic justice, populations at risk, human behavior and the social environment, social welfare policies and services, social work practice, research, and field education (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 15).

8. On average, social workers make about $33,150 for child, family, and school social workers (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 24).

9. Social work has a trans-disciplinary approach in that it utilizes theories from different disciplines including psychology, sociology, political science, and education (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 30).

10. Essentially what I am trying to say is that social work is “an honorable way to earn a living by helping others, an exciting field of practice…, and a way to make a difference that counts (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 27). And remember…

there are solutions...even to the hardest problems:


DiNitto, D., & McNeece, C. (2008). Social work: Issues and opportunities in a
          challenging profession (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books
Fanning, J. (n.d.). Understanding the Role of a Social Worker. Retrieved January 28, 2016,             from http://mswonlineprograms.org/job-duties-and-responsibilities-of-social-workers/