The Social Welfare History Project is a nonprofit project designed to inform the public about the history of American social welfare. The site was designed and developed by John E. Hansan, Ph.D. A Scholar’s Advisory Committee composed of distinguished social welfare historians and scholars (see below) was recruited to assist Dr. Hansan. There are also a number of contributors who have volunteered articles and recollections that are posted on the site (see list below).
The technological sophistication of the Internet and the World Wide Web offer a unique set of tools with which to identify, collect, integrate, and attractively display the rich and vibrant complexity represented by our nation’s social welfare policies and programs and how they touch the lives of all Americans. Internet technology affords the opportunity to examine the overall historical context of an issue or an event from multiple perspectives and to present it in a way that is both accessible and engaging to the public. While designed for the general public the Web site also include links to pertinent archives, libraries, scholarly Web sites, and other sources of reliable information about a particular historical subject, event or personage students or historians may want to pursue. The major components (tabs) of the Web site include People, Events, Organizations, Programs, Eras and Recollections.
Social welfare lacks the prominence given to other sectors of our society like economics, science, politics, education, and medicine, each of which is the subject of intensive historical study and analysis. Part of the reason for this may be the fact that social welfare does not have a clear and distinct history; nor does it have any large natural constituencies championing its study or promotion. Our nation’s social welfare programs have evolved and taken shape largely as a result of economic, political, cultural and religious forces that have interacted, sometimes violently, over 350 years. The absence of a more rigorous study of American social welfare may also be attributed to the fact the myriad personal, social and economic conditions that concern social welfare workers and public and nonprofit social welfare organizations are matters that the more favored parts of the population may not want to think about until they are confronted with a social or economic condition over which they have little or no control, e.g., Hurricane Katrina, plant closings, the birth of a disabled child, or the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in a loved one.
This Web site is intended to reflect not just historical glory and greatness but also the omissions or commissions of hurt, (such as discrimination toward women and minorities, stigmatizing treatment of persons with physical and mental disabilities, etc. The contents of the Web site are expected to grow and expand over time; and, it is our goal that it will include a balanced perspective, including the conflicts, tensions and shortcomings that are a significant part of American social welfare history.
Individuals and organizations interested in contributing entries to the Web site are urged to e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.