A month after NASW was formed on Oct. 1 , 1955, the association launched a newspaper to serve as “the first official printed communication to the entire family.”
The first issue of NASW News in November 1955 outlines its purpose, which continues today. The following excerpt from the first issue was written by Joseph P. Anderson, NASW’s first executive director.
This first issue of the NASW News represents a significant milestone for the social work profession. It has as its purpose to keep the membership informed about organizational and program developments within NASW, and important happenings in the wider social work community which are of interest to the professional social worker. It was planned as one of the important services which NASW will provide to the members.
Our hope is that the News will provide the means for our talking to each other about the significant events in our professional lives — the big ones and the small ones. We intend to share with you the things that are happening here and in the organization throughout the country. We’ll publish interesting information we receive about chapters, committees, institutes, conferences, and special projects. We hope to bring to your attention useful publications and new resource material. We want to report on people, too, their important assignments and awards; in short, everything that is newsworthy.
With the establishment of NASW, the social work profession is entering an important and exciting period in its history. It is the profound hope of the officers, board of directors, and the national staff that the NASW News can serve as an important means of communication for the total membership as we begin our task of building a strong, unified professional membership association
Following are some of the important events the NASW News has covered over the past six decades.
The NASW News highlighted the many ways social workers and the association took charge in promoting President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty initiative during this decade. But many historians mark the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 as a pivotal turning point.
The News noted that NASW leaders and members from the national office, the New York City Chapter and beyond were among the hundreds of thousands of attendees at the march.
“Our members were thrilled that a social worker, and NASW member, Whitney Young Jr., (who later became NASW president) was one of the principle speakers at the March,” the News stated.
A chapter statement was brought to the event and widely publicized, the News reported. It said, “The social worker’s responsibility is the understanding of human problems... He understands the effects of repression, prejudice and discrimination on the individual, the family and the community...”
It called upon “community leaders who serve on boards of welfare and health agencies and who understand the consequences of discrimination to lend their names and hearts to the cause of the equality of all our citizens.”
Throughout the 1970s, consistent headlines in the NASW News showcased how the association and its members fought against funding cuts to safety net programs and mental health support systems.
This period also marked the advancement of women’s rights and the push to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, which sought to guarantee equal rights for women in the U.S. Constitution.
The cover of the September 1978 News captured NASW leaders and other social workers carrying the NASW banner in a Capitol Hill march to support the extension of the deadline for ratification of the ERA. In an earlier issue that same year, the News showcased NASW members who attended the National Women’s Conference. Members told the newspaper that they felt like they were “taking part in the making of history.”
This decade brought about a period of conservative leadership in Washington, but it also marked the rise of a new disease, HIV/AIDS, that was targeting minority populations.
The scramble to maintain the spread of the disease at the time had U.S. health leaders calling for a broad testing of the general population, according to the NASW News in 1987.
It noted NASW opposed mandatory testing programs but praised the idea of AIDS-related counseling services in its list of recommendations to the U.S. surgeon general.
NASW Executive Director Mark G. Battle was highlighted in the News saying, “We know that no testing, mandatory or voluntary, can be fully effective without proper counseling.”
He also urged social workers to protect the civil rights of affected groups.
“A disproportionately high percentage of those suffering from AIDS have been black, Hispanic, or Asian,” Battle told the News. “Although the disease has been diagnosed in women and children, 70 percent of the afflicted have been gay or bisexual men. If the fears of these individuals are not dealt with effectively, compassionately, they may unnecessarily delay a decision to seek medical care.”
The Berlin Wall was a barrier set up in 1961, separating Berlin into east and west. It was a Cold War symbol dividing not only East and West Germany, but also Eastern and Western Europe.
The collapse of the Berlin Wall began in 1989, as a result of mass protest. Following in 1990, democratic changes swept through Eastern Europe as new possibilities for social work education and practice developed, according to an NASW News article in June 1990.
The profession took a role in resettling new arrivals to the West, starting social work education in East European countries and helping the populace adjust to unprecedented economic and social changes, according to several European social workers who were contacted by NASW News during that time.
“The whole set-up of the social services (in East Germany) is in turmoil,” said Reinhart Wolff, then dean at the Berlin School of Social Work. “Conceptually and practically, everything seems to be possible.”
He added that although the old structures still existed, nothing had remained the same since the Berlin Wall came down.
“Educators in the free day-care system question their educational practice,” he said. “Residential and foster-home people look to the West for new initiatives. Child welfare and family-support professionals start from scratch.”
Sept. 11, 2001 — or 9/11 — is an unforgettable date in American history. Islamist terrorist group al-Qaeda hijacked four planes that day. Two of the planes crashed into the north and south towers of the World Trade Center in New York City; another plane crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.; and a fourth plane, believed to be heading toward the White House, was deterred and crashed in Shanksville, Pa. About 3,000 people died as a result of the attacks.
By Sept. 13, NASW’s national office in Washington, D.C., and its chapters around the country began organizing the social work profession to best help in the national crisis, according to an NASW News October 2001 article.
Thousands of members contacted the association in the aftermath of the attacks, hoping to volunteer for crisis or trauma counseling or to find other ways to offer comfort to those emotionally and physically devastated by the attacks on New York City and the Pentagon, and the airplane crash in Pennsylvania.
An NASW News article in November 2001 says one of the first acts of NASW-New York City after 9/11 was to contact the Oklahoma Chapter to gain insight into problems the city might expect in its social services delivery systems; how to best use chapter resources to help; what New Yorkers might expect in the way of emotional and mental health problems in the short and long term; and how to prepare practitioners for the challenges they would face.
Six and a half years before 9/11, Oklahoma City’s peace was shattered by a domestic terrorist’s bomb in April 1995 that ripped apart the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people and injuring 490.
The NASW News reported in a July 2012 article that marriage equality in the U.S. had enjoyed several milestones so far that year, and NASW was active in many of these efforts. Some of the milestones included a federal appeals court in San Francisco declining to reconsider a ruling striking down Proposition 8 — California’s ban on same-sex marriage; the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) being struck down as unconstitutional in a ruling by the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Massachusetts v. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services; and President Barack Obama announcing his personal support of same-sex marriage.
“Gay, lesbian and bisexual people have the same hopes, dreams, desires and wants for family, just as any other person in our wonderful country,” NASW national board member Josephine P. Tittsworth said in the article.
Tittsworth also was chairwoman of the NASW National Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues.
“We, as a committee, will continue to look at the NASW programs, policies and practices to ensure that equality will remain in the forefront of our conversations,” she said.