Miller Center

Andrew Morris

History, University of Virginia

Charity, Therapy, and Poverty: Private Social Service in the Era of Public Welfare

Morris photo

Andrew Morris is Associate Professor of History at Union College.

Morris teaches 20th century American political history. 

Morris's dissertation examined how voluntary social welfare agencies came to terms with the expansion of the public welfare state from the 1930s through the 1960s. By examining a group of private family welfare agencies, Morris traced how these charities reinvented themselves from dispensers of material aid in the 1910s and 1920s to providers of therapeutic counseling services in the 1940s and 1950s. The Depression and World War II proved key turning points, demonstrating to private agencies the need for a relatively strong public welfare state to meet the basic needs of the poor, as well as the need for such agencies to clearly distinguish themselves both from their charitable past and from public welfare entities. By embracing a variety of counseling techniques rooted in the psychological training of their professional social workers, private family agencies helped build a therapeutic culture in the postwar United States, and decisively influenced the adoption of rehabilitative social work as an element of welfare reform in the early 1960s.

Fellowship year: 2002

Mentor: Alice O'Connor, University of California, Santa Barbara

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