Thursday, March 17, 2011

SD Social Work Pioneer: Women's History Month

(Works Progress Administration: unemployed shown at volunteers of America Soup Kitchen in Washington, D.C., 1936. (27-0637a.gif))

I never knew Fern Chamberlain, but her recent passing at age 99 put her in local headlines. From articles, I learned that Chamberlain worked tirelessly for the voiceless as a South Dakota pioneer in social work.

A local Jane Addams, Chamberlain was the first South Dakotan to earn the equivalent of today's master's of social work. She started what is now the Helpline and helped establish the city's Food Pantry. As Chief of Research and Statistics for the SD Department of Welfare from 1937 to 1966, she learned the state of the state's needy. She later advocated for them by scouring legislative bills and alerting others about potential ill consequences for the state's poor.

(photo by Michal Maňas, Lady Justice, statue at court building in at třída Svobody street Olomouc, Czech Republic,

According to news stories, Chamberlain was discouraged because poverty continued. Others consider her a mentor and have picked up Fern's torch, keeping the fire burning against poverty and homelessness. Thanks for the spark, Fern.

Sister, can you spare a dime?

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