This dissertation examines the trajectories of Austrian and German Jewish women refugees who established careers in American social work. It traces their lives and careers from ambitious and idealistic young women to their new beginnings in the unfamiliar professional landscape of the United States, and the interwoven, at times conflict-laden, dynamics of their ongoing development within their profession into the last quarter of the twentieth century. I argue that educated, political, Jewish emigre women created productive careers in American social work that enabled them to maintain their identities as intellectuals, emancipated, and activist women dedicated to social reform, albeit in modified ways. While social work as a typical female profession provided the opportunity for empowerment and success for emigre women, the social forces that structured gender relations in larger society reached into the presumed female domain and curtailed the women's options. Focusing on Elsa Leichter, Gerda L. Schulman, Gisela Konopka, Etta Saloshin, and Anne Fischer as major protagonists, this study illustrates various paths that exiles from war-torn Europe were able to pursue in the social work profession ranging from a caseworker in Richmond, Virginia, to innovators in family and group therapy at a large agency in New York City, to a highly decorated and internationally respected professor of social work at the University of Minnesota. Drawing on the historiographies of intellectual migration and exile, gender and science, as well as the history of the social sciences, the dissertation combines a transnational and comparative perspective with group biography to provide an inclusive account of the emigres' lives, careers, and migration paths, as well as the different contexts and circumstances they encountered. This study proposes to include peripheral actors and those in related applied fields instead of restricting the understanding of the social sciences to their purely academic realms in order to arrive at a more nuanced recognition of the complex forces and processes that shaped academia, the applied professions, and the population they served.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. April 2015. Major: History of Science, Technology, and Medicine. Advisors: Sally Gregory Kohlstedt, Susan Jones. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 270 pages.
A Second Chance in Exile? German-Speaking Women Refugees in American Social Work After 1933.
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