The noble profession of a social worker was pioneered by Jane Addams, the author of The Long Road of Woman’s Memory. She, alongside other like-minded individuals, saw the need to improve the welfare of society through enhancing an individual’s wellbeing, in the process of empowering them to meet their basic human needs. The Long Road of Woman’s Memory is just one of Jane Addams’ books that sketch the beginning of her social work endeavors. This essay, consulting the text above and other sources, interrogate Jane Addams’ contribution to the social work’s ethical and professional behavior as well as analyzes how she was engaged in diversity and difference practices to advance human rights and social justice. Analysis indicates that through designing the ethical principles for social settlements, Jane Addams did not just contribute to but pioneered the social work practice as it is known today.
Jane Addams was one of the prominent reformers during the Progressive Era and is regarded by many as the pioneer of the social work profession (Pawar & Cox, 2010). One of her major contributions to professional behavior was the redefinition of moral goodness. Before her launching of social work, the individuals at the time sought to address the social ills such as diseases and social marginalization through individual efforts that often proved futile. Jane Addams introduced a systemic way of addressing social problems that involved changing the mindset of society as opposed to an individual (Addams, 1916). The ideological shift was from individual to social morality (Addams, 1916). Jane Addams encouraged the community members to exact the change they wanted to witness in society, and she led by example.
Contribution to Ethical and Professional Behavior
Crucially, Jane Addams developed three ethical principles that provide the grounding for the current social workers’ ethical and professional behavior directions as they exist in the NASW Code of Ethics. The social work values, ethical principles, and other guidelines were derived from these principles and have continuously been refined as times and societal contexts changed (Simon, 1997). The first principle was to teach by example. To date, social workers affect change in the community through providing service to others, in the process demonstrating how community members ought to empower one another. The second established ethical principle was to practice cooperation (Addams, 1916). Nowadays, this principle provides grounding for social work practice where social workers are expected to form extensive human relationships (Pawar & Cox, 2010). The relationships formed to enable social workers to adopt a holistic approach towards promoting individual well-being and other forms of social change. Her third principle that made an enormous contribution to the social work profession is to practice social democracy. Jane Addams professed that no person should be given preference over the other based on perceived superiority attached to race, social class, economic standing, age and immigration statuses among others (Simon, 1997). The professional values of social justice, dignity, and worth of a person and integrity all stem from the egalitarian principle advanced by Jane Addams. Her contribution to ascertaining the equality of the value of human lives cannot be overstated.
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Engaging Diversity and Difference in Practice
Analyzing the life of Jane Addams shows that she was a major proponent of social justice and that she extensively engaged diversity and promoted the difference in social work practice. According to Pawar and Cox (2010), an exceptional social worker should promote diversity by accepting the differences subsisting in the community. While the social worker should appreciate social diversity on race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, marital status, political belief, residency status, and mental or physical disability, they should not be used as a basis for discrimination (Addams, 1916). It is the duty of the social worker to promote inclusiveness. Jane Addams engaged diversity by providing a space through which the different members of the society could interact and share their difference. Jane Addams refurbished Hull House, which then became a research facility and an art space among others (Addams, 1916). The Hull provided the space where unexpected cultural connections could take place and where the differences in social standing could be addressed and accommodated. Through providing an opportunity and space for diverse people to meet, Jane Addams reinvigorated cultures providing social services such as housing, medical services, and mental health support among others (Simon, 1997). Jane Addams, therefore, in that sense, extensively shaped the rooting of social work practices on social diversity and appreciation of cultural differences. Today, a social worker who engages social diversity is expected to treat his clients with respect and, in no instance, condone, facilitate or collaborate with any form of discrimination (Reamer, 2013).
Advancing Human Rights and Social Justice
During the late 19th century and the early 20th century, there was immense perpetration of social injustice. The power distance between the men and women was leading to oppression of the women in the society as well as ethnic minorities (Addams, 1916). Jane Addams, as a social reformer, aggressively sought to advance the enjoyment of human rights and social, economic and environmental justice for all. Jane Addams, for instance, advanced human rights and social justice through championing women’s rights. Even though she was not overtly involved in the clamor for women suffrage and other campaigns for women’s rights, Jane Addams encouraged women in the society to take the mantle and become agents of social and economic changes in their communities, a concept she referred to as civic housekeeping (Addams, 1916). She campaigned against sex slavery and prostitution. Through her social work endeavors, Jane Addams promoted the enjoyment of access to medical facilities and food to the community members. Moreover, she also joined the anti-Imperialist League to dissuade the US from annexing the Philippines and was very vocal in advocating for peace as the president of the International Committee of Women for a Permanent Peace (Simon, 1997).
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Policy Practice and Changing Contexts
Jane Addams expansively engaged in policy practice. For instance, she was involved in drafting the regulations that ensured better housing for community members. She also participated in developing frameworks in improving public welfare and enforcing stricter child labor as well as protecting working women from professional harassment (Simon, 1997). As is evident there is a significant difference between the societal contexts and systems of oppression during Jane Addams’ time and now. Currently, the women enjoy more rights; the social work efforts have, thus, largely been focused on improving the wellbeing of individual beings in the community as opposed to a group of people as was in the past (Pawar & Cox, 1997). The forms and mechanisms of oppression in operation currently are more subtle as public opinion increasingly demonstrates disdain towards unpopular forms of domination, exploitation, and discrimination.
In conclusion, it is evident that Jane Addams made an immense contribution to social work practice. Through devising the maiden ethical principles of social work practices, Jane Addams significantly influenced the current provisions on the ethical and professional behavior of social workers. She also extensively engaged diversity and promoted embracing of differences through Hull House, a platform on which diverse members of the community interact. Jane Addams not only pioneered and facilitated social work practices but was also involved in advancing human rights and social justice through policy formulation and implementation. Her social reform legacy, therefore, subsists in every aspect of social work practice and will continue doing so as long as social work involves addressing societal ills and empowering the poor, less privileged, oppressed and vulnerable.