When social work emerged as a profession in the first decades of the 20th century, it was strongly influenced by emancipatory motives introduced by various sociocultural and religious movements, and at the same time devoted itself to the construction and maintenance of a powerful welfare and nation state. Transnational agents and social movements promoted these processes and played a crucial role in establishing and developing national welfare systems and relevant professional discourses. This article examines the gendered construction of the social work profession through the transnational history of early social work between Germany and the Jewish community in Palestine in the first half of the 20th century. By adopting a biographical approach to the specific paths of Jewish women practitioners who had been educated in German-speaking countries, immigrated to mandatory Palestine, and engaged themselves in the emerging field of social work, we will trace the construction of the profession as deeply embedded in social power relations. At the same time, we will trace its (re)construction as led mainly by female pioneers, who were concerned with emancipation, discrimination and migration.
The authors wish to thank Yehudit Avnir, John Gal and Stefan Köngeter for their contribution to this article. Gratitude is also extended to the Alice Salomon Archive in Berlin. The authors are fellows of the Transnational History of Social Work and Social Welfare between Germany and Israel in the 1930s and 1940s – a research group at the Hebrew University, the University of Trier, and the Alice Salomon University of Applied Sciences, Berlin, funded by the German-Israel Foundation for Scientific Research and Development, Research Grant no. G-1329-111.4/2016.
© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston