John E. (Jack) Hansan, Ph.D.

March 29th was the 91st anniversary of the birth of John E. (Jack) Hansan, Ph.D. Thanks to Hansan, VCU Libraries boasts a robust collection of Social Welfare History resources reflecting his ingenuity, knowledge and dedication to the social work profession.

The Social Welfare History Project was transferred to VCU Libraries in 2017. Since then the project has continued to grow in scope and reach. Social welfare history is wide ranging, but can be loosely defined as programs that promote the well-being of a nation’s citizens. This includes assistance to individuals and families, as well as efforts to eliminate or reduce social problems such as rural poverty, educational inequality, or barriers to civil rights.

As a pioneering social worker in the second half of the 20th century, Hansan had a long career that ranged from leading settlement houses, to organizing marches in the civil rights era, to developing the educational programming that led to the creation nationwide of Head Start, to serving in government and education.

The Social Welfare Public History Project began in 2010 as a way to educate the public in the appreciation of the history of social reform and social welfare services that have strengthened the fabric of American society. The Social Welfare History Project tells the story of not only our best moments of compassion and determination, but also many of our worst failures to act and commissions of hurt and discrimination.

The wide ranging site documents the history of many movements, from the 1600’s in Colonial America to the modern era. Of particular interest in the months of March and April are the resources that relate to women’s issues (March is Women’s History Month) and Temperance (April is Alcohol Awareness Month). The site features information on the Women’s Suffrage movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries as well as the Temperance and Prohibition era. Primary sources related to these topics are found in the Image Portal.

The Social Welfare History site is widely used by social work and history undergraduates, high school students, and the general public. The project provides a great introduction to important movements, legislation and organizations that have shaped American history.

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