NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Margaret E. Adams
Margaret Adams, "Betty Adams" to her friends, was a member of the NASW staff from the day the organization began. She was also a participant in the transition from seven separate organizations to one. At that time Chauncey Alexander said of her that "she could get things done". Volunteers and staff knew her as "hardworking, intellectually acute, and consistently loyal to the professional organization. Her assignments covered the length and breadth of the country as well as the profession's concerns. At one time she was named the national program director for NASW coordinating the work of three NASW divisions.
Her longest assignment stretched from 1955 to 1965 when the local base of NASW was being built. As director of chapter services, she visited chapters— advising, consulting, negotiating, listening. She says that the ideas she brought to chapters "were ideas I had gained in visits to other chapters."
The first part of her two-part professional life was with the Girl Scouts (1933-1954), and began shortly after her graduation in 1931 from Smith College. From a position as local director at the Newton, Massachusetts office, she joined the Girl Scouts headquarters in New York City. There she was a field adviser 1938-1943 in five midwest states, and then served as personnel adviser and director of training in the personnel department until 1954.
In Newton her career took a logical turn through a chance meeting with one of the early social work pioneers, Grace Coyle, at an institute organized to improve the relations between caseworkers and group workers. Miss Coyle was one of the first social workers to formulate the principles of social group work.
Miss Adams said at the time: "I was impressed by this great educator and had felt for some time that social work would be my career, but after I met her I was convinced." So she enrolled at Western Reserve University (MSSA 1944) and studied there with Miss Coyle.
After joining the national headquarters of the Girl Scouts, centered in New York City, Miss Adams became active in the American Association of Group Workers (AAGW), led its Committee on Professional Education, and eventually served on AAGW's board. She was struck then by the "serious lack of communication and duplication of effort among the seven national professional bodies." in recalling the moves toward the creation of NASW, she explained"Things moved slowly because 'merger' was a dirty word—after all, we were abolishing seven autonomous organizations. Some of their representatives expressed apprehension and resistance—but it was fascinating to watch the holding back, the fear of losing identity give way to a conviction that only unity could strengthen all."
There have been a host of other professional interests for Betty Adams - international social work, education, ethics. She was a member of the founding body of the Council on Social Work Education and served on the council's Commission on Accreditation, 19621968. In the international sphere, she was secretary general of the International Federation of Social Work (1960-1966) and a member of the executive committee of the International Council on Social Welfare for several years.
The only activity in which Margaret Elizabeth Adams lets herself just watch is in one of her outside interests —bird watching. The out-of-doors appeals to her. She also gets absorbed in politics (she helped organize Social Workers for Lindsay, when the mayor ran for reelection), reading, and water color painting.
She retired from NASW after 17 years. In one of the articles about her retirement she was referred to as "The iron woman of NASW".