NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Mary Sullivan Weaver (1907-1998)
Mary Weaver was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey on June 29, 1907. She attended elementary and secondary schools in Atlantic City. She attended Howard University in Washington, DC, graduating cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree. A Rosenwald Fellowship enabled her to pursue a masters degree in social work at Columbia University School of Social Work.
Ms. Weaver began her exceptional career during the Great Depression in the New York City Home Relief Division. Her consistent, dedicated professionalism resulted in several promotions. Soon the State of New York Department of Social Welfare sought her services. She was appointed to the important position of medical social work consultant. In that role, Ms. Weaver gained national attention as a consultant and planner. She became the first black professional social worker employed in the headquarters office of the Federal Security Agency in Washington, DC. It was here that Ms. Weaver helped to develop the standards and layout the regulations for medical care programs that were used in all the states nationwide. In the process, she developed the reputation of being a brilliant, no nonsense and principled professional. Her special skills contributed significantly to the planning and execution process that transformed the Federal Security Agency into the Cabinet level Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. This was accomplished under President Eisenhower.
Following retirement, at the request of Secretary Wilbur Cohen of HEW, Ms. Weaver returned temporarily to evaluate and make recommendations regarding requests from outside agencies for federal funds related to human services.
Her professional career had now reached the pinnacle.
Ms. Weaver was a well-rounded person, and intensely civic minded, and knew how to enjoy life. To the social work community, she was simply a ground breaking pioneering social worker who helped set the pace, and chart the course for the first 100 years of the profession.