NASW Pioneers Biography Index

The National Association of Social Workers Foundation is pleased to present the NASW Social Work Pioneers®. NASW Pioneers are social workers who have explored new territories and built outposts for human services on many frontiers. Some are well known, while others are less famous outside their immediate colleagues, and the region where they live and work. But each one has made an important contribution to the social work profession, and to social policies through service, teaching, writing, research, program development, administration, or legislation.

The NASW Pioneers have paved the way for thousands of other social workers to contribute to the betterment of the human condition; and they are are role models for future generations of social workers. The NASW Foundation has made every effort to provide accurate Pioneer biographies.  Please contact us at to provide missing information, or to correct inaccurate information. It is very important to us to correctly tell these important stories and preserve our history.  

Please note, an asterisk attached to a name reflects Pioneers who have passed away. All NASW Social Work Pioneers® Bios are Copyright © 2021 National Association of Social Workers Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

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Esther Glasser Photo
Esther Glasser* (1916 - 2008)

A central characteristic of Esther Glasser’s outstanding professional career was her ability to find new applications of social work values and knowledge in many different areas: as a practitioner in family services, child protection, adolescent counseling, and school social work programs; as a board member of mental health organizations; as the organizer of a national conference on school social work; and as a member of citizen’s advisory councils. A recent example is the acclaim which she had received for her work as Chairperson of the Education Taskforce of the Women’s National Democratic Club, in which she brought to the Club a number of outstanding speakers to discuss current problems of public education, and of adolescents in our society, and to highlight the need for national policies and programs to solve these problems.

Mrs. Glasser received her MSW Degree in 1939 from the New York School of Social Work after her graduation, Cum Laude, from Hunter College in 1937. She did postgraduate work at Brandeis University, Wayne State University, and American University. She was a Charter Member of NASW and was a member of the NASW Practice Advancement Council on Social Work Services in Schools (1983-1988). Esther Glasser’s marriage to Melvin Glasser was a rare example of how two dedicated social workers supported and enhanced each other’s careers, and at the same time, created and sustained a warm and loving family. This pioneer social work couple had three children and eight grandchildren.

NASW Social Work Pioneer – 1996

Newly Inducted NASW Social Work Pioneer Hortense McClinton 2015

Nominate A New NASW Pioneer

Please note, Pioneer nominations made between today’s date through March 31, 2023, will not be reviewed until spring 2023.

Completed NASW Pioneer nominations can be submitted throughout the year and are reviewed at the June Pioneer Steering Committee Meeting. To be considered at the June meeting, submit your nomination package by March 31. To learn more, visit our Pioneer nomination guidelines.

New Pioneers 

Congratulations newly elected Pioneers!  Pioneers will be inducted at the 2023  Annual Program and Luncheon. Full biographies and event details coming soon.