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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Catherine G. Williams
Catherine G. Williams* (1914-2020)

Catherine G. Williams, MSW, worked for the Iowa Department of Human Services for more than 30 years, where she became the Deputy Commissioner and was the highest ranking African American woman for the largest agency in Iowa State Government. She established the first foster parent resource system in the state and developed the first statewide training program for foster parents of children with intellectual disabilities. She wrote the first foster care parent manual and established the first adoption subsidy program. Williams also designed the Access, Coordinate and Track (ACT) Unit to ensure delivery of goal oriented social services for the benefit of children and families in Iowa. Williams’ staff led and served as facilitators for the professional delivery of goal-oriented social services for the Kansas City Region (VII) on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Pioneer Award Acceptance Remarks


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.