Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Meyer Bloomfield: Organizer of the Vocational Guidance Movement (1907-1917)

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Meyer Bloomfield: Organizer of the Vocational Guidance Movement (1907-1917)

Article excerpt

Meyer Bloomfield was the preeminent leader of the vocational guidance movement during the first 20 years of the 20th century. From 1907 to 1917, he worked to establish organizations, which today are called the National Career Development Association and the American Management Association, and to found a journal, which is now called the Journal of Counseling & Development. To train vocational guidance personnel, he offered the 1st university course in counselor education. He also published several books and many articles on vocational guidance for both professionals and the public.

During the 1st decade of the 20th century, many activists and pioneers advanced the vocational guidance movement ignited by Frank Parsons's (1909) book Choosing a Vocation. Meyer Bloomfield, the preeminent leader of the movement, worked for 3 decades to establish organizations, train practitioners, and publish materials. Widely acknowledged by historians of the counseling profession for Bloomfield's contributions to vocational guidance, the breadth of his contributions remains an untold story within the field. Bloomfield did more than propel a movement that concentrated on guiding the vocational choices of youth - he helped shape related specialties including occupational placement, employee selection, and worker supervision. Bloomfield believed that the contributions made by vocational guidance would be "nullified" without close connection to these disciplines. Thus, he worked equally on creating the fields of vocational guidance and personnel management. Today, many career counselors are concerned about the problem that Bloomfield feared, namely that the fields of vocational guidance and personnel management would go their separate ways. In considering this issue, however, Bloomfield's contributions to vocational guidance and personnel management should be examined.

Childhood and Adolescence

Bloomfield was born on February 11, 1878, in Bucharest, Romania. When he was 4 years old, his father, Maurice Bloomfield, and his mother, Bertha Pastmanten, moved the family to Manhattan's Lower East Side. Here, Maurice Bloomfield taught English to immigrants, an activity that his son would in due course take up in Boston. Bloomfield's obituary in the New York Times noted,

His first years in the United States were spent on the Lower East Side and from the University and Henry Street Settlements he gained his first interest in social work and a life-long belief in the need for vocational guidance. ("Meyer Bloomfield, a Welfare Leader," 1938, p. 23)

As an adult, M. Bloomfield (1915c) fondly recalled a young woman at the University Settlement House's small library. Before lending a book, she took great care to learn about each boy's or girl's ambitions and ideals. Bloomfield believed that she often gave them relevant books about fitting vocations that were previously unknown to them. Bloomfield attended public high school, graduating from the Technical Institute of New York City. He earned an A.B. (artium baccalaureatus degree equivalent to a bachelor of arts degree) from the City College of New York in 1899 and a second A.B. in social work from Harvard University in 1901 (Ingham, 1983). While a student at Harvard, Bloomfield became the first guide for the Jacob Hecht Club for boys, a project of the Hebrew Industrial School (Solomon, 1956).

Civic Service House

In 1901, Pauline Agassiz Shaw, a noted philanthropist, provided funding for a new settlement house to be located in the center of the North End. The Civic Service House was to provide educational opportunities for immigrants and young persons seeking work. Having been impressed by Bloomfield's work with the Hecht boys club, she chose him to head the new Civic Service House. Bloomfield, a newly minted social worker, hired his friend Philip Davis, who also just graduated from Harvard with a degree in social work. Davis and his bride lived on the top floor of the house. …

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