Women and Mental Health

By Elizabeth Howell; Marjorie Bayes | Go to book overview

45
A Feminist Works with
Nontraditional Clients

JOAN ISRAEL

I am very pleased and honored to be here [at the sixtieth anniversary of the Smith College School for Social Work] today—twenty-four years after my graduation. A generation has passed, and for all of us the years have brought their combination of pleasure and sorrow. The years have also brought many other changes—particularly in social relations—which in turn have influenced the functioning of the family. I am happy to speak on the subject, because it indicates Smith's recognition of these contemporary changes in the area of clinical social work.

The traditional nuclear family has been the cornerstone of American society. Historically, the roles of men and women have been rather rigidly defined: for the woman, that of caring for the home and children—being the nurturer; for the man, that of breadwinner and protector. Nadelson and Eisenberg (1977) state, "Traditionally the status of the wife is ascribed rather than achieved ... derived from the social position of her husband.... Census inquiries into the occupation of 'head of household' automatically report that of the husband unless there is no husband present. It is taken as a social given that when the marriage is intact, the male is the head of the household."

During the last ten years, social forces have changed the roles and expectations in the family in ways which the graduates of 1954 would

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