WHAT HAS COME to be called social work dates back a long way. The expression in practical ways of the common human impulse to help another in distress was bound sooner or later to take organized form; and it did so markedly in this country during the last hundred years or more. One measure, in numerical terms alone, is the fact that approximately half the present annual expenditures of a majority of our states is devoted to the various services performed under the boards of welfare, health, corrections, and care of the insane; and fully half of the personnel of the states' employment is on these pay rolls. Including the large numbers in nongovernmental agencies, the total number of persons engaged in these and similar services in this country now almost certainly runs above one hundred thousand. Along with organized religion and education, social work has taken its place as a major concern of the local community, state, and nation.
The third quarter of the nineteenth century saw the beginnings of organized work in this field on a national scale. Then it was that national bodies interested in prison reform, public health, and the application of science to human relations were formed. In the same period the National Conference of Social Work came into being. It included in its scope dependency, mental disease, delinquency, and problems of health; as time went on it widened its interests to include the whole field of the public and private social services. That was a period when population was growing rapidly in the United States, people