OF SOCIAL WORK
PORTER R. LEE used to say that social workers learn through their ears rather than through their eyes, thereby classifying social workers with persons of action rather than of reflection. The United States is peculiarly a nation of conferences. They compensate for the great distances that separate workers in the same field. They also neutralize the division into states which might have Balkanized this country if the local provincialism inherent in such a political structure had developed unchecked. Coming into existence almost at the very time that charity was emerging from an undifferentiated practice of good will to a specialized function of the state and of society, the Conference furnished a means whereby the developing practice took on a national character.
As an activity of the American Social Science Association, the Conference was simply a Conference of Charities; on attaining its independence it named itself "Conference on Charities and Correction." In 1882 it took the name "National Conference of Charities and Corrections," but dropped the plural in the last word of its title in 1884. So it remained until 1917, when, in line with the newer vocabulary then being adopted, the name was changed to "National Conference of Social Work." So it has remained to the present and will remain until a new fashion in words declares the title outmoded.
The control of the Conference in its early years was in the hands of members and executives of state boards of charities.