The Path We Have Trod
In twentieth-century America:
An ever shifting pattern.
Charity; functional togetherness through organization;
Government payments, benefits, and services.
From Clara Barton to Mary Richmond,
From Carnegie to Girl Scouts to Cerebral Palsy,
From YMCA buildings to CARE packages,
From settlement houses to homemaker services,
From "paupers" to "clients"—
The Path We Have Trod.
AMERICAN SOCIAL WELFARE in the twentieth century has developed through six decades into a pattern derived from several basic forms of "doing good." Each form has served, on occasion, the interests of humanity.A vital part of the social history of the United States, therefore, is the story of how these several forms of social service activity clashed, built on one another, and finally emerged in an uneasy partnership.
The first "social service" reality in America was the individual caring for his own family, his close friends, and scarcely more than one stranger at a time. "Charity begins at home" was the outspoken motto of this individualist school, which rooted itself in such biblical statements as "Honor thy father and thy mother." Husbands and wives had primary responsibilities toward each other and toward their children.Younger brothers and sisters were often a lifelong concern of the eldest child. It was a disgrace to have a close relative cared for under the poor laws or living in an almshouse. Often the cloak of personal charity was cast over a total stranger, and neighborly concern could be expected in time of adversity. While some encountered social security in enslavement, many more discovered it in the diversity of opportunities for earning a living of one's choice on a new continent. The ministry then shouldered responsibilities that would one day become the province of social workers.