Jour Fixe 139 | Acsády Judit: Foundations of institutionalized care as social work. Women’s activities to support the vulnerable, the needy and the victims during and after WW1

   2024. június 13. - 2024. június 13.

A HUN-REN Társadalomtudományi Kutatóközpont (MTA Kiváló Kutatóhely) 

Szociológiai Intézete 

tisztelettel meghívja 139. Jour Fixe eseményére


Foundations of institutionalized care as social work. Women’s activities to support the vulnerable, the needy and the victims during and after WW1 



Előadó: Acsády Judt (HUN-REN TK SZI)

Hozzászólók: Juhász Borbála (Magyar Női Érdekérvényesítő Szövetség); Sipos Alexandra (HUN-REN TK SZI)

Időpont: 2024. június 13. csütörtök 13:00

Helyszín: Az eseményt hibrid formában tartjuk meg.

Személyesen: Szociológiai Intézet 1097 Budapest Tóth Kálmán utca 4.;  B.1.15 tárgyaló

Online: Zoom link:

Meeting ID: 837 0809 1724
Passcode: 338296


The first forms of (professionalized) social work at the beginning of the 20th century were established after a conceptual shift and a move away from the former practices of charity activities mostly performed by women. Benevolent activism and the support of the needy had been the initial motivations of wealthy ladies, religious groups and women’s organisations ever since the earliest times of the foundations of charity groups in European societies back in the 17th - 19th centuries. That was the case in the Habsburg Monarchy as well where the first documented organization was founded in 1817 and was named as Buda (and Pest) Women’s Charity Association. The activities and forms of caring and help by women’s organizations as such in this phase did not challenge any aspect of the social order or power structures, neither questioned any of the roots of social misery. Charity and benevolence in this perspective meant to ease the pain of those who suffer without asking about the reasons behind the suffering and the causes of poverty and vulnerability. From the second half of the 19th century on a part of the newly formed women’s organizations questioned social unjust. They raised their voices against discrimination, unfair treatment and gender inequalities. A discursive turn can be observed when first wave feminism after the turn of the 20th century offered a new approach to the earlier benevolence and charity activities that were understood as women’s genuine obligation. Previous studies in the field have shown that institutionalising social work and care projects were based on the changes of legislation and state intervention as well. In the development and shaping social work and social action, the joint efforts of church and state bodies were combined with a significant role played by civil society actors. It is worth looking more closely at the role played by women's organisations in this field to influence what they perceived as a more just social structure and equitable society. (…)’women have played crucial and visionary roles in the constitution of the profession, while at the same time, avoiding turning the profession into an exclusively female domain.’ (Hering–Waaldijk, 2003. 11.) 2 The chapter focuses on the foundations of both the theory and the practice of the earliest initiatives of social work based on the visions of feminist social reforms concerning structural changes. The need for institutional changes and new approaches signifies the writings of two contemporary feminists authors, Vilma Glücklich and Flóra Kozma Perczelné who were both involved also in the activism connected to the Association of Feminists (founded in 1904, Budapest). The contribution of the feminist activists to the foundation of social care institutions and the earliest initiatives of social work services and their effective cooperation with local authorities in these matters will also be presented on the base of archive documentation. The research also examines the instances of cooperation of the Association with the City Council of Budapest and the Mayor before, during and after WW1. The initiatives such as the operating of children’s day care centres, running an employment office for women, organizing care for orphans and activities to support widows can be traced on the base of the archive sources. From the archives of Hungarian National Archive (Collection of Civil Society Organizations, Feminist Association Archive) not only the correspondence of the City Council and the Association can be documented but also the later development and specialization of social care institutions and the education of social workers in the early 1920. The activities by the feminists in Budapest were connected to the efforts of international women’s organizations (e.g. IWSA and WILPF) that aimed to reach by the ways of gender equality the social justice and peace. It is also a question to be developed what previous international and foreign social work projects could have served as models for the activities and initiatives of the feminists in Budapest to realize the needs of vulnerable people especially women and to realize a new understanding of care and care work. Jane Addams for example was in correspondence with the Hungarian activists and she participated at the VIIth Congress of the IWSA that was hosted by the Association of Feminists in Budapest. In the same way, Alice Salomon (Berlin) or Ilse Arlt (Vienna) could have served as role models and must have had a significant impact on the institutionalisation of social work, the development of social training and the social care projects by the women in the region.