Pioneers

Jane Wisdom

The first professional social worker in Nova Scotia was Jane Wisdom, who was born in Nova Scotia in the late 1800''s. There were no schools of social work in Canada so Jane went to New York for her initial training and education. She completed her course in 1912 and worked in New York for a period of time. In 1916 Jane was asked to return to Halifax and head up the newly established Bureau of Social Services but was soon faced with the problems resulting from the Halifax Explosion of 1917. In 1921 she went to Montreal where she completed her studies and lectured in social work. She worked in Montreal, remaining there until 1939 when she returned to Nova Scotia for a period of rest and research on small rural communities. In 1941 she accepted a position as the first welfare officer for Glace Bay and was, indeed, the first municipal welfare officer in Nova Scotia. Jane remained in that position until 1952 when she retired.

Dr. Fred MacKinnon

There are very few people who publish their first book at the age of ninety-two but then Fred MacKinnon is a remarkable man who was in the forefront in the development of social work and social welfare services in Nova Scotia for many decades beginning in 1939. His book, "REFLECTIONS: Fifty-five years in the Public Service in Nova Scotia", published in 2004, recounts his experiences as one of Nova Scotia most outstanding public servants and traces the development of social welfare services in Nova Scotia. It is his crowning achievement in a life filled with many achievements. For those who have not read it, it is worth the read. Born in the small village of Meadow Springs, Pictou County in 1912, Fred has always taken pride in his humble beginnings on the farm in Pictou county and in his Scottish heritage. The values instilled in him by his Scottish parents, his rural upbringing and his later experiences during the Depression years molded and shaped his attitudes about life in general and, in particular; education, work and money. They influenced him throughout his life. Fred first ventured forth from his Pictou County home in 1927 to pursue a bachelor’s degree and then a teaching certificate at Mount Allison University. Like many youngsters today, he took a hiatus from university to raise enough money to continue his studies and in 1929-30 he taught school in Woodfield, Pictou County. He returned to university receiving his Bachelor of Arts Degree, a Superior First Class Teaching Certificate and first class honours in mathematics in 1932. Until 1935 he taught and was principal in various schools in Pictou County and then, having raised enough money to return to university, he applied to and was accepted at Harvard University. He graduated from Harvard with a Masters Degree in Mathematics. From Harvard Fred went to work for an insurance company hoping to eventually become an actuary but, that was not to be and in 1936 he returned to Nova Scotia. He worked briefly in sales and then as he says in his book, he blundered into social work when he applied for and was accepted as the Agent for the Children’s Aid Society of Colchester County in 1937. He had found his niche and began a most amazing and wonderful career.

Fred’s talents and abilities were soon recognized by Ernest H. Blois the Director of Child Welfare, Mothers’ Allowance and Old Age Pensions for the Province of Nova Scotia and his career was fast tracked. With the help of the Minister of Public Health, Dr. Frank Davis, Fred obtained a Rockefeller Foundation Scholarship and attended the School of Social Services Administration of the University of Chicago from 1938-39. In 1939 Fred returned to Nova Scotia where he was appointed Assistant Director of Child Welfare for the Province. Although his primary job as Assistant Director of Child Welfare was to bring new life and perspective to the work of the twelve Children’s Aid Societies, shortly after his appointment Fred was assigned the task of preparing for the reception and placement of the British Guest Children and dealing with the problems being presented by the Ideal Maternity Home. Both were major challenges but Fred met them with his usual aplomb.

The Children’s Aid Societies were another matter. They needed an injection of professionally educated social workers but there were few such individuals available in Nova Scotia and people who were sent to other provinces to receive the much needed education rarely returned to Nova Scotia. Fred MacKinnon was a firm believer in the value of professional social work education and when approached by Dr. Samuel Prince regarding the establishment of a School of Social Work pledged his support for such an endeavour. In 1941 under the tutelage of Dr. Samuel Prince, Mr. Ernest H. Blois and other notables the Maritime School of Social Work was founded. Fred MacKinnon was one of the founders and remained a great supporter of the School throughout his career. He also taught at the School from 1941 until the early 1970s. Although there was a Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW), Nova Scotia did not have an

organized social work community in the early forties. In 1943 Fred MacKinnon along with Gwendolyn Shand, Gwendolyn Lantz, Jean Morrison, Ada Ward and Elizabeth Torrey founded the Nova Scotia Branch of the CASW. Fred was the first President and has maintained an interest in the Association of Social Workers throughout his life. He is currently a life member of the NSASW. In 1944 Fred MacKinnon became Director of Child Welfare replacing Ernest H. Blois who became Deputy Minister of a newly created Department of Public Welfare. When Mr. Blois retired in 1947, Fred became Deputy Head of the Department along with his colleague, Hiram Farquhar. Mr. Farquhar was responsible for Old Age Pensions and Blind Persons Allowance while Fred MacKinnon was responsible for Child Welfare and Mothers’ Allowance. Fred Mackinnon remained in this position until 1959 when he was appointed Deputy Minister of the Department.

On 19 October 1962 Premier Robert Stanfield announced the creation of the Interdepartmental Committee on Human Rights. Chaired by the Premier, the other members of the committee were the Ministers of Education and Labour, and the Deputy Ministers of Public Health, Public Welfare, Labour, and Education as well as the Chairman of the Nova Scotia Housing Commission. The committee was charged with giving immediate attention to the problems of Blacks in Nova Scotia, reviewing existing provincial services and legal responsibilities in respect to all minority groups, and making recommendations to improve race relations in the province and generally promoting freedom of equality and opportunity. Following a report by C.R. Brookbank in 1967 on the organization and administration of the human rights program of the province of Nova Scotia, the committee directed the creation of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. Throughout its existence the committee was chaired by the Premier with F. R. MacKinnon, the Deputy Minister of Public Welfare, as its secretary.

Following the demise of the interdepartmental committee Fred R. MacKinnon, its secretary, arranged for the official minutes to be bound into two volumes which were subsequently lost. Upon discovering this MacKinnon attempted to recreate them and in the process added other materials of interest that he had culled from his files during his tenure as Deputy Minister of the welfare department, (1959-1980). These were bound as four volumes and presented to the archives in 1992. Series forms part of Fred R. MacKinnon fonds and consists of minutes of the interdepartmental committee and related records such as reports, press releases, news clippings and correspondence collected by MacKinnon. The volumes are arranged chronologically and contain many N.S. government documents and reports concerning the situation and status of Blacks and other minorities in Nova Scotia.

Fred MacKinnon had innumerable significant accomplishments throughout his career. He was instrumental in the abolition of the Elizabethan Poor Law and the modernization of social assistance legislation in 1958; the drafting of Human Rights Legislation and the establishment of the Human Rights Commission in 1967 and on a national level, the development and implementation of the

Canada Assistance Plan in 1967. The system of care for the elderly, institutional care of children, the care of the mentally handicapped, particularly children who were housed in asylums and the old county hospitals, the introduction of a Family Court system and the system of family and child welfare services were all modernized and enhanced under his leadership.

In 1980, having served the Province of Nova Scotia for forty-one years, he decided to retire as Deputy Minister of Social Services. For many individuals that would have been enough but for Fred, offered a new challenge, it was just a beginning. He became the first Director of the newly formed Nova Scotia Senior Citizens’ Secretariat and served the province in that capacity for another fifteen years until his retirement in 1995 at the age of eighty-three. During that time one of the things he was instrumental in founding was the Nova Scotia Centre on Aging at Mount Saint Vincent University. In 1996 shortly after his retirement an Endowment Fund for the Centre was established in his name. He has served on the Advisory Board for the Centre since its inception and continued to do so until the age of ninety-two. Over the years he has given unstintingly of his time to many voluntary and community organizations both on a provincial and national level. He was a founding member of the Nova Scotia Branch of the Canadian Association for the Mentally Retarded, President of the Rotary Club of Halifax as well as a District Governor and a Paul Harris Fellow; President of the Nova Scotia Society for the care of Crippled Children; the President of the Canadian Rehabilitation Council for the Disabled; President of the Vanier Institute of the Family; President of the Canadian Bible Society and the list goes on and on. In recognition of his work and commitment in the voluntary and public sectors Fred has received many awards and honours such as Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, St. Francis Xavier University (1969); Doctor of Laws, Dalhousie University (1980); Member of the Order of Canada (1992); and, Doctor of Law, Mount Allison University (2003). In 1999 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the Canadian Association of Social Workers and in 2002 was named the Hedley Ivany

Senior Citizen of the Year by the Northwood Foundation. In April, 2004 the Nova Scotia Centre on Aging hosted a Tribute Dinner in Fred’s honour in recognition of his many years of service and dedication to the Centre, the public service and the community. Today . He was, indeed, a truly remarkable man and a pioneer.

Prepared by: Bessie Harris, RSW

Frances L. Montgomery

Frances Montgomery was born May 19, 1908 in Sawerville, Quebec. She was born with cataracts in both eyes and, despite surgery, was monocular throughout her life. This presented her with a life long challenge.

 Frances began her career in social work in 1928, when she registered as a part-time student at the McGill School for Social Workers in Montreal. While studying at McGill, she worked part-time as a caseworker at The Women's Directory of Montreal. It was there that Frances met Jane Wisdom, a native of Nova Scotia, who was the Director of the Women's Directory. Jane Wisdom became a major influence in Frances' life and her career in social work. Frances herself has said, "If Jane had not employed and encouraged me, I would not have become a social worker."

 During her course of study, Frances also worked at the Old Brewery Mission Community Centre and St. Columbia House, two settlement houses in Montreal. As well as working in the houses, Frances lived in them, which gave her reduced rent.

 Frances obtained her Diploma in Social Work in 1932 and her Bachelor of Arts Degree from McGill in 1934. Following this she went to work full-time for the Family Welfare Association in Montreal. She soon gained a promotion to Assistant in the North District and, as well as carrying cases , she supervised students from the Montreal School of Social Work. In 1938 she left her employment with the Family Welfare Association and returned to the Women's Directory as the senior caseworker.

 In 1942 Frances attended the Pennsylvania School of Social Work in Philadelphia, where she earned her Master of Social Work degree in 1944. Returning to Montreal, she joined the faculty of the new Montreal School of Social Work, which would later become the McGill University School of Social Work, as an assistant professor. In 1947, she left Montreal to become the Assistant Director of the Maritime School of Social Work (MSSW) in Halifax. In order to attract both students and staff, the MSSW needed to achieve recognition. Frances' experience with the American bodies responsible for accreditation of schools was immensely important in helping the MSSW gain international recognition.

 During her twelve years as Assistant Director of the MSSW, Frances taught social casework to both first and second year students and was, as well, Supervisor of Field Work. She concentrated on the diversification of field work resources. She also revised the curriculum to meet the standards, for accreditation by the American Association of Schools of Social Work. From June, 1949 to July, 1950 Frances was the Acting Director of the MSSW. During her tenure at the MSSW, Frances was also given a one year leave of absence from August, 1957 to August, 1958 to work with the United Nations as a social welfare training expert in the Department of Labour in Iran.

 In 1959, Frances resigned from the Maritime School of Social Work and returned to the Pennsylvania School of Social Work, where she received an Advanced Curriculum Certificate in Supervision in 1960. Following this she returned to Canada and in September, 1961 joined the Federal Government as the Personal Services Officer of the Emergency Welfare Services Division of the Department of National Health and Welfare. She remained in this position until May, 1973 when she retired. During her career Frances made significant contributions to the McGill Alumni of the School of Social Work and the Canadian Association of Social Workers, serving both organizations in various capacities.

 In her retirement Frances traveled the world with journeys to Greece, India and China. Until 1988 she has lived in Unitarian House, a retirement home in Ottawa, where she took an active role in the management of the home. In later years Frances suffered from poor physical health and in 2004 her health deteriorated further as she approched the last stages of terminal leukemia. She was a determined, courageous woman whose mind remained sharp and continued to take a keen interest in life and in her chosen profession of social work.

 Frances Montgomery was a true social work pioneer in Canada and in Nova Scotia. She came to the Maritime School of Social Work in the late 1940's at a time when a professional touch was very much needed and helped establish a firm foundation for the School. She was a wonderful teacher, dedicated to her students and to enhancing the profession of social work. Even today, those students (one of whom is Harold Crowell) who had the good fortune to have come under her guidance remembers her affectionately.

 Prepared by Bessie Harris, RSW

Dr. Calvin W. Ruck

Calvin Woodrow Ruck, 79 years of age, died at home in Ottawa October 19, 2004 after a courageous battle with Alzheimer’s. Dr. Ruck was a graduate of the Maritime School of Social Work of Dalhousie University, and he practiced for many years in the field of social development and human rights with the

Department of Social Services (now Community Services) and the Human Rights Commission. He devoted his work and his life to the ending of discrimination and racism, the achievement of human rights and the improvement of social conditions for everyone and especially for African Nova Scotians and Canadians. He was one of the early members of the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NSAACP) and held many executive positions in that organization.

He was a member of the NS Association of Social Workers and received the Freda Vickery Award in recognition of his pioneering work in human rights. Throughout his life, he worked long and tirelessly with communities, especially North and East Preston, Cherry Brook and Lake Loon to improve housing, employment, and education and to establish a medical clinic and day care. He held many offices in the Black Cultural Society of Nova Scotia and is included in the honour wall in the Black Cultural Centre. He was strengthened in his struggles against racism and for justice by his great faith, his worship and fellowship in Stevens Road Baptist Church and sustained by his many friends and community supporters. He was a published author on the history of the No. 2 Construction Battalion, Canada’s only all-Black battalion. He fought successfully for greater recognition for the men who served in this battalion, which included the establishment of a monument to their service erected in Pictou and an exhibition at the Black Cultural Centre. Appointed a senator in 1998 at the age of 73, Dr. Ruck saw this as an opportunity to continue the work of righting wrongs and furthering social justice for all. Along with many other awards and honors, he received an honorary degree from Dalhousie University in 1994, and one from the University of Kings College in 1999.

Seeing education as an important means to achieving equality and justice, he never lost an opportunity to support people continuing and going back to school, and he offered both practical as well as moral support to students of all ages. The School of Social Work awards a Dr. Calvin W. Ruck scholarship annually to an African Nova Scotian/Canadian student. Calvin Ruck, pioneer in the field, will long be remembered by his many friends and colleagues who, inspired by his example, hope to carry forward the goals of social justice.

Prepared by: Joan Gilroy, RSW

Dr. Lawrence T. Hancock

Lawrence T. Hancock passed away on September 5, 2004 in Truro, Nova Scotia. He was 97 years of age. Dr. Hancock was the first full time Director of the Maritime School of Social Work, a position he held from 1949 until his retirement in 1973. He was also one of the founding members of the Halifax Branch of the Canadian Association of Social Workers (now the Nova Scotia Association of Social Workers) and the Canadian Association of Schools of Social Work and held lifetime memberships in both organizations. He graduated from Acadia University with BA and MA degrees, McGill with a BSW, and the University of Chicago with a MSW degree. In 1989, he received an honorary doctorate from Dalhousie in recognition of his contribution to social work education and the profession. He wrote the history of the Maritime School from its founding in 1941 until it joined Dalhousie University in 1969. This book recounts the amazing story of the School’s beginning as only the fourth school of social work to be established in Canada.

For his pioneering work in social work education, his faithful service to the Maritime School of Social Work and the profession as well as the broader field of human services and the community, we owe Lawrence Hancock a huge debt of gratitude.

Prepared by: Joan Gilroy, RSW

Dr. Elizabeth L. Hall

Elizabeth Hall, Ph.D., one of the pioneers in Canadian social welfare, lived her final years at her family home in Bridgewater NS.

Miss Hall held positions in family and child welfare agencies and in hospital social services in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and later in Baltimore, USA. She was a graduate of Dalhousie University, Toronto University, and was a member of the Canadian Association of Social Workers and the National Association of Social Workers. In 1964 she received the honour of a life membership in the Nova Scotia Association of Social Workers. For reasons of health she retired in 1954 and lived at her home in Bridgewater until her death in 1969 from where she maintained an active interest in her profession and in the field of welfare.

Outwardly quiet and unassuming, her rare sense of wonder about the world of nature, her deep faith in people, her ready wit and brilliant mind, helped to enrich the lives of those who knew her.

Taken from: NSASW Newsletter (1969)

Sister Mary Clare Flanagan

Sister Mary Clare Flanagan was born in Boston; MA March 2, 1902. She entered the congregation of Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul  Mount Saint Vincent, Halifax, Nova Scotia. on August 15, 1922 and made her first profession on April 12, 1925.

Sister Mary Clare spent the first twenty years of her ministry in the field of education, first as teacher at St. Joseph's in Halifax, then as superior and principal at St. Joseph's in Reserve Mines, N. S. It was while in Reserve Mines that Sister Mary Clare came into contact with Father Jimmy Tompkins of the Co-operative Movement, and Monsignor Moses Coady of the Antigonish Movement, and received her introduction to the exciting world of social action. In 1939 she went to St. Margaret's in Dorchester, as superior and principal. Then in 1945 sister returned to Halifax as superior of St. Theresa's Retreat and the Flinn Memorial, thus beginning a long and notable career in the field of social service.

In 1951, after graduation from the Maritime School of Social Work, Sister was appointed Executive Director of the Home of the Guardian Angel. She developed a social service department in the Home and pioneered in Eastern Canada for the early placement of children in adoptive families. In 1962 sister assumed responsibility for St. Joseph's Orphanage where she worked aggressively to have children placed in adoptive and foster homes. She also saw the need for establishing group homes for older children. Long before it was common, sister campaigned for day-care services and was instrumental in establishing St. Joseph Day Care Center when the orphanage was phased out.

On another level, it was also in 1951 that the provincial Illegitimate Children’s Act was abolished and replaced with the Unmarried Parents’ Act.  This is of note because of the work devoted to the change not only by all members but in particular by Sister Mary Clare, a long-time very active member of the Mainland Branch of CASW and of the national organization itself.

Sister Mary Clare was also active in many social welfare agencies in Halifax and Nova Scotia: she was a member of the Welfare Council of Halifax. a founding member and first President of the Nova Scotia Association of Child Caring Institutions. She held several offices in the Nova Scotia Association of Social Workers. She was one of the organizers of the Canadian Conference on Children and the first woman president of the Maritime Conference of Social Welfare.

During 1952 in the CASW Mainland Branch the following members were elected to the Executive: President – Sister Mary Clare; 1st. Vice President – L.T. Hancock; 2nd Vice-President – Joe Grandy; Secretary – Florence Mielke; Corresponding Secretary – Beatrice Crosby; Treasurer – Joan Walker; Branch representative to CASW – Francis Montgomery; Chair Membership Committee – Jessie Lawrence; Chair Publicity – Andrew Crook;  Chair Program Committee – Jean MacArthur; Chair Licensing Committee – Margaret Doolan; Chair Employment and Personnel Standards – W.G. Phillips.  This extensive list provides some idea of the breath of the branch’s concerns at that time and also serves to highlight some of the pioneer social workers involved with the early development of the profession in Nova Scotia. 

In 1953 the Biennial and first National Board Meeting of CASW was held and Sister Mary Clare, a member of the Nova Scotia Mainland Branch, was elected as one of the Vice-President’s of CASW.  Sister Mary Clare in her report to the Mainland Branch in June, 1955 mentioned that she had attended the first Delegate Conference of the Canadian Association of Social Workers held in Ottawa on September 23, 1954.

In 1955 a meeting of the four Atlantic branches of CASW was held in Halifax prior to the opening of the Maritime Conference on Social Work.  Sister Mary Clare Chaired the Conference which was attended by 50 members.  Focus for discussion during the Conference was on licensing or “legal regulation”, provincial organization, membership recruitment and closer regional participation of the Atlantic branches of CASW.

At the October 4, 1967 Council meeting of NSASW it was decided to form a committee chaired by Sister Mary Clare to prepare specific recommendations from the NSASW to the Board of Trustees of the Maritime School of Social Work (MSSW) regarding amalgamation with Dalhousie University. The recommendations included the future structure of the MSSW in such matters as: academic standards; staff qualifications; course content; an academic council; a governing board; the position of the school within Dalhousie; and the development of an undergraduate program.

In 1968 she was appointed the first Staff Training Development Officer for the Department of Social Services in the province of Nova Scotia, a position she held until her retirement in 1973. For the next ten years whether among the people of St. Patrick's parish in Halifax where she then lived or as animator and resource person for community and congregational endeavours, Sister Mary Clare kept up her own interest in social issues. Although reserved by nature, in her gentle, warm-hearted manner she continued to encourage others to take the next bold step.

Sister Mary Clare was a founding member of the Nova Scotia Family & Child Welfare Association and held many offices in social service organizations in Canada. In 1979 the province of Nova Scotia honored her with the Community Service Award as an outstanding pioneer in social work in Eastern Canada.

A warm and loving person. Sister Mary Clare, was a courageous and determined woman who served the community well as a teacher, social worker. Administrator, social planner, religious leader and philosopher.

Sister retired to Our Lady of Hope Community at the Mount St. Vincent Motherhouse in 1984. She died suddenly on July 13, 1987 at the Victoria General Hospital.