Dame Eileen Younghusband (Jan. 1902 – May 1981), United Kingdom


  • Karen Lyons


Dame Eileen Younghusband died in a car accident on a lecture tour in the in the USA at a point when preparations had commenced for her 80th Birthday celebrations. Her working life had spanned a significant era in the history of the development of social work and education for the profession in the UK and more widely; and she herself had made a major contribution to these developments. She differs from earlier pioneering figures presented in these historical portraits in representing ‘the next generation’ of significant women in the history of social work. Nevertheless, she was a pioneer in the sense of initiating radical changes as described later in this portrait.

The task of presenting a rounded picture of the life of Eileen Younghusband has been aided not only by written records, including texts and reports bearing her name, but also by the existence of a few recordings of her later presentations and the written and verbal recollections of many people. These include former colleagues, students and friends - people who knew her in one or more of her many roles as teacher; organiser; committee member; chair; or president. While these various individual sources present a partial picture and give rise to contradictory information, in combination they help us form a clearer picture of the life and contribution of this eminent woman.

While not a ‘founding mother’, Eileen Younghusband led or contributed to radical changes in social work education and organisation in the UK in the post-second world war period. Her influence was also felt more widely through her European and international activities, and particularly through her role in the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW). To social workers trained in the UK in the second half of the 20th century her name was associated with major government reports and with the establishment of the National Institute of Social Work in London. It was there that, until summer 2002 [2] , some of the archives relating to her life and work were stored and her portrait made her face familiar to generations of social workers engaged in post qualifying training and research. To social workers throughout the world she has been commemorated in the biennial Eileen Younghusband Memorial Lectures (inaugurated 1984) when a current social work educator is invited to speak at the IASSW Congress on a topic of relevance to international social work.






Historical Portraits