Ilse Arlt - The Austrian Pioneer of Poverty and Welfare research based Social Work Theory and Practice


  • Maria Maiss University of Applied Studies St. Pölten


Arlt’s life work includes the collection of empirical „Foundations for Welfare“ and the preparation for „Paths to a Science of Welfare“ – these are the titles of her two main publications in 1921 and 1958. Her academic work took place under the sign of a science of „poverty and welfare research“. Arlt did not perceive this as a means in itself, but as an integral part of her concept of professional welfare and care. In her „Obituary of the first Austrian school for Welfare“ Arlt writes in 1950 that her approach was well known „abroad, especially in England ... [as] the Austrian Method of Welfare Research and Education“ (cp. Arlt 1950: 10). An unknown English author reported in 1948: “In October 1933 Ilse Arlt delivered the third Loch Memorial lecture 'On the way to the Scientific Analysis of Poverty'. From 1927 she had been in constant touch with C.O.S. work, through the Rev. J. C. Pringle. In 1936 she attended the International Congress on Social Work in London. In September 1937 came the jubilee commemoration of 25 years of work of her School of Social Work in Vienna, and the entry of the coming session included two English, one Swedish and several Czecho-Slovak students: Ilse Arlt's dream of an International School seemed to come true. In March 1938 came the Anschluss (annexation, M.M.), the shattering of the dream, the suppression of the School, and silence. This silence was broken in 1946, and early in 1947 came news that Ilse Arlt was trying in spite of almost overwhelming difficulties to re-open the School …” (cp. unknown author 1948).