Perlman, Helen Harris.Variant names
Helen Harris Perlman was born on December 20, 1905 in St. Paul, Minnesota. She earned her B.A. degree from the University of Minnesota in 1926 and attended the New York School of Social Work from 1933 to 1934. In 1943, she earned her master's degree in social work from Columbia University. In 1945, she joined the faculty at the University of Chicago as an assistant professor in social work. The University of Chicago awarded her The Samuel Deutsch Distinguished Service Professorship, which is the highest honor given by the college to its faculty. She is the author of eight books and over 80 articles on social work theory. Helen Harris Perlman passed away in September 2004.
From the guide to the Helen Harris Perlman papers, 1976, (University of Minnesota Libraries. Social Welfare History Archives [swha])
Helen Harris Perlman (1906-2004), social work educator and author, served on the faculty of the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration from 1945 to 1971.
After graduating with a B.A. in English from the University of Minnesota in 1926, Perlman was told she would have difficulty finding work in the humanities because she was Jewish. She turned to social work, finding a summer job as a caseworker with the Chicago Jewish Social Service Bureau. She continued to focus on social casework and treatment while attending the New York School of Social Work. After earning a master's degree from Columbia University, she joined the faculty of the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration in 1945.
Perlman's integration of psychoanalytic theories and clinical experience contributed to the development of the "Chicago School" of social service practice. At a time when, long-term, in-depth psychotherapy was the most popular approach to treatment, Perlman advocated short-term treatment and "partialization," in which the caseworker sought to help solve small problems that in turn related to the client's more complicated social and emotional issues. In 1957, she published Social Casework: A Problem Solving Process, now a basic text in social work education. Her other books on social work practice and education include Persona: Social Role and Personality (1968); So You Want to Be A Social Worker (1970); Helping: Charlotte Towle on Social Work and Casework (1970); Perspectives in Social Casework (1971); Relationships: The Heart of Helping People (1979); and Looking Back to See Ahead (1989). Perlman also contributed dozens of essays and scholarly articles to journals of education, social welfare, and public policy.
Within the School of Social Service Administration, Perlman was a popular teacher who led courses on casework, human behavior and personality development. She also taught courses on minority children, the position of women and children in utopias, and developed a "Great Ideas" course in social work. She served on SSA committees related to educational objectives and faculty status. Within the broader scope of the University of Chicago, Perlman served on administrative committees on the arts and educational curricula. Perlman was well-known in the university community for her contributions to amateur theatrical productions and campus events, such as the Quad Club Revels.
Perlman was a cultural groundbreaker at the University of Chicago: In 1951, her short story "Twelfth Summer" was published in the New Yorker. She used this occasion to protest a new policy that mandated that faculty contribute a portion of their outside earnings to the University of Chicago; Perlman asserted that this event finally "broke the back" of this policy. In 1970, Perlman was the first woman
to address the annual dinner of the university's faculty and Board of Trustees. Her speech on the role of women in universities was acclaimed in the campus community, and reprinted for many years afterward.
In addition to "Twelfth Summer," and the humorous pieces she composed for campus events, Perlman wrote other works of short fiction, essays and poetry throughout her life. Many of her pieces were published in newspapers, magazines and journals. She was interested in writing as therapy, and contributed to journals on therapeutic poetry. Her book of memoirs, the Dancing Clock and Other Early Childhood Memories, was published in 1989
Perlman was active in professional organizations, and received honorary awards from the Council on Social Work Education, the National Association of Social Workers, and the Association of Clinical Social Workers. She also received honorary degrees from Boston University, University of Central Florida, and University of Minnesota.
At the University of Chicago, Perlman was honored with the President's Award and the Samuel Deutsch Distinguished Service Professorship. The School of Social Service Administration established the Helen Harris Perlman Visiting Professorship in honor of her contributions.
Helen Harris Perlman's husband, Max S. Perlman, was a University of Chicago alumnus and social work administrator. During World War II, he worked with the American Joint Distribution Committee to aid Jewish refugees. From 1945 to 1971, he served as Assistant Director of the Jewish Federation of Chicago, a social welfare institution dedicated to the Jewish community.
From the guide to the Perlman, Helen Harris. Papers, circa 1910s-1998, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)
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