Eileen Younghusband

Social work education pioneer (Social Science Certificate 1928, Diploma in Sociology 1929)

There is a deplorable tendency to think that, though a woman social worker needs training, a man has acquired all he needs to know through some all-sufficing experience of life which is a substitute for and not enhancement of training.

Eileen Younghusband

Eileen Younghusband
Eileen Younghusband

Eileen Younghusband received international acclaim for the Carnegie and Younghusband Reports on social work, based on extensive research and her belief in social work education. 

Early life in India

Eileen Younghusband (1902-81) was born in London and raised in India. Her father Sir Francis was a political agent in India and her mother Helen excelled at life as a society hostess in Kashmir, however in 1909 the family returned to London. Eileen’s formal education began at Miss Wolff’s private school in South Audley Street in 1912.

Needing a vocation

In 1922 Eileen became a Care Committee worker in Stepney. These were volunteers who worked with London County Council schools. Eileen took to the life and the following year she went to live on the Princess Settlement in Bermondsey, returning home each weekend. She began to feel the need for formal training and LSE was suggested. She was interviewed by Edith Eckhard of the social science department, who she had met at the settlement, in 1925.

Training at LSE

Eileen studied and taught at LSE but did not receive a degree as the social science courses, most popular with women, resulted in certificate or a diploma. Eileen achieved both. She went to live with Miss Wolff and still returned home each weekend. This continued until her parents moved to a London flat and Eileen was eventually allowed to share a flat with female friends. The most enduring relationships were with women from LSE, Helen Roberts and Kit Russell.

At LSE, she was taught by academic greats such as Eileen Power, LT Hobhouse, TH Marshall, Bronislaw Malinowski, RH Tawney, Friedrich Hayek, Harold Laski, Lionel Robbins, Hugh Dalton and Beatrice Webb.

After finishing the diploma, Eileen was offered the post of a tutor in the department. It was made permanent after four years in the role. She still spent vacations with the Stepney Family Welfare Association and on occasion brought a housewife from Stepney in as a visiting lecturer. Through connections, she also became a magistrate and in 1937 was made Chairman of the Greenwich Juvenile Court.

The war years

As LSE moved to Cambridge, Eileen resigned her post to stay in London and near her parents. She set up one of the first Citizens’ Advice Bureaus, on Kensington Church Street, then moved to the National Council of Girls’ Clubs, which received a boost by the government’s 1940 Service of Youth programme. As Principal Officer for Training and Employment she travelled England on blacked-out trains for work with young people. At home she became a Fire Warden but alarmed others by going to her flat to sleep rather than the shelter at Holland Park tube.

She also became a temporary inspector surveying food and rest centres in London. She ran courses for women for the British Council and undertook a national survey of welfare functions as Assistant Secretary of the Assistance Board. At the end of the war, Helen Roberts had left London to work abroad which Eileen saw as the end of the partnership. Eileen herself returned to teaching at LSE.

The Carnegie Reports

The Carnegie United Kingdom Trust, which Eileen had previous connections with, decided at the end of 1944 to appoint Eileen to carry out an investigation of social work in the UK and she took a year of unpaid leave from LSE to do so. The 1947 Report on the Employment and Training of Social Workers was followed by a second report in 1951.

The reports advocated that a Carnegie School of Social Work in social work education be set up at a university to award a postgraduate diploma. This was moving towards the later idea of a generic social work education course rather than a series of separate specialist courses. There was some confusion and tension surrounding the different kinds of social work and social science and the various qualifications.

Return to LSE

While Eileen was working on the Carnegie Reports, Richard Titmuss had taken over the department, now called Social Science and Administration, and become the UK’s first Professor of Social Administration, despite not having a first degree. Eileen founded and was put in charge of a Carnegie School of Social Work training at LSE, working with qualified social worker Kate Lewis. She toured the United States social work schools on a Smith-Mundt Fellowship and befriended Charlotte Towle of the Chicago School of Social Work, who came to LSE for a year in 1955.

Difficult times followed as the three different social work courses fought for survival. Eileen requested to make the Carnegie course permanent with herself as its director, and merge the other courses into it. Her main rival for the post was Kay McDougall who ran the Mental Health course. Both women were already lecturers which was the same level the course director was pitched at. A more senior reader post was created and the occupant, David Donnison, largely handled the dispute.

Kay was given the post as it was felt that without a degree Eileen could not run the course she had created. Meanwhile, Eileen became a member of the Home Office’s Central Training Council in Childcare, against Richard Titmuss’s advice. Also at this time, Kit Stewart had become engaged to marry Sheridan Russell. Eileen left LSE in 1957 and was eventually given an Honorary Fellowship in 1962.

The Younghusband Report

While the 'LSE Affair' had rumbled on, Eileen had in 1955 been made chair of a Ministry of Health Working Party on social workers and local authorities. Published in 1959, the report called for general purpose social worker training with nationalised support. After Kit had moved out and Eileen had left LSE, she had no regular income and lived alone. Unexpectedly, the report proved hugely popular in the press and Eileen found herself inundated with requests. It was debated in the House of Lords and government accepted its proposals in 1960. From 1961-67 Eileen was a consultant at the National Institute of Social Work and President of the International Association of Schools of Social Work. 

Travelling the world

Eileen was awarded a DBE in 1964 and retired from the Institute in 1967 aged 65. She spent the rest of her life living alone and traveling the world as a guest speaker. Her international career had flourished in a male academic world due to a large women’s social work network in the UK and USA. While her probable partner Martha Branscombe was driving, Eileen was killed in a car crash in the USA in 1981. 

Read more

A life of social work and friends - Eileen Younghusband by Sue Donnelly on the LSE History Blog