Jane Addams’ coat

V A D I M   M O L D O V A N

100D Vadim Moldovan – Version 2   95 Jane Addams Coat

I wandered into social work after emigrating from the Soviet Union to the United States, studying at Columbia University Business School, and driving a cab in New York for four years. Never looked back.

With the Master of Social Work degree worked for ten years as a psychiatric social worker. With the PhD in social work, joined faculty at York College of the City University of New York. Main professional focus at the present time – education, professionalization, and legitimization of social work in Moldova and other post-socialist countries.

 

I chose Jane Addams’ coat because …

… “Tolstoy, standing by clad in his peasant garb, listened gravely but, glancing distrustfully at the sleeves of my traveling gown which unfortunately at that season were monstrous in size, he took hold of an edge and pulling out one sleeve to an interminable breadth, said quite simply that ‘there was enough stuff on one arm to make a frock for a little girl,’ and asked me directly if I did not find ‘such a dress’ a ‘barrier to the people.” (Jane Addams, Twenty Years at Hull-House).

Jane Addams’ resplendent coat is a symbol of wealth and privilege. It stands in stark contrast with the poor person’s garb. The social worker who ministers to the poor from the position of power, material well-being, and authority does not empower but relegates the needy the secondary role in the relationship – that of an alms-taker, a charity case. Jane Addams’s coat also symbolizes the hypocrisy potential for the social worker who proclaims to uphold the values of social justice and yet lacks the self-awareness to recognize how her behavior subverts her message. This encounter with Tolstoy triggered a profound crisis in Jane Addams, a reorientation towards the more authentic and socially responsible social work practice.

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