A Critical History of Social Work, The Canadian Salvation Army, and Female Sexual "Deviance" in Canada, 1886-1940




Sawyer, Bonnie

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Canadian historians tend to present the field of social work that emerged in the early twentieth century as a secular and scientific advancement from inefficient, religious charity work that predated it. This thesis not only challenges the binary thinking as it pertains to social work and charity, but argues that social work was established in Canada by religious groups, many of which were evangelical, such as the Canadian Salvation Army. Introduced to American social work theories and methods in the late nineteenth century, the Canadian Salvation Army incorporated the theory of "feeblemindedness," and the methods of casework and classification, into their traditional discourses on, and practices with, female sexual "deviants" in the early-twentieth century. From 1910 to 1940, there was a transition period between the dominance of evangelical charity and that of secular social work, in working with female sexual "deviants," throughout which evangelicals braided religious discourses with those of scientific social work. By 1940 secular social workers had won the battle for supremacy, and as a result, the dehumanization of sex workers and unmarried mothers increased as they went from being understood as victims/sinners who could be fully reclaimed, to biologically inferior and subjected to forced institutionalization and sterilization.



sex work, social work, Canadian Salvation Army, history