The history of the Alice Salomon University of Applied Sciences is closely tied to the development of modern social work and social reforms. The institution’s roots can be traced back to the 19th century, when systematic training for social work was first established in Germany in the form of one-year courses.
These one-year courses drew on the experiences of the Girls and Women’s Groups for Social Aide Work founded by social reformers and feminists in Berlin in 1893. The establishment of the courses was encouraged by Jeannette Schwerin (1852-1899).
The success of the courses under the leadership of Alice Salomon (1872-1948) led to the establishment of the two-year courses at the Women´s School of Social Work in the Schöneberg district of Berlin in 1908, supported by the Pestalozzi-Fröbel Institute. The school became a model for the foundation of other schools and helped to shape the development of social work in Germany.
The most important principles – interdisciplinarity, close links between theory and practice and an international focus – are still fundamental elements of the study programmes offered today.
The Social School for Women served as the headquarters for the Conference of Social Schools, the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW), founded in 1929, and the German Academy for Women’s Social and Educational Work, an early example of tertiary-level training for social work. In 1932, the school was renamed the Alice Salomon School.
In 1933, with the start of the Nazi dictatorship, the Alice Salomon School was destroyed with regard to its mission as an institution focussing on equality and social justice. That destruction did not occur without assistance from within. The academy was dissolved, the name was changed, and all teaching staff, students and staff members who were Jewish or Social Democrats were expelled. The school continued to function until 1945 under the name of the School for the People’s Welfare with the full recognition of the Nazi state.
Following liberation from the Nazis and the dismissal of the school’s director, the institution took up its work once again in June of 1945. It did so with the permission of the Allied Forces, re-adopting the training guidelines which where in place in the 1920s and basing itself on American models. The training programme was opened up to male students and extended to three years. In 1954, Alice Salomon’s name was once again given to the then Seminar for Social Work (as of 1968, Academy for Social Work).
In connection with the education system reform in the late 1960s, in 1971 the institution was enlarged into the University of Applied Sciences for Social Work and Social Pedagogy in a transformation involving the incorporation of the Catholic Helene Weber Academy and the Workers’ Welfare Seminar. In 1994, a second training programme was set up in the field of Care/Care Management.
Today, ASH Berlin runs several Master´s and Bachelor´s programmes in social work, the non-medical healthcare field and childhood education. In 1992, it once again received the name of Alice Salomon, with whose work the school is intrinsically bound in many respects.
Who was Alice Salomon?
Alice Salomon was born into the emancipated and assimilated Jewish middle class in Berlin in 1872. The formative influence of that background never left her, despite the fact that she converted to Protestantism in 1914 and that elements of Protestant social ethics formed an important basis for her work.
Alice Salomon studied economics, history and philosophy as an auditor at the Friedrich Wilhelm University from 1902 to 1906, even though she did not have the qualifying secondary school diploma (having attended school for only nine years, as was normal for girls at that time).
Her publications, which included two extensive articles in the 1901 publication "Handbuch der deutschen Frauenbewegung" [Handbook of the German Women’s Movement], edited by Helene Lange and Gertrud Bäumer, were accepted as qualifying her for admission to the university.
She received her doctorate in 1906 with a dissertation on the topic of unequal remuneration for men’s and women’s work.
Involvement with the women´s movement
Alice Salomon’s involvement with women’s social work and the women’s movement began in 1893. Her activities included working in a girls’ nursery and at a home for working women.
In 1899, she became the chairwoman of the Association of Girls and Women’s Groups for Social Aide Work.
In 1900, she took on executive responsibilities for the Federation of German Women’s Associations. In 1909, she took up a similar role in the international women’s movement at the International Council of Women, of which she became vice-president in 1920.
Education of women
The other major focus of her activities was the education of women and training in the field of social work. In 1899, she launched the first one-year course of the Girls and Women’s Groups for Social Aide Work, establishing the first systematic training programme in the field of social work in Germany.
In 1908, she founded the Social School for Women and, in 1925, the German Academy for Women’s Social and Pedagogical Work, which had a separate department for empirical research.
In 1916/17, she initiated and organized the Conference of Germany’s Social Schools for Women, which she headed until 1933. In 1929, she played a significant role in the establishment of the International Committee of Social Schools (today: International Association of Schools of Social Work/ IASSW), which she continued to chair after 1933. These projects are still running today.
Only the Academy for Social and Pedagogical Work for Women, whose closure was instigated by Alice Salomon herself in order to prevent it from being searched and forcibly shut down by the Gestapo, failed to be re-established after 1945.
In 1933, Alice Salomon was removed from of all public offices and, at the age of 65, forced to emigrate by the Gestapo.
Anti-Semitism, which had been on the rise since World War I, even within the women’s movement, had already prevented her more than once from being nominated for the presidency of the Federation of German Women’s Associations and, in 1928, for the presidency of the International Council of Women.
Alice Salomon died in New York in 1948.