Violet Butler: Relating Social Research to Social Action: a lifetime's work

An event in our Michaelmas Term 2018 colloquia series. 

C. Violet Butler 1884-1982 played a significant role in Barnett House; on its council from 1920, and teaching there since 1913, her name is on the door of the main room and her picture hangs on the wall. Within the world of ‘public service’, one of the areas of life in which elite women such as Butler could and did make an impact, I look at her, as a woman of her time with the constraints of her world, as a researcher - her methods and conclusions - and a teacher. I argue that she made a considerable contribution, combining social research, social action and social reform into a powerful continuum for change in communities. She believed in mutual respect between people of all classes, and the power of knowledge to lead to improvement. her ideal was to have all parts of a community pulling together for change, curbing harsh employers, respecting reasonable employee requests. She believed in a strong community in which NGOs and the state formed the 'warp and weft’ of local support. She employed her own kind of action research, and encouraged generations of the students she trained in social work to follow her methods.  She was part of the conception of Barnett House  in 1914 and to the last defended the vision of it as ‘a local laboratory in which local needs can be worked out in detachment, and of a power house to energise conclusions’. She argued in ’Social Conditions in Oxford 1912' that history is important if we are to understand the present - and that the past might give us a clue to solutions on present day problems. What relevance is her work today? What can we learn from her?  

Event followed by coffee in the Common Room.