Highly respected outside of LSE, Eileen Younghusband’s career in social work education began in the 1930s and continued till her death in 1981. She had never obtained a degree and was never a senior lecturer, reader or professor. LSE Archivist Sue Donnelly looks back at the life of Eileen Younghusband, whose career illustrates a network of women whose professional and personal lives were deeply entwined.
Eileen Younghusband (1902-1981) was born in London but spent her early years in India. Her father, Sir Francis Younghusband, was an explorer and geographer famous for his exploration of the Himalayas.
After a private education and work at the Princess Club Settlement in Bermondsey between 1927 and 1929 Eileen Younghusband studied at LSE for the Social Science Certificate and then the Diploma in Sociology, for which she gained a distinction. She then became a part time and later a full time tutor on the course until the outbreak of the Second World War.
Eileen Younghusband’s war service included setting up the first Citizen’s Advice Bureau before becoming the principal training and employment officer for the National Association of Girls Clubs. In 1942 the National Assistant Board commissioned Eileen to undertake a survey of the welfare needs of benefit recipients. She also worked briefly for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) on the administration of the displaced persons programme.
In 1945 Younghusband chose to return to LSE on a salary of £500 pa to become the practical work organiser and tutor in social science for the Colonial Social Service Students. She accepted the post despite being offered £800 to continue work at the National Assistance Board and a generous £1,500 for a short term contract with UNRRA.
At the same time the UK Carnegie Trust, through the National Council of Social Service, commissioned Younghusband to undertake an investigation into social work training as the existing training offered little practical experience or an accepted set of core skills. Her first report was published in 1947 and a second followed in 1951. The report recommended the establishment of a generic training course in social work and the Carnegie Trustees funded a pilot project to run at LSE from 1954.
Richard Titmuss, who had been appointed Professor of Social Administration at LSE in 1950, supported the proposal for the new course, and the Carnegie Course in Applied Social Studies opened in 1954. It was led by Eileen Younghusband with the support of Kate Lewis. The course involved studying for two days a week at LSE and undertaking field work for two days. Eileen was given a new contract to run the course but her request for consideration for a Readership after working at LSE for 25 years was rejected despite her international reputation and the writing of the Carnegie Reports – possibly because of a lack of publications. Professor Richard Titmuss himself had arrived at LSE without any degree.
The new course was run alongside two other specialist courses in Mental Health and Child Care social work and by 1957 it was decided that the courses should be amalgamated, raising the thorny issue of who was to head the expanded course.
At the same time Titmuss advised Younghusband against becoming a member of the Central Training Council in Child Care or taking on the chairmanship of the working group which eventually produced the Younghusband Report on the future of social work. Younghusband ignored his advice.
In January 1958 Kay MacDougall who had led the Mental Health Course, was named Lecturer in Charge of Professional Education for Social Work. The decision pleased nobody – Eileen Younghusband and Kate Lewis both resigned in protest while Kay MacDougall felt the title made her sound like a dogsbody. The Carnegie Trustees complained to Titmuss and to LSE’s Director, as did many of the professional organisations on which LSE relied for students’ field work placements. Titmuss asked Younghusband to withdraw her resignation and her reply referred to “lack of consultation and inadequate machinery for consultation”. In the end she was persuaded to return in a part time capacity as advisor on general policy and Kate Lewis became Lecturer in Charge of the Social Science Studies Course.
For the rest of her life Eileen Younghusband was active in speaking and writing on social work education throughout the world.
Eileen Younghusband would have disliked discussion of her personal life or relationships but she was part of an international network of women working in social and welfare work on both sides of the Atlantic – a network in which women shared professional interests, close relationships and homes.
For many years Eileen Younghusband shared her home with Helen Roberts, an LSE-educated social worker. In 1948 on the anniversary of their first meeting Roberts wrote: “It has been truly wonderful to have you with me – whether in the flesh or in the spirit – during these ten years and I pray that our next decade may bring still richer contact.” At other times Eileen Younghusband shared her home with her LSE colleague, Kit Russell.
In the USA Eileen Younghusband was close to the social work educator Charlotte Towle who she met on a visit to the USA in 1953 and who introduced her to American cocktails. Another close friend was the Chief of the Social Services Division of the UN Secretariat, Martha Branscombe whom she met during the Second World War and again in 1953. Martha Branscombe’s letters to “Eileen, My Dear” or My Very Dearest” are deeply affectionate. Sadly Martha Branscombe was driving the car which crashed and killed Eileen Younghusband on 27 May 1981.
Ralph Dahrendorf’s History of the London School of Economics and Political Science points out that both Eileen Younghusband and the Social Science Course were more highly regarded outside of LSE rather than inside it. Though Eileen Younghusband never became a Reader she was made a Dame in 1964.
Eileen Younghusband: a biography by Kathleen Jones
More on LGBTQ history
Browse our collection of blog posts about LGBTQ history at LSE.
Call for submissions
Are you researching LGBTQ history at LSE? Read our contributions policy then get in touch to submit your blog proposal.
Or are you interested in beginning a research project? Get started with LSE Library’s archive collections on LGBT history and LSE history.