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Abstract

The importance of the role of women, in particular of feminist organisations, in the history of social work has been highlighted by several historical studies. These studies have also emphasised the necessity for a comparative and transnational approach, in order to understand not only the role of these social actors in the creation of the first institutions, associations and schools, but also their contribution to the definition of the missions of social work. This article aims at contributing to this discussion through a comparison of the professionalisation process of two distinct professions within the social work field in Switzerland at two different periods. We will view professionalisation as a sociohistorical process reflecting collective strategies implemented by workers in the field. These strategies will be considered in collaboration or in conflict with other social actors, aimed at achieving recognition for specific missions and thus legitimating the place held in a particular field of intervention and granting value to the work being carried out. Firstly, we shall analyse the impact of the involvement of feminist movements in the professionalisation process of social service, in particular around the establishment of the first School of Social Work in French-speaking Switzerland, i.e. at the end of the 1910s. We will then discuss the absence of feminist influence in the emergence of sociocultural community work in French-speaking Switzerland in the 1960s and 1970s, that led to a primarily masculine profession. Finally, we shall offer some analyses focused on the comparison of these two processes, as well as thoughts on how the examination of these issues could be furthered.

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