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Carel B. Germain papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00301

Scope and Contents

The Carel Bailey Germain Papers include biographical information; personal and professional correspondence; materials pertaining to Germain's graduate education and her subsequent professional work; research files for specific course offerings and writings; and typed manuscripts of some of her writings.

Note: Some research and subject materials that were originally filed in a single folder were divided into two or more folders for preservation purposes and for ease of handling. In addition, since Germain used teaching materials, research materials and general subject files for books and journal articles coterminously, there is some overlap in the contents of these files; therefore, the purposes of some researchers may require consulting Series III, V, and VI.

Dates of Materials

  • 1922 - 1998
  • Majority of material found within 1970 - 1995


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to unpublished works of Carel Bailey Germain. Copyright to materials created by others may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights. Permission must be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use."

Biographical / Historical

Carel Bailey was born in San Francisco on 23 October 1916 to Thomas J. and Lera Bailey. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1937 with a degree in economics, and lived and worked in the Bay Area until moving east in 1958. She married William Germain in 1941, and after raising twin daughters earned her MSW (1961) and DSW (1971) at the Columbia University School of Social Work. Upon completion of her MSW degree, Germain embarked on a distinguished career as a professor and prolific author in the field of social work. She taught at the University of Maryland for several years and, after finishing her doctorate, was appointed with tenure, first to Columbia University and then to the University of Connecticut, where she taught until her retirement in 1987. Germain offered graduate level courses that focused on the ecological approach to social work theory and practice. Although she was also versed in the history of social work, she only once offered a course on the subject (in the Spring 1973 semester at Columbia). Germain wrote seven books, the most important of which were The Life Model of Social Work Practice, 1980 (co-authored with Alex Gitterman) and Human Behavior in the Social Environment: An Ecological View, 1991. She also published widely in professional journals and was in great demand as a speaker, guest lecturer, reviewer and author of chapters and introductions for social work anthologies and for books by colleagues. She died in Avon, Connecticut on 3 August 1995.

Germain is perhaps best known for her pioneering work in the "ecological" or "life model" approach to social work practice. She first developed the concept of an "ecological perspective" while teaching at Columbia in the mid-seventies, and later elaborated upon it in collaboration with a colleague, Alex Gitterman. Social work theory and practice had traditionally been based on a Freudian psychotherapeutic model in which diagnosis and treatment focused primarily on the psychology of the individual client and the dynamics of the immediate family. Although clinical social workers had long been aware that people exist in a more extensive social and psychological matrix, the profession lacked a conceptual framework that linked broader environmental and cultural influences to difficulties faced by individual clients. Using metaphors borrowed from the biological definition of ecology ("the relation between living organisms and their environment"), Germain laid the foundation for the needed structure. As she and Gitterman wrote in the 19th Encyclopedia of Social Work, "The ecological perspective makes clear the need to view people and environments as a unitary system within a particular cultural and historical context. Both person and environment can be fully understood only in terms of their relationship, in which each continually influences the other within a particular context. Hence, all concepts derived from the ecological metaphor refer not to environment alone or person alone; rather, each concept expresses a particular person: environment relationship, whether it is positive, negative or neutral." (Germain and Gitterman, 1995) Over time, Germain and Gitterman found that, in addition to its applicability to work with individuals and families, the ecological perspective was also relevant to larger groups, organizations, communities, and to political advocacy in general. They elaborated on this expanded concept in The Life Model of Social Work Practice: Advances in Theory and Practice, 1996.


18.273 linear feet (46 containers)

0.00612 Gigabytes

Language of Materials



Professor of social work. Germain taught graduate courses that focused on the ecological approach to social work theory and practice. Her subject files are voluminous and contain material on a wide range of topics relevant to the teaching and practice of social work. Material includes biographical information, writings, correspondence, and audio tapes of Germain teaching Ego Psychology. Correspondents include Ann Hartman, Joan Laird, Alex Gitterman, and Anita Lightburn.


This collection is organized into six series:

  1. I. Biographical
  2. II. Education
  3. III. Professional Activities
  4. IV. Correspondence
  5. V. Writings
  6. VI. Subjects


Personal and professional correspondence (Series IV) is arranged alphabetically by the correspondent's last name or, where appropriate, by name of institution. All writings (Series V) are in chronological order, and reviews of Germain's books are located at the end of the section relating to each volume. To facilitate cross-referencing, there is an appendix at the end of the finding aid that lists articles and book titles alphabetically as well as chronologically.


This collection has been added to over time in multiple "accessions." An accession is a group of materials received from the same source at approximately the same time. Note that in most cases, container numbers start over at 1 with each new accession.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

As a preservation measure, researchers must use digital copies of audiovisual materials in this collection. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request the creation of and access to digital copies.

This collection contains materials received from the donor in digital form that are not currently available online. Please consult with Special Collections staff or email to request access to this digital content.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Carel Bailey Germain donated her papers to the Sophia Smith Collection from 1984 until her death in 1995. Her family has continued to add to the collection.

Additional materials were donated by Judith A. B. Lee in 1998 and 2016 and by Adrienne Germain in 2016.

Processing Information

Processed by Burd Schlessinger, 1997.

The contents of computer media in this collection has been copied to networked storage for preservation and access; the original directory and file structure was retained and file lists were created. Some floppy disks were unable to be copied. See the log files linked in the container list for more details.

Processing Information

Starting in September 2022, Smith College Special Collections will be renumbering many boxes to eliminate duplicate numbers within collections in order to improve researcher experience. A full crosswalk of old to new numbers is available.

Carel B. Germain papers
Finding Aid
Burd Schlessinger
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2005-09-23: mnsss24 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:14-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2019-04-18: Made 2 paper FA pencil-edit changes (listed in descr. surv. spreadsheet).
  • 2020-07-15: Description added for born-digital content.
  • 2021-07-09: Content description added from accession inventory
  • 2022-03-03: Integrated description of oversized materials

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063