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Thyra J. Edwards – #DiversityInHealthcare

Diversity in Healthcare

Thyra Johnson Edwards was an American educator, journalist, labor activist, and social worker.

Thyra J. Edwards was born in 1897 in Wharton, Texas. Her grandparents were born enslaved Africans, who escaped from Missouri to Illinois with the help of the Underground Railroad.

Edwards started her career in Houston as a school teacher, eventually moving to Gary, Ind., and Chicago, where she was employed as a social worker, and later moved to New York to work as a journalist. She combined her social work and interest in international affairs, gaining worldwide notoriety for her activism.

Edwards continually looked for places for Black women to be activists in the international community. She was a teacher, journalist, lecturer and social worker, who took an interest in child welfare, even founding her own children’s home. She was a strong advocate for women’s rights, a labor organizer, union publicist, peace and civil rights activist, and a Pan-Africanist.

Thyra Edwards believed that social workers should advocate on behalf of disadvantaged and at-risk populations; focus on issues and problems specifically affecting the well-being of women; and demonstrate the ability to work with diverse populations.

The link between the plight of blacks throughout the world was a cornerstone of her professional philosophy. She worked with people of all races and nationalities during a time when the social work profession was segregated.

It was that viewpoint that attracted her to the Communist Party while she was living in New York in the 1930s. Edwards publicly supported the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War and used her role as a correspondent to travel to Europe, Mexico, and the Soviet Union. Her activities with the U.S. Communists drew the attention of the FBI and she was monitored by U.S. government intelligence organizations until her death in 1953 at the age of 55.

Sadly, although Edwards was a social work pioneer, she is virtually unknown today in social work.

Info sources: https://www.nabsw.org/page/SocialWork
https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/edwards-thyra-j-1887-1953/#sthash.aHDnan4Q.dpuf

Photo source: https://www.nabsw.org/page/SocialWork

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