Poster Session
Issue Date: August 2016
Published Online: August 01, 2016
Updated: January 01, 2021
Social Capital 1940–1950: Seeking Support Among Established Professionals and Nonprofits
Author Affiliations
  • Temple University
  • University of the Sciences in Philadelphia
Article Information
Advocacy / Multidisciplinary Practice / Basic Research
Poster Session   |   August 01, 2016
Social Capital 1940–1950: Seeking Support Among Established Professionals and Nonprofits
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011505173.
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011505173.

Date Presented 4/9/2016

To increase occupational therapy’s seat at the metaphorical table, we must first understand its historical presence. A content analysis of literature and communication from the 1940s will reveal steps the American Occupational Therapy Association took to establish social capital with national organizations, governments, and the general population.

Primary Author and Speaker: Emma Fisher

Additional Author and Speaker: Ruth Schemm

Although many occupational therapists decry the limited scope and depth of professional recognition, there is limited research that illuminates the ties between public regard and effective communication. Political and strategic networks are essential to getting issues onto a public agenda and part of policy debates. Understanding how past leaders created and formed networks and alliances is crucial to building present advocacy networks.
This paper uses publications, images, and communication from American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) leaders to seek a deeper understanding of past alliances. The purpose is to examine occupational therapists’ use of and degree of social capital and advocacy from 1940 to 1950. During this period the profession was not widely recognized.
Social capital is defined as a concept framework used to examine norms, networks, reciprocity with others, linkages to larger communities, and bridges that create a larger support community for services. Social capital greases the wheels of collaborative work, such as being a recognized and valued member of a health care team. Constraints to social capital include limited agency, belonging, engagement, and trust to build linkages.
A content analysis of occupational therapy (OT) advocacy items documented in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy and OT textbooks, vintage photos, and ephemera from 1940 to 1950 was conducted. Minutes from the 1951 Board of Management meeting revealed that in 1950, “over 12,000 pieces of O.T. literature [had] been distributed and that an estimated 13,110 persons [had] been reached.” This and many more examples of community outreach and recruitment events were assessed for establishment of social capital. A prominently featured recruitment tool was the “Train for Service in War and Peace” pamphlet created by AOTA and a Kellogg Foundation grant in 1945. The pamphlet was dispersed to all OT schools, state associations, and accredited universities, as well as to numerous biology, sociology, and art department heads in order to recruit from various sources. OT also made an appearance in national venues such as the Reader’s Digest and Cosmopolitan magazine and was endorsed several times by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt in her newspaper column titled “My Day.” Research concluded that general knowledge of OT during this time expanded due to their inclusion as members of the rehabilitation service during the war but the field struggled to create solid advocacy networks.