St. Poelten University of Applied Sciences

About Ilse Arlt

About the pioneer of the science of social work in Austria

Ilse Arlt was born on 1 May 1876 in Vienna as the second youngest of four children. Her father was an ophthalmologist and her mother a trained painter. As a child, Ilse Arlt was educated privately by her mother and passed her school examinations with distinction. At the age of 16 she moved with her parents and siblings to Graz. She prepared herself for the state examinations in Latin and English and at the age of 20 she passed the secondary school teaching examination in English. She subseqently attended lectures from leading socio-political scientists in Austria-Hungary as a guest. The lecturers included Professor Eugen Philippovich von Philippsberg, an economist in Vienna and Prof. Mischler, statistician and social scientist in Graz. At this time, Ilse Arlt was working as a scientific assistant in the Statistical Office of Styria and she was becoming active in the newly founded “Association for Social Education” (Vienna), where she assumed the responsibility for “Industrial Work at Night”. This was the time when she wrote, among other items, a well received contribution about a conference she had attended in Munich on the subject of housing.

At the age of 25, Ilse Arlt was the first women to be proposed as Industrial Inspector, although health reasons prevented her from taking up the position. She continued studying in Vienna until 1905, gathering practical experience by visiting workers‘ meetings, businesses, flats and  slums. In addition she wrote numerous articles and gave lectures. She was also engaged in creating the profession of social worker. During the course of her studies she realised that, in contrast to the enormous technical advances of her time, there was still a lack of basic knowledge in the area of social sciences relating to the level of human satisfaction. Furthermore, there were only very rudimentary data available relating to this aspect. This criticism, and her observation that the science she was seeking to help alleviate poverty did not yet exist, were central to Ilse Arlt‘s decision to establish an independent science of social care, closely connected to economic issues (as well as with medicine and didactics).

In 1910 she gave a lecture at the International Congress on “Care in Public  Work and Private Welfare” in Copenhagen, in which formulated her ideas on the profession of social worker she for the first time.

In 1912 Ilse Arlt founded the first school of care in Vienna, which bore the name “Joint Courses on Caring for the Population”. In 1938 she was forbidden from teaching and publishing because of her Jewish descent on her mother’s side. The school of care was closed, the books withdrawn and the collection of materials she had started for the planned museum on welfare and domestic homes was scattered to the four winds. She was forced to the verge of financial ruin, although she did not have to leave Austria. The school was reopened in 1946 with the help of former students but four years later financial difficulties forced it to close its doors for ever.

On 15 January 1955 Ilse Arlt received the only award she was ever accorded for her work, the Dr Karl Renner Award. Her final book, “Paths to a New Science of Welfare” was published in 1958.

On 25 January 1960 Ilse Arlt died aged nearly 84.

Selected publications of Ilse Arlt

  • Arlt, Ilse (1902): Die gewerbliche Nachtarbeit der Frauen in Österreich. Bericht erstattet der internationalen Vereinigung für gesetzlichen Arbeiterschutz [Industrial night work by women in Austria.  Report to the International Association for Legal Protection at the Workplace]. In: Schriften der Gesellschaft für Arbeiterschutz [Proceedings of the Association for Protection at Work]. Vol I. Vienna, 3–37
  • Arlt, Ilse (1906): Fürsorge für alleinstehende Frauen in Österreich, Wien. [Welfare for single women in Vienna, Austria.]
  • Arlt, Ilse (1910): Thesen zur sozialen Hilfstätigkeiten der Frauen in Österreich [Ideas on social help given by women in Austria]. In: Glaser, Arthur: Die Frau in der österreichischen Wohlfahrtspflege [Women in welfare work in Austria]. Copenhagen, 61–67.
  • Arlt, Ilse (1911): Die fachliche Ausbildung sozialer Hilferinnen [Education of female social workers]. In: Dokumente des Fortschritts [Documents of progress]. Internationale Revue. Berlin 7 (4), 471–474
  • Arlt, Ilse (1921): Die Grundlagen der Fürsorge [The basis of welfare]. Österreichischer Schulbücherverlag, Vienna.
  • Arlt, Ilse (1923): Die Gestaltung der Hilfe [The orrganization of help]. In: Lebenspflege in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart [Life-long care in the past and the present]. Vol.IV. Vienna, 71–141
  • Arlt, Ilse (1923b): Die Berücksichtigung der Volkspflege bei der Schulreform [Paying attention to welfare in the school reform]. In: Volkserziehung. Nachrichten des Österreichischen Unterrichtsamtes [Educating the people: News from the Austrian Education Office]. Pädagogischer Teil, Vienna, 189–195
  • Arlt, Ilse (1930): Armutskunde [Studies of poverty]. In: Fortschritte der Gesundheitsfürsorge. Monatsschrift der deutschen Gesundheitsfürsorgeschule [Progress in health care: monthly journal oft he German School of Health Care], Berlin, 3 (7), 65–73
  • Arlt, Ilse (1932): Exakte Armutsforschung als Hilfsmittel in der Fürsorgekrise [Precise studies of poverty as a tool in the welfare crisis]. In: Keller, Franz (Hg.): Jahrbuch der Caritaswissenschaft 1932 [Annual of Charity Science 1932], Freiburg i. Br., 65–75
  • Arlt, Ilse (1934): On the Way to the Scientific Analysis of Poverty. In: Charity Organisation Quarterly. A Journal of Case-Work and Social Effort. Ed. Robert Webb. Vol. VIII. London. Nr 1. 2–21
  • Arlt, Ilse (1937): 25 Jahr Volkspflege [25 years of welfare]. Lecture given on 25 September 1937 on the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Joint Courses for Welfare, Vienna, Linz
  • Arlt, Ilse (1950): Nekrolog der ersten österreichischen Fürsorgeschule [Necrology of the first Austrian school of welfare]. In: Österreichisches Wohlfahrtswesen. Monatsblätter für soziale Fürsorge [Austrian welfare system: monthly bulletin for social care]. Ed. Federal Minsitry of Social Management, Vienna, 8 (1950). 8– 10
  • Arlt, Ilse (1958): Wege zu einer Fürsorgewissenschaft [Paths to a science of welfare]. Verlag Notring der wissenschaftlichen Verbände Österreichs, Vienna

Source: Ertl, Ursula (1995): Ilse Arlt – Studien zur Biographie der wenig bekannten Wissenschaftlerin und Begründerin der Fürsorgeausbildung in Österreich [Ilse Arlt – Studies on the biography of the poorly known scientist and founder of welfare education in Austria]. Diploma theses submitted to the Social Sciences Departmentof the  Würzburg-Schweinfurt University of Applied Sciences.