Katherine Brownell Oettinger, Children’s Bureau Chief 1967

Katherine Brownell Oetinger, M.S.S. 1925, became chief of the Children’s Bureau, an undersecretary in the federal Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in 1957 during the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration. She credited her interest in the government, and her opinion that it was “the greatest thing in the world,” to her professor and Director of the School for Social Work Everett Kimball.

The New York Times heralded her appointment in full gendered glory.

Katherine Brownell Oettinger is being heralded as something different in a chief of the Children’s Bureau. It isn’t merely that [she] is a mother, whereas all the former bureau heads have been spinsters. It’s the dashing way she dresses.”

Polly Weaver Crone, “Dashing Social Worker: Katherine Brownell Oettinger,” New York Times, March 26, 1957, p35, Proquest Historical Newspapers.

Polly Weaver Crone, “Children’s Bureau Chief,” Smith Alumnae Quarterly, February 1967, School for Social Work Records, RG 60, College Archives, Smith College, Northampton, MA.