Women of Valor


Social Service

Gertrude Weil, 1879 - 1971

"Social welfare—that's the chief interest I have ever had," Weil asserted in 1964. "People are wrong in thinking that the best incentive is competition," she said. "Competition is good, but only as the instrument for the common good." Wishing to prevent poverty, not just alleviate it, Weil emphasized strongly the need to reform basic social structures. Beginning with her philanthropic activities as a child and continuing through her adult work as a volunteer, an activist and a paid professional, she devoted significant amounts of time, effort and money to serving "the common good."

For many years, Weil provided vital assistance to needy families through the Goldsboro Bureau of Social Service. As president in 1927, she directed the Bureau to "look beyond the immediate problem of the special case to the underlying physical and social conditions that lead to dependence and maladjustment"; as chair of the Decisions Committee during the Depression, she made recommendations about how best to help struggling families. In 1933, "because of [her] record of social service and [her] influence in [her] community," Weil was appointed a Director of Federal Public Relief Work, responsible for administering local New Deal relief efforts.

Weil was also a longtime member of the North Carolina Conference for Social Service, founded in 1912 to address some of the state's most urgent social issues. Through the Conference, Weil explored such issues as the juvenile justice system, race relations, social services for the indigent, and the desirability of the laws requiring physical exams before marriage. Work with the organization allowed her to attempt to formulate solutions to treat some of the many social problems she had studied years earlier at Smith.

  1. Quotation beginning "Social welfare...." from Frank Warren, "Miss Gertrude Weil," Goldsboro News-Argus, 1964.
  2. Quotation beginning "People are wrong..." from Margaret Supplee Smith and Emily Herring Wilson, North Carolina Women: Making History (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1999), 261.
  3. Additional information from Sarah Wilkerson-Freeman, "Women and the Transformation of American Politics: North Carolina, 1898-1940," Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, 1995, 168 and the Gertrude Weil Papers at the North Carolina Office of Archives and History.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Women of Valor - Gertrude Weil - Social Service." (Viewed on April 19, 2014) <http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/weil/social-service>.