American Sociological Association

Rhoades History Chapter 6

 Chapter 6: World War II and Aftermath

The impact of World War I on the Society was barely noticeable, but the same cannot be said of World War II. The Society was affected by the advent, conduct and aftermath of the Second World War.

Besides coping with the war, the Society took four major organizational steps in the forties, faced traditional issues, and began to take a stand on an emerging issue-racial discrimination.

The major organizational steps taken were incorporation under the laws of the District of Columbia, the establishment of an Executive Office with a part-time Executive Officer, adoption of a revised Constitution, and the establishment of qualifications for membership.

Two traditional issues assumed increased importance in the postwar years. Government relations became more salient when attempts to establish the National Science Foundation questioned the need for government support of the social sciences. Academic freedom became more prominent with the formation of the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

Other traditional concerns that reappeared in the forties were the annual meeting, employment, public relations, international relations, and social studies.

Although highly disruptive in its first half, the forties eventually became a decade of prosperity for the Society. Membership rose from 1034 in 1940 to 2673 in 1949 in response to aggressive membership committees. The financial picture also improved. One deficit did occur, but a reserve fund began accumulating.


World War II

The Society became involved in the advent of the war in 1939 with the appointment of a Subcommittee on the Participation of Sociologists in the National Emergency Program composed of J.K. Folsom, Chair; H.P. Fairchild, E.H. Sutherland, Maurice T. Price and Donald Young. President Roosevelt had declared the national emergency earlier that year.

The primary problem facing the Subcommittee was to determine the manner in which sociologists could contribute to the emergency program. In 1940, it recommended that the Civil Service Commission be urged to create "a simpler channel for sociologists to enter the regular agencies of the Federal government", particularly in administrative positions, by establishing a general examination category entitled "sociologist" and that a standing committee be formed to work in liaison with the commission.

Folsom said, "The more persons there are with sociological training in administrative posts, the greater the chance of sociologists being called upon to give specialized services."

The commission responded that it would cooperate with a liaison committee, but it made no commitment to the general examination category.

Following Pearl Harbor, sociologists entered all branches of the armed forces and served in such war agencies as the Office of Strategic Services, the Selective Service System, the Office of War Information, the National War Labor Board, the War Department, and the Office of Price Administration. By 1944, teaching staffs had been reduced by 25 percent and the graduate student population declined by one third from the prewar peak.

Two Annual Meetings-1942 and 1944-were cancelled and a third-1945-was postponed because public transportation facilities, especially on weekends and during the Christmas holiday season, were largely restricted to military use. The Annual Meeting was then held between Christmas and New Year's Day.

An attempt was made to hold the 1945 meeting in early 1946 in St. Louis. That effort was cancelled when the headquarters hotel refused to register blacks. The meeting was eventually held in March in Cleveland, making 1946 the only year in which two Annual Meetings were held. That same year the Society decided it would "not meet in hotels where racial discrimination was practiced."

By 1943, the Society had turned its attention to postwar planning. Secretary Conrad Taeuber, in his annual report, pinpointed the following areas of concern: (1) stimulation of research; (2) training of personnel, especially the resumption of training for persons whose graduate work or career start was interrupted by war service; (3) the adequacy of professional training programs in light of anticipated demands for training in sociology; (4) the place of sociology in the new college curricula; and (5) the opportunities for professionally trained sociologists in other than academic positions.

On a motion by Joseph Himes, the Society appointed a Committee on Training and Recruitment in 1943 composed of E.W. Burgess, Chair; L.S. Cottrell, Jr., Philip M. Hauser, Delbert C. Miller, Carl C. Taylor and Donald Young.

Reporting in 1944, the committee estimated that postwar staff increases would range from 45 to 70 percent and that the graduate student population increase would range from a return to the prewar peak to 35 percent higher than that peak because of the G.I. Bill of Rights.

The committee recommended that graduate training in the postwar period include more quantitative methods and research experience plus preparation for the "emerging positions in industry, journalism and public administration as well as for teaching and research."

In 1945, President Kimball Young called attention to a set of problems that went beyond the professional "reconversion period" to "long-time trends, especially as to sources of support of research, the kinds of topics which we may investigate, and the omnipresent matter of practical applications of our findings."

He said, "In the years ahead public support for sociological research is very likely going to be much larger than private. Moreover, federal aid will probably outstrip that which the states, through their universities or otherwise, may be expected to provide. The implications of such a trend are pretty clear: In monetary subventions for research, as in other matters financial, he who pays the piper calls the tune."

Young felt the trend raised the following questions: "How much place will there be, under governmental auspices, for the more abstract, less immediately practical, and long-range research? And, how much will the requirements of the policy-makers and appliers of research results influence not only the topics to be investigated but the interpretations of the findings?"

He concluded, "Just as many of us were not intellectually or emotionally prepared for the impact of the present war upon us, so we may not be adequately prepared for the crises of peacetime conditions."



The move to incorporate, which started in 1940, culminated on December 31, 1943. To incorporate the Society, it was necessary to dissolve another corporation, the American Sociological Congress, chartered in 1920 "to promote health, justice, patriotism and training for citizenship; to teach the sacredness of law both as to person and property; and to foster loyalty to home, church and government throughout the domain of the United States." One of the original incorporators, Colonel Wade H. Cooper, assisted in having ASC dissolved.

The following members who resided in the District served as incorporators for the Society: Raymond V. Bowers, Margaret Jarman Hagood, Frank Lorirner, Rev. Bernard C. Mulvaney, Carl C. Taylor and T.J. Woofter, Jr.


Executive Office

The establishment of an Executive Office headed by an Executive Officer had its roots in the work of the Special Committee on the Scope of Research and its successor, the Research Planning Committee, in the thirties.

The need for such action is evidenced in a recent letter from Ernest R. Mowrer, Secretary, 1947-48, that describes the office of the Society during his tenure:

"I established an office for the Society at Northwestern University in an old residence belonging to the university and housing the departments of sociology, economics and political science .... My office was in a small sun parlor with an oriental rug on the floor! The name of the residence, given it by its former owner, was "The Lilacs". How often have I been thankful that the owner had preferred lilacs to pansies!.... The working space of the sociology department was a dining room which I proceeded to divide into two sections through the use of screens, separating working space for the Society from that of the department .... The records of the Society were not in the best of condition .... With makeshift equipment of tables and desks, and the help of a part-time employee ...we were off and operating." In 1949, the office moved to Washington when Irene Taeuber became Secretary temporarily, following Mowrer's resignation.

The Executive Office issue was revived in 1947 through a resolution submitted by the District of Columbia Chapter that called for a committee "to study needed modernization of the Society, particularly with reference to the establishment of a central full-time secretariat."

In 1948, an ad hoc committee composed of Raymond Bowers, Chair; Conrad Taeuber and Peter Lejins reported that "the present administration arrangements for conducting the Society's business are inadequate to handle that business properly in the interests of the members. It believes further that more adequate management would not only yield increasing returns to the profession but is also in the national interest. The effective use of scientific knowledge and skills is as important to the nation as to the individual scientist and a national scientific society has by its existence assumed some responsibility for such effective use. Finally, the committee believes that the problem of a more adequate management is but one part of a much needed integration and reorganization in the interests of the sociological profession."

The committee felt this need could most fully be addressed by establishing a permanent national secretariat directed on a full-time basis by a sociologist and based in Washington because of its strategic location.

Consequently, the committee recommended the establishment of a Committee on Reorganization "to investigate and make recommendations concerning a paid secretariat for the Society; to negotiate with other sociological societies concerning the possibility of and bases for unification; to investigate and make recommendations concerning other matters of organization deemed necessary to the more effective conduct of the Society's affairs."

On a motion by Louis Wirth the recommendation was approved and on a motion by Herbert Blumer the following were appointed to the committee: E. Franklin Frazier, Chair; Conrad Taeuber, Taylor, Bowers and Hagood.

In 1949, the committee reported the need for "greater continuity in planning and carrying out the work of the Society; greater recognition of the needs of specialized groups within the Society; and an executive staff with either a paid secretary or a paid secretariat."

In addition, the committee called for several amendments to the Constitution and By-Laws. The Constitutional amendments would establish the position of president-elect; reduce the term of past-presidents on the Executive Committee from five to three years; allow the Constitution to be amended by mail ballot; require 50-day notification of proposed amendments before any vote, and provide for the establishment of subject matter divisions in the Society that would be represented on the Executive Committee.

By-Law revisions included limiting student membership to five years; expanding the Program Committee to include three members elected by the Executive Committee, and elimination of the mandated requirement to conduct an annual census of research.

A $10,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation to support reorganization activities was partially used in 1949 to establish the Executive Office and to appoint Matilda White Riley as Executive Officer on a part-time basis. The Executive Office was initially located at Columbia University for a few months before it became permanently located at New York University.

In addition, "a larger and more geographically representative" Reorganization Committee was appointed for 1950, composed of Gordon Blackwell, Maurice Davie, Harvey Locke, Harry Moore, Talcott Parsons, John Riley, Frederick Stephan, Dorothy Thomas, Donald Young, Bowers, Frazier, Hauser, Taeuber, Taylor, Wirth and Cottrell, Chair.



The revised Constitution, effective January 1, 1942, was the product of reorganization efforts in the previous decade.

Among the new provisions in the Constitution were (1) representation on the Executive Committee for regional and affiliated societies; (2) the use of mail ballots in election of officers; (3) formation of administrative, program, public relations, and research planning committees; (4) addition of the improvement of instruction as an objective of the Society; and (5) the elimination of sections and divisions.

Sections, however, continued to exist under the Program Committee which each year submitted to the Administrative Committee a list of sections that would be recognized in the program. A petition from a minimum of 25 members to the Secretary and approved by the Administrative Committee could add other sections to the program. The Program Committee appointed section chairs.

The Committee on the Revision of the Constitution and By-Laws was composed of Ray E. Barber, E.T. Kreuger, Dwight Sanderson and J.O. Hertzler, Chair.


Membership Qualifications

Qualifications for membership which were rejected in the thirties were accepted in 1946. The major categories established were Active, Associate and Student.

Qualifications for Active membership were (1) PhD degree in Sociology or (2) Master's Degree with two years of graduate study or professional experience in teaching, research or practice in sociology after receiving the degree or (3) have received the PhD or its equivalent in a closely related field and have had at least one year of professional experience in teaching, research, or practice properly classifiable as sociological or (4) be elected by the Executive Committee upon nomination by the Classification Committee because of contributions made to sociology.

Any person interested in the study, teaching or research in sociology could became an Associate. Graduate and undergraduate students sponsored by a Society member could become Student members. Neither Associates nor Student members could vote or hold office.

The Classification Committee was composed of R.E.L. Faris, Chair; James H. Bossard and Leonard Broom. These new provisions were incorporated into the Constitution effective January 1, 1947.


National Science Foundation

Legislation to establish the National Science Foundation was introduced in Congress shortly after the war. The bills proposed various possibilities for the social sciences, ranging from a Division of Social Sciences to no specific provision for their support.

In 1946, President Taylor urged the Society to "make every contribution possible; in fact, influence in everyway possible, the thinking concerning, the legislation providing for, and the setting-up of the program of the National Science Foundation." To insure some involvement, Taylor appointed a committee to look into the matter in 1945.

The inclusion of the social sciences in the new foundation, however, became a major point of controversy. Testifying before a Congressional committee, William F. Ogburn addressed the resistance to the social sciences by pointing out that every technological advance creates new social problems and, therefore, it did not seem sensible to pour resources into the acceleration of technological change while ignoring any possible means of coping with the social problems such change produced or aggravated.

In an ASR article in 1946, Parsons, reporting for the committee appointed by Taylor, said the urgency of the social problems being generated by technological developments "means that someone is inevitably going to undertake action to solve them" and he was concerned about who that "someone" was going to be:

"As experts on technology many natural scientists will tend to consider it their responsibility to attempt to intervene in this field. The enormous popular prestige of the natural scientists will favor this tendency, since their pronouncements are widely considered as oracular.

"But insofar as social science has any validity at all, scientific competence in the field of social problems can only be the result of a professional level of training and experience in the specific subject matter. If, that is, we are to be moving more and more into a scientific age, and science is to help solve its social problems, it must be social science which does so."

Parsons viewed government as "an essential source far the kind of support needed for many new developments of social science" and urged that such support be sought even though there were "serious dangers in the involvement of the social science fields with government" that could ' "only be minimized, not altogether eliminated."

That same year the Society passed a resolution calling for the full participation of the social sciences in a "National Science Foundation or other means for aiding scientific research and training through public funds." But, in 1950, when NSF was established, its organic act allowed it to support the social sciences, but such support was not made mandatory.

While the conflict over NSF was going on, another bill gassed unnoticed through Congress that also had implications for the social sciences-the 1946 National Mental Health Act. As John Clausen pointed out in ASR in 1950, this act "constituted a declaration of intent to provide funds for a broad program of research, training and aid to states for the development of means of dealing with our mental health problems."

Besides support for research, the Society was also concerned about the adequacy and uniformity of the statistical records and data being generated by government agencies. A Committee on Social Statistics was appointed to look into the matter.


Academic Freedom

The academic freedom problem developed shortly after the war with the formation of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. In response to the activities of that committee, the Society passed in 1946 a resolution "reaffirming the indispensibility of unrestricted freedom to seek and present the facts and their interpretation in accordance with the best tradition of learning" and went "on record against any activities of Federal, State, and local agencies and committees impeding freedom of scientific inquiry and academic freedom."


Annual Meeting

The Annual Meeting was a topic of discussion and a subject of surveys throughout the decade. The issues were timing, location, cost, organization and participation.

Timing became an issue because the meetings were held during the Christmas holiday season. Although this time period received the highest "preference" score in one survey, the first September meeting was held in Denver in 1950.

The location issue involved several sub-issues: large cities vs. smaller cities/college towns; hotels vs. universities, and East/Midwest vs. West. One meeting tentatively scheduled far Cornell University had to be relocated because the university could not provide space on the designated dates. A poll of the membership indicated that the1948 meeting, proposed for the Pacific Coast, would be attended primarily by members living on the West Coast. The meeting was held in Chicago.

The cost issue was related to the location issue. The belief was that meetings held in smaller cities/college towns, or on campuses and in different parts of the country would be less expensive.

The organizational issue concerned the proliferation of sessions, lack of general sessions, time for discussion from the floor, the number of papers per session, the length of papers, the number of discussants, and time for informal discussion.

The participation issue concerned the ratio of solicited vs. contributed papers. Up to this time, Annual Meetings were composed almost entirely of solicited papers. In 1947, the Executive Committee recommended to the 1948 Program Committee that the program be made up of contributed papers as far as possible.



Besides the concerns about employment expressed earlier, the Society took two concrete steps in this area in the forties. It provided the first placement service at the 1948 meeting. In 1949, it began publishing an employment bulletin.


Public Relations

The functioning of the Committee on Public Relations became an issue after it released a press digest of an address, "The Nature of the Challenge," delivered by Pitirirn A. Sorokin during the 1940 meeting.

In his 1941 report, Alfred McClung Lee, chair, said he had received several comments about the propriety of such "destructive" publicity, but "judging from editorials, Sorokin's Chicago speech was looked upon generally as a rare example of self-criticism by a leader of a dignified scientific society." The Chicago Daily News said, "No casualty list appeared in the news of the convention, so sociologists must be able to take it as well as dish it out."

Members of the Public Relations Committee supported Lee's decision to release the digest and rejected the suggestion that the committee be given the right of censorship. Some committee members, however, thought the incident raised the question of whether the Public Relations Committee should exist. The Society approved the functioning of the committee and it continued to exist.


International Relations

Relations with sociologists in European countries were interrupted by the war. The Society continued to operate at the international level by appointing, in 1941, a Committee on Sociology in Latin American Countries composed of T. Lynn Smith, Chair; Nathan L. Whetten; W. Rex Crawford; Clarence Senior; Donald Pierson; Frazier and Taylor. The scope of the committee was expanded to all other countries after the war.

In 1948, Wirth reported on plans being formulated by UNESCO for an international association of sociologists. Wirth was elected provisional president of the International Sociological Association during its organizational meeting in 1949. The Society is a charter member.

The Society also established active liaison with the United States National Commission for UNESCO in 1946.


Social Studies

Interest in the teaching of sociology in secondary schools which initially was demonstrated in the formative years of the Society was revived in 1943 with the appointment of a Committee on Sociology in the Secondary Schools, composed of Lloyd A. Cook, Chair; Edmund deS. Brunner; M.C. Elmer; Wayland J. Hayes; C.R. Hoffer; Paul H. Landis; G.L. Marwell; Elio D. Monachesi; and Robert L. Sutherland.

The interest was maintained through the decade by this committee and its successors which redeveloped a relationship with the National Council for the Social Studies.

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