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Muriel and Ralph Pumphrey Papers

Identifier: WUA-03-wua00176

The majority of this collection focuses on Ralph and Muriel’s years of professional work in St. Louis and their continued contributions to the field of social work education. Earlier aspects of both of their education and careers in Ohio, New York and Indiana are also represented, although to a lesser extent. The Pumphreys served as leaders, educators, and consultants for numerous social work organizations in the United States and internationally, which is also reflected in their papers.

While Series 01 and 02 contain materials that are related to only Muriel or Ralph respectively, Series 03 includes family material related to the Pumphrey family and joint scholarly work. The remaining series are materials grouped by type collected by both Ralph and Muriel over the course of their long careers.


  • Creation: 1934-1993


Conditions Governing Access

Some restrictions. Series 1, Box 4, Folders 9, 32, and 33. Series 1, Box 5, Folders and 6. Series 3, Box 1, Folder 14 (correspondence related to Brooks Pumphrey) resticted until 2042. For details, contact the University Archivist at (314) 935-5495.

Conditions Governing Use

Users of the collection must read and agree to abide by the rules and procedures set forth in the Materials Use Policies.

Providing access to materials does not constitute permission to publish or otherwise authorize use. All publication not covered by fair use or other exceptions is restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder, which may or may not be Washington University.

If you wish to publish or license Special Collections materials, please contact Special Collections to inquire about copyright status at (314) 935-5495 or (Publish means quotation in whole or in part in seminar or term papers, theses or dissertations, journal articles, monographs, books, digital forms, photographs, images, dramatic presentations, transcriptions, or any other form prepared for a limited or general public.)


52.00 linear feet

Biographical Information

Muriel Elizabeth (Warren) Pumphrey, DSW (1910 – 2000) and Ralph E. Pumphrey, Ph.D. (1908 – 1997) were prominent figures in the refinement of both public-oriented and university social work education and on the history of the social work movement.  They were married in 1934, and had two children, Brooks and Jennie.

Muriel E. Pumphrey received her bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College, Ohio in 1931. In 1934 she graduated from the New York School of Social Work.  Her early career included work at the Family Society (1934 – 1936), Brooklyn Bureau of Charities (1937 – 1940), and the Travelers Aid Society (1941 – 1945).  Following World War II, Muriel taught sociology and social work at Butler University, Indiana, working with programs for returning veterans.  She completed her doctoral work (1952 – 1954) at Columbia University School of Social Work, and received fellowships from the National Institute of Mental Heath Training and the Russell Sage Foundation.  After graduating, Muriel worked at the Council on Social Work Education and the Community Service Society (CSS) in New York.  In 1959, following her husband’s appointment at Washington University in St. Louis, the family moved to Missouri.  Muriel worked on many research projects at Washington University over the next decade, including for the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology (1961 – 1964) and the Social Science Institute (1964 – 1966), in addition to teaching at the Washington University George Warren Brown School of Social Work.  She joined the faculty of the University of Missouri – St. Louis (UMSL) in 1971 to teach sociology and in 1976 was asked to help establish a new department at UMSL devoted to social work.  She also worked to establish the department as an accredited program, which was achieved just before her retirement in 1980.                   

Research interests of Muriel Pumphrey included mental retardation, mental illness, sociology, and ethics in the field of social work.  Her major research focus, and the subject of her doctoral dissertation, was the early 20th century social work figure, Mary E. Richards.

Ralph E. Pumphrey received his bachelor’s degree from Miami University, Ohio, in 1928.  After teaching history at New York University, Ralph went on to earn a doctorate from Yale University in English and social history in 1934.  In 1940 Ralph earned a degree in social work from the New York School of Social Work (part of Columbia University), a topic he became interested in through volunteer work in New York.  First working for various social agencies, Ralph began teaching social work at New York University in 1956.  In 1959 he joined the faculty of the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis.  In addition to teaching, Ralph also served as acting dean of social work in 1964 and chaired the University Council from 1965 – 1967.  Retiring in 1976, Ralph remained connected with Washington University and was granted professor emeritus status.  He also served on the boards for several St. Louis area civic organizations, including the Delmo Housing Corporation, the Good Samaritan Home, and United Church of Christ Neighborhood Houses.

Ralph Pumphrey focused on various aspects of social welfare policy, health care, and the history of social work.  His major research focus was Michael M. Davis, an early 20th century health care advocate.  Over the course of several decades, Ralph compiled extensive biographical information for Davis, including correspondence with the Davis family.  While he wrote several articles on Davis, the book-length manuscript was not completed at the time of Ralph’s death in 1997 and was not published. 

While much of their scholarly work was done separately, Ralph and Muriel Pumphrey jointly authored numerous works including the benchmark book "The Heritage of American Social Work" in 1961.  Ralph traveled to Norway with Muriel when she received a Fulbright Fellowship to teach at the University of Trondheim in 1976 – 1977.  Both were invited back to teach graduate level courses at Trondheim, which they did from 1980 – 1982.


Documents are arranged alphabetically, except for Series 06 which is arranged by media type, and Series 07, which is arranged by type of government document.

Series 01 Muriel Pumphrey Publications, Papers, and Projects

Series 02 Ralph Pumphrey Publications, Papers, and Projects

Series 03 Muriel and Ralph Pumphrey Publications, Papers, and Projects

Series 04 Academic Programs

Series 05 Associated Social Welfare Agencies

Series 06 Audio and Visual Materials

Series 07 Government Documents

Series 08 Serial Publications

Series 09 Subjects Files

Method of Acquisition

This material was donated to the University Archives by Muriel and Ralph Pumphrey in 1973, 1976, 1977, and 1994, with addition boxes donated by Pumphrey family members 2006 and 2009.


Accruals are interfiled within the collection.

Related Materials

For more information on the School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, see the School of Social Work Administrative Records, also held by University Archives.

Ralph Pumphrey was associated with the Delmo Housing Corporation in the 1960s and 1970s. For further documents, see the Delmo Housing Corporation Records, also held by University Archives.

Processing Information

Processed by Jay Kempen in October 1999. Updated by Leela Pandey in January 2006.  Additions processed and finding aid updated by Miranda Rectenwald in November 2007 and January 2010. Updated by Sonya Rooney in August 2022.

Muriel and Ralph Pumphrey Papers
Description rules
Language of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021 May 19: Resource record updated in ArchiveSpace by Sarah Schnuriger.

Collecting Area Details

Part of the University Archives Collecting Area

Sonya Rooney
Olin Library, 1 Brookings Drive
MSC 1061-141-B
St. Louis MO 63130 US
(314) 935-5495