Social Security Pioneers

Jane Hoey

early photo of Hoey

Jane Hoey. SSA History Archives

Social Security Board Bio of Jane Hoey, circa early 1940s


B. A., Trinity College
M. A., Columbia College
Graduate, New York School of Social Work

Miss Hoey's experience includes the following positions:

  • Assistant secretary, Board of Child Welfare, New York City
  • Director of field service, American Red Cross, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut
  • Assistant director of a study of national social agencies in 14 American communities.
  • Secretary, Bronx Division of the New York Tuberculosis and Health Association
  • Assistant director and secretary of the Health Division of the Welfare Council of New York City

In addition to her work with the welfare council, Miss Hoey served for 5 years as a member of the New York State Crime Commission. This was a State-wide body representative of both houses of the legislature and appointees of the Governor. Surveys were made of the crime situation in the State and Miss Hoey was responsible for those concerned with causes of crime, probation, parole, etc. As an outgrowth of these studies, the Crime Prevention Bureau was organized in the New York City Police Department.

For 10 years she served as a member of the New York State Correction Commission, supervising county jails and State prisons. She was also one of a small committee appointed by the Governor and responsible for drafting the present parole laws for New York State.

Miss Hoey has been president of the New York State Conference of Social Work and vice president of the National Conference of Social Work, and secretary of the American Association of Social Workers. She has been Director of the Bureau of Public Assistance with the Social Security Board since the inauguration of the Board's program.

Jane Hoey was an experienced and highly-regarded expert on social welfare issues from New York State when she was asked to join the new Social Security program in 1936 to be head of the Bureau of Public Assistance. This Bureau was responsible for the major assistance titles of the Social Security Act of 1935, which included Title I Grants to States for Old-Age Assistance, Title IV-Grants to States for Aid to Dependent Children, and Title X-Grants to the States for Aid to the Blind. In other words, of the seven programs authorized by the Act, Jane Hoey was in charge of three of them--more than any other Bureau Director.

In her role as Bureau Director, Hoey was an aggressive advocate on behalf of the programs under her charge. She was sometimes described as "fiery." One of her major early tasks was to oversee the development of the various State plans under the three titles. The State plans had to be in conformance with the federal regulations promulgated by Hoey and Board and Jane Hoey had to approve a State plan before payments could be made under the Act. This sometimes led to conflicts with various State officials, just by the nature of the federal/State relationships involved, and perhaps also, in part, due to the fact that Jane Hoey was a powerful high-profile female executive in an era when it was uncommon for women to be in such roles.

In any event, Jane Hoey was generally viewed as a successful and highly-effective government executive and she ran the Bureau of Public Assistance from 1936 to 1953, when she was forced to leave her job in order to make way for a political appointee to take the position of Bureau Director. (Story of Hoey's Departure in 1953)

Hoey at desk with McKenna

Two important Social Security officials, Jane Hoey and Hugh McKenna, May 1949. SSA History Archives.