1932 – 1990
Respected clinician, teacher and advocate for social justice
Bernice Augenbraun, LCSW, was a highly regarded psychiatric social worker and an inspiration to those who knew her. She was a skilled teacher, trainer and writer and her skills in working with people were legendary. A thoughtful and introspective practitioner, she viewed clinical social work as a vocation which “dedicates itself to the enhancement of the integrity of the human being.” She was one of the leaders of the movement for licensing of social workers in the state of California (1969). And, she was one of the first social workers in private practice in Los Angeles, instrumental in the creation of the Society for Clinical Work. She served as the Society’s founding President.
Augenbraun was a social activist driven to action by the enormity of the pain of oppression inherent in the human condition. She was a founder of the NASW Women’s Council Prison Project and traveled to the prison regularly to provide social work services. Additionally, she was a tutor at the California Institute for Women State Prison through the University Without Walls from 1981 through 1986.
No account of Bernice Augenbraun’s life is complete without a description of her work with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. From 1972 until 1990, she consulted and trained the staff in many subjects pertinent to the needs of clients. She was on the faculty of Cambridge School, Pacific Oaks College and the Wright Institute of Los Angeles. She also worked with social service organizations including Catholic Social Services, Jewish Family Services, Kaiser Permanente Department of Psychiatry, Youth and Famiy Center and the Committee for International Human Rights.
As a committed feminist, Augenbraun marched for the passage of the Equal Right Amendment and for Freedom of Choice. She advocated for disenfranchised clients, specifically women in prison and their children, and helped social workers understand the barriers imprisoned mothers face in maintaining contact with their children. She took risks as she increasingly questioned the hierarchical relationships within society that she believed created and supported oppression such as racism, sexism, ableism, ageism and homophobia. Bernice Augenbraun was a woman full of wit, wisdom and principle.