Loraine Bedsole Tunstall was the first woman in the state of Alabama
appointed to head a department in the state government. When the legislature
created the Child Welfare Department in 1923, she was appointed its first
director, holding that position until her retirement in 1935.
Prior to being named to this position, Mrs. Tunstall had worked
intensively in the field of social services to children. From 1915 to 1917, she
was the first child labor inspector in Alabama. During the next two years she
worked with the United States Department of Labor with responsibility for the
enforcement of the first federal child labor law. In 1919 as a member of the
National Child Labor Committee she worked with several state legislatures in
the passage of legislation beneficial to children. It is to her credit that her
own home state also passed its first beneficial legislation on this question
during this time.
During the time that Mrs. Tunstall was director
of the State Child Welfare Department, she was instrumental in the development
of legislation covering juvenile court, adoption procedures, standards of care
for child care institutions and agencies, placement of children, and child
labor. Implementing the 1923 legislation which created the department she
headed, county child welfare boards were established with direct relation to
the Social Child Welfare Department.
Not only was Mrs. Tunstall closely identified with the development of
sound child welfare practices in Alabama, she was known nationally for her
application of sound social work philosophies. She was a member of committees
of the National Conferences of Social Work, a member of the Board of the
American Public Welfare Association, and a member of the White House Conference
Between 1932 and 1934, Mrs. Tunstall laid the foundation for Alabama
being the first state to be ready to initiate the federal relief program
legislated in 1934. In 1935 when federal social security legislation was
passed, again through Mrs. Tunstall's leadership, Alabama became the first
state to pass enabling laws to implement the program.
Qualified personnel were essential for the implementation of social
services for children, and Mrs. Tunstall initiated a plan of cooperation with
educational institutions to provide that personnel. Foremost for her, however,
was a sound philosophy and implementation that children and their needs came
first. She established a tradition in Alabama that social services should be
provided even in the remotest parts of the state, so that no child would be
deprived by the geography of his birth. This is the living evidence of Mrs.
Tunstall's influence on behalf of children in Alabama and America.