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Currents - March/April 2013 - Harriet Putterman Retires from the Chapter After 17 Years Community Or
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Community Organizer Extraordinaire

Harriet Putterman Retires from the Chapter After 17 Years

Harriet Putterman, the membership coordinator for the Chapter has retired. Harriet was with the Chapter for 17 years.

At the time Harriet joined the Chapter, she was a seasoned community organizer and political activist, and brought her skills to work on behalf of NASW and NYC social workers. Harriet graduated from Columbia School of Social Work in 1964, and was the Executive Director of the Friends and Relatives of the Institutionalized Aged from 1978-1982.

One of the early highlights in Harriet’s tenure at NASW was student organizing to engage social work students in voter registration prior to the 1996 Presidential election at which point schools were trying to do this on their own. Harriet brought coherence to this effort and teamed up with NYPIRG’s existing voter registration efforts. On the day all of this came together, over 250 students registered 8,000 New Yorkers, mostly in low income communities. NYPIRG reported that this was the single most successful day in their voter registration efforts. Voter registration continued for a number of years, with tens of thousands of people being registered.

Harriet Putterman when she first started her tenure at NASW-NYC 17 years ago with intern Tom Hill (left) and administrative assistant Tasha Guevara.

Later, Harriet applied her organizing skills to recruit social work students into NASW. In the past two years Harriet expanded this effort by bringing on student recruiters from each school. The recruiters, known as NASW Membership Associates, have surpassed all previous efforts at connecting students and the Chapter. By the end of last May, the number of student members had reached approximately 1,350.

While Harriet was not spending her time at NASW, she was doing political organizing on the Lower Eastside and helped form a community based organization that elected the first Latina to the City Council from the community. That was Margarita Lopez, which set the stage for the election of Rosie Mendez, the current Councilwoman.

Ammu Kowolik is now the Membership & Program Associate and has acknowledged the privilege of being mentored by Harriet over the years.

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