As a social worker myself, I always wonder what leads an individual to become a social worker. Armin L. Saeger, Jr. was raised during difficult times and faced challenges of the Great Depression and World War II. As an 18-year-old, he registered as a Conscientious Objector (CO) during the war for religious reasons; he was a Quaker who held beliefs and practices of non-violence. Armin entered the Civilian Public Service (CPS) and was stationed around the U.S providing service in Oregon, New York and Tennessee; he volunteered for human guinea pig assignments as well. He was actually discharged a year after the war ended in 1946. As a member of the CPS, he was ineligible for medical insurance, benefits, pay or access to the GI Bill after the war because of his CO status.
It amazed me to read about the medical system back in the early 1930’s when Armin, as a little boy, went for surgery. His parents were not allowed to be with him before, during or after the surgery and visits were restricted. Imagine being age five and alone in hospital for a month with few family interactions, scared and lonely. Now fast-forward three years to age eight and imagine the same thing, except it was for a different surgery. It seems wrong, and I am glad the medical system has changed in this regard.
This all shapes the man Armin became later in life, including his involvement in Indiana’s Civil Rights protests and seeing Jim Crow laws change. He began university, majored in Religion and married. While obtaining his Master of Social Work degree, he worked as the director of the Kickapoo Friends Center for the Friends Indian Committee. He became a medical social worker, a clinical social worker for the U.S. Public Health Service at Tahlequah Indian Hospital and was involved with grassroots efforts and community organization between the Cherokees and the hospital. Armin then became the Director of the Indian Rights Association, a therapist at the Tulsa Psychiatric Center and began training in Bioenergetic Analysis, eventually establishing a private practice as a psychotherapist.
Armin learned much along the way and shared memories of interactions with clients. This is how social workers learn from one another. He described a rich and rewarding professional career. At the same time, he shared descriptions and memories of his personal life, which included speaking at a church right after Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. He grew through turbulent and trying times: the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and Civil Rights, all of which affected him, even though he was non-violent and held religious beliefs that did not agree with the many wars or the forced draft.
The book depicts an individual willing to stand up for what he believed, a man of conviction, a social worker that another can learn from. Armin had his insecurities, his own experiences with anxiety and depression, and his writing allows the reader to enter his world and see him as human.
This book is a mixture of American history that cannot be learned from a regular history textbook, as it depicts an individual’s memories and an individual’s journey into the field of social work; it’s a good mixture. It is definitely a book worth reading!
Sowing My Quaker Oats, by Armin L. Saeger, Jr., is available as both a paperback or Kindle e-book on Amazon. This week only, February 21-25, 2014, the e-book is available at no cost. Remember, you do not need a Kindle reader to enjoy e-books. Free downloadable Kindle reading apps are available for any computer or smart device on the Amazon website.
By Victoria Brewster, MSW