The McGill website tells us that in 1897, at a conference of Charities and Correction in Toronto, Mary Richmond (then Organizing Secretary of the Russell Sage Foundation's Charity Organization Society in New York) delivered a paper entitled 'The Need for a Training School of Applied Philanthropy'. In this, she argued that if those doing social work were to become an effective force in the solution of social problems and the development of community organizations, there needed to be an educational system specifically for social workers.
From these beginnings, the professionalization movement gained momentum in the US and Canada, and by 1905, lectures for social workers were delivered in Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia. Several years later, organized social work education began to take place in Canada.
In 1918, the Department of Social Studies and Training was opened at McGill University, with financial support from the theological colleges. J. Howard T. Falk was appointed Director. The curriculum at this time focused on the study of social problems, economic theories of social reform, poverty, and ethics. By 1919, the McGill calendar lists the department as the ‘Training School for Social Workers under the Department of Social Service'. This school was the second of its kind to open in Canada, the first being at Toronto University in 1914. The School worked closely with the newly created social agencies in the community and offered courses such as Social Problems, Methods and Agencies to address the needs of the community.
The first certificates for a one-year course of lectures were awarded in 1920. By 1923, a two-year diploma was offered. Students included school teachers, theological students, volunteers in settlements and other agencies, church workers, as well as social workers.
In 1933, the University Board of Governors closed the school down beacuse of financial difficulties. A group of alumni, along with citizens and agencies, came together to keep the school going. McGill provided office and classroom space; lecturers volunteered their teaching services. The newly-formed Montreal School of Social Work hired Dorothy King as its Director. She and her secretary were the only paid staff. The School remained open without the direction of McGill University until 1945, when the university once again took over the school.
The first graduate degrees from the McGill School of Social Work were granted in 1950. The students were required to get a general grounding in social work and then specialize.
Further information is available online, including lists of directors of the school and courses undertaken.
Source: the School's website.