Claire Argow

Claire Angevin Argow (1903 - 1997)



Each year, the Social Work Program awards the Claire Argow scholarship to an outstanding junior in Social Work.


Recent recipients include:


  • 1999-2000     Navina Marks
  • 2000-2001     Cadence Barr
  • 2001-2002     Katharine Hutslar
  • 2002-2003     Ryanne Pilgeram
  • 2003-2004     Hilary Matthews
  • 2004-2005     Carol Cloakey
  • 2005-2006     Daniel Eisen
  • 2006-2007     Ali Moore
  • 2007-2008     Amy Fitzpatrick
  • 2008-2009     Kaitlyn Schovanec
  • 2009-2010     Elizabeth Bair
  • 2010-2011     Elaine Charpentier-Philippi
  • 2011-2012     Hillary Kirk
  • 2012-2013     Cindy Simmons
  • 2013-2014     Brenda Tevis


Born in Highland, New York, Claire Angevin was the great-great granddaughter of the first judge in Ulster County, New York.  Her parents were Jay Ferris Angevin and Sarah O. Bernard.

Claire is a graduate of Vassar College (BA in 1924). She earned a masters degree in psychiatric social work from Simmons College, Boston (1925) and a law degree from Yale Law School in 1930. She was one of only three women in her class (the first three women to graduate from Yale Law School).  She followed this with a certificate from Yale University's School of Alcohol Studies.

She married Walter W. Argow, a criminologist in New York City, Aug. 28, 1935.

During the depression, she was Assistant Director for the Survey of Connecticut Prisons, completing social, psychological and medical profiles on inmates.

She served as coordinator of recreation in Greater New York, a civil defense appointment under Mayor LaGuardia.  She worked for the National Society for Prevention of Cruelty in New York City. In 1937 she worked as a counselor at the Warwick Training School for Boys in New York.  She was Executive Director of the New York Society for the Prevention of Crime and Executive Secretary of the Council of Social Agencies, Jacksonville, Fla.  (1943-5).

In 1945, she assumed the position of Executive Director of the Oregon Prison Association, a post she held until 1960.  She was the only U.S. woman to hold such a position in a state prison association during that period.

One of her first tasks in this position was to conduct a survey of children in Oregon's jails.  As director she worked for separate women's prisons, better programs and physical facilities in Oregon's correctional institutions and more enlightened and efficient parole and probation procedures.

She helped establish the Woman's Prison (1951) and Oregon Women's Correctional Institution (1965). The women's wing of Multnomah County's Juvenile Detention Center was named in her honor in 1972.

Claire Argow joined the faculty in the Department of Sociology of Pacific University in 1960 and acted as director of the Upward Bound program from 1966-70.

Argow was also co-sponsor/founder of the Oregon Council Against the Death Penalty.  Argow led the successful petition and election drive to abolish the death penalty in 1964. She personally visited seven of the eight men who were executed prior to the death penalty abolition.  She gave over 1000 formally requested interviews with Oregon inmates and thousands more informal meetings. The Oregon Journal (May 15, 1960, part 5, p. 2) reports on a situation in the Oregon State Penitentiary when three inmates smuggled in a gun and planned to use Mrs. Argow as a hostage or shield in an escape attempt.  However, two of the three backed out and turned themselves in to the warden, when they realized what would happen to them at the hands of other prisoners if Mrs. Argow was injured.

She was a member of numerous governors’ committees on parole and probation, a member of the National Probation and Parole Association, the American Correctional Association and the National Jail Association.

Claire Argow died in 1997. Memorial services were held in Old College Hall at Pacific University.