A Mother's Job: The History of Day Care, 1890-1960 / Edition 1

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Americans today live with conflicting ideas about day care. We criticize mothers who choose not to stay at home, but we pressure women on welfare to leave their children behind. We recognize the benefits of early childhood education, but do not provide it as a public right until children enter kindergarten. Our children are priceless, but we pay minimum wages to the overwhelmingly female workforce which cares for them. We are not really sure if day care is detrimental or beneficial for children, or if mothers should really be in the workforce. To better understand how we have arrived at these present-day dilemmas, Elizabeth Rose argues, we need to explore day care's past.

A Mother's Job is the first book to offer such an exploration. In this case study of Philadelphia, Rose examines the different meanings of day care for families and providers from the late nineteenth century through the postwar prosperity of the 1950s. Drawing on richly detailed records created by social workers, she explores changing attitudes about motherhood, charity, and children's needs.

How did day care change from a charity for poor single mothers at the turn of the century into a recognized need of ordinary families by 1960? This book traces that transformation, telling the story of day care from the changing perspectives of the families who used it and the philanthropists and social workers who administered it. We see day care through the eyes of the immigrants, whites, and blacks who relied upon day care service as well as through those of the professionals who provided it.

This volume will appeal to anyone interested in understanding the roots of our current day care crisis, as well as the broader issues of education, welfare, and women's work--all issues in which the key questions of day care are enmeshed. Students of social history, women's history, welfare policy, childcare, and education will also encounter much valuable information in this well-written book.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"One of the greatest strengths of this book is its use of case records from individual day care centers over the course of the 70 years examined by the work. These rich records allow Rose to show who actually used day care centers--and how that population changed over time; they allow her to get at the motives of day care parents for placing their children in a group care facility, parents' attitudes toward women's waged work, and their attitudes towards day care itself. Historians are often frustrated by their lack of access to the motives, ideas, and values of ordinary people, but here Rose joins the growing group of historians who are carefully interrogating case records produced by social workers to illuminate the world of clients. She does so with great skill and insight."--Robyn Muncy, University of Maryland at College Park

"This is a mature work, well written, imaginatively researched, and plugged into the literature of reform, social welfare, [and] women's history, as well as the interdisciplinary literature of childcare. Perhaps the strongest and most innovative part of the book is its imaginative use of case records. For years, historians have been calling for the history of reform and social welfare as told from the point of view of the client. Few have found a way to do so, but Rose has accomplished this goal in fascinating ways."--Allen Davis, Temple University

"...Rose demonstrates how vital the issue of day care is if we want to be known as a society that values families and children. Rose poses some thought-provoking questions: What is a good mother? What do children need? Who is responsible for child care?"--Associated Press Books

"It's rare when a work of historical scholarship speaks to a contemporary social crisis as thoughtfully as does Elizabeth Rose's new book, A Mother's Job: The History of Day Care, 1890-1960."--Midland News

"The story she gives us is in its own right a fascinating one....this beautifully and movingly written book goes a long way toward helping us to understand how we have arrived at our current policies for meeting the needs of families and, more important, why it is so difficult to make these policies more rational, coherent, and consistent."--Swarthmore College Bulletin

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195168105
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/28/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 5.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Rose is Assistant Professor of History at Vanderbilt University.

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Table of Contents

Part I: Establishing Day Care, 1890-1930
1. "Foster Mothers": Creating Day Nurseries
2. Using Day Nurseries
3. Deserving Mothers: Day Care as Welfare
4. Day Care as Education: The Emergence of the Nursery School
Part II: Transforming Day Care, 1930-1960
5. Day Care and Depression
6. Battling for Mothers' Labor: Day Care During World War II
7. From Charity to Legitimate Need: The Postwar Years

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