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Small Worlds: Children and Adolescents in America, 1850-1950 / Edition 1

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"It is good to see writing and research about the history of children burst forth with the social diversity, imaginative research, and relevance to the present that are displayed in this collection. For too long, the lives of children have been merely an adjunct of family history; in this volume those lives become, as they should, the story of children themselves examining and evaluating their parents and their teachers as well as their peers in various regions and social situations within the United States."—Carl N. Degler, author of At Odds: Women and the Family in America, from the Revolution to the Present

"The highly commendable purpose of Small Worlds is to portray the children of America's past as historical actors in their own right. In spite of the many difficulties presented by the scant historical evidence pertaining to children, the authors in this collection have constructed significant and original narratives relating vivid stories of forgotten younger citizens. Balanced and sensitive to issues of race, class, and gender, Small Worlds is an important and timely addition to the swelling volume of literature pertaining to the history of American children."—Joseph M. Hawes, author of The Children's Rights Movement in the United States

"This book represents a new and imaginative reconception of the American experience. . . . Especially noteworthy is the emphasis on material culture."—David M. Katzman, author of Seven Days a Week: Women and Domestic Service in Industrializing America

Author Biography: Elliott West is professor of history at the University of Arkansas and author of The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado, which won the Francis Parkman Prize, the Pen Center West Award, the Ray Allen Billington Prize, the Caughey Western History Prize, the Western Writers of America Spur Award, and the Caroline Bancroft Prize.

Paula Petrik is associate professor of history at the University of Maine and author of No Step Backward: Women and the Family on the Rocky Mountain Mining Frontier, Helena, Montana, 1865-1900.

Contributors: David Nasaw, Elliott West, Selma Berrol, Vicki L. Ruiz, Bernard Mergen, Miriam Formanek-Brunell, Paula Petrik, William M. Tuttle, Jr., Ray Hiner, Lester Alston, Victoria Bissell Brown, Robert L. Griswold, Ruth M. Alexander, Liahna Babener

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
West ( Growing Up with the Country ) and Petrik ( No Step Backward ) have compiled an enjoyable guide to a century of American childhood that is admirably free of academic jargon. However, the collection is still adult-erated: The writers, primarily historians, see through grown-up eyes; even the oral histories are adults recounting their childhoods. Nevertheless, many of these essays, such as Bernard Mergen's study of the meanings children assign to toys, evince superb scholarship while invoking childhood's cherished memories and warm feelings. Others, such as West's exploration of the distinctive traits that emerged in children on the Great Plains, Selma Berrol's look at immigrant children's scholastic experiences and Lester Alston's essay on the acculturation of slave children, demonstrate that there was no one American childhood experience. Some pieces fall short, however. Beyond Alston's contribution, the section on familial relationships yields little insight, and Ruth M. Alexander's study of 22 young women whose rebellions landed them in reformatories deals only with a tiny subset of American children. Photos not seen by PW. (July)
Century. Paper edition (unseen) $17.95. Twelve essays discuss the experiences of children in diverse times and circumstances; a photo essay by N. Ray Hiner brings the total contributions to 13. The editors' goal here is to encourage an historical approach that emphasizes children's experiences (as distinct from adults' ideas about children and childhood). A sampling of topics illustrates the provocative potential of such studies: Female Socialization Among the Middle Class of Los Angeles, 1880-1910; Children's Attitudes toward Fathers, 1900-1930; The Politics of Doll Play in 19th-Century America; Moving Pictures in the Early 20th- Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700605118
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 5/28/1992
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.05 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 1.21 (d)

Table of Contents



Part One: Allee Allee Oxen Free

Cultural and Regional Variations

1. Children and Commercial Culture

Moving Pictures in the Early Twentieth Century, David Nasaw

2. Children on the Plains Frontier, Elliott West

3. Immigrant Children at School, 1880-1940 A Child's Eye View, Selma Berrol

4. "Star Struck"

Acculturation, Adolescence, and Mexican American Women, 1920-1950, Vicki L. Ruiz

Part Two: Eenie Meanie, Minie Moe

Children, Play, and Society

5. Made, Bought, and Stolen

Toys and the Culture of Childhood, Bernard Mergen

6. Sugar and Spite

The Politics of Doll Play in Nineteenth-Century America, Miriam Formanek-Brunell

7. The Youngest Fourth Estate

The Novelty Toy Printing Press and Adolescence, 1870-1886, Paula Petrik

8. The Homefront Children's Popular Culture

Radio, Movies, Comics—Adventure, Patriotism, and Sex-Typing, William M. Tuttle, Jr.

Part Three: Seen but Not Heard

Children in American Photographs

Part Four: One, Two, Buckle My Shoe/Three, Four, Shut the Door

Children and the Family

9. Children as Chattel, Lester Alston

10. Golden Girls

Female Socialization amon the Middle Class of Los Angeles, 1880-1910, Victoria Bissell Brown

11. "Ties That Bind and Bonds That Break"

Children's Attitudes toward Fathers, 1900-1930, Robert Griswold

12. "The Only Thing I Wanted Was Freedom"

Wayward Girls in New York, 1900-1930, Ruth M. Alexander

Part Five: Looking Backward

Remembering Childhood

13. Bitter Nostalgia

Recollections of Childhood on the Midwestern Frontier, Liahna Babener


The Contributors


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