The economic crisis not only forced
families to send mothers into the workplace, but it also prompted charitable
day nurseries and the federal government to revise their attitudes toward
day care, albeit temporarily.
From A Mothers' Job: The History of Daycare,
1890-1960 by Elizabeth Rose, Oxford University Press, Inc., 1999,
Private day nurseries expanded their scope (not only for children of working
mothers, but for any child whose family was experiencing hardship)...The
federal government...sponsored public nursery schools throughout the country.
However, day care was excluded from the welfare system established by the
Social Security Act of 1935 and its subsequent amendments, as... "Mothers'
pensions had already gained recognition as the social policy of choice for
poor women and children, overshadowing day care...(and) was written into
...the federal government launched the first public day care program
in U.S. history.
...Administered by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) and later
by the Works Projects Administration (WPA), the main purpose of the program
was always to provide work for unemployed teachers.
Significantly, the government program provided money for nursery
schools, not for day nurseries.
...nursery schools represented an exciting new frontier of education, while
day nurseries had been largely discredited as offering only custodial care
to poor families who had no better options.
In fact, the National Federation of Day
Nurseries printed in their 1931 bulletin "...that the day nursery ought to
be the last choice in the care of children..."
Who's Minding the Children, by
by Margaret O'Brien Steinfels,
©1973, page 66
(However), day care was not to become a part of the permanent welfare system
established by the New Deal.
-- Elizabeth Rose, Op. Cit., p151