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Daycare Use During the Great Depression

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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, p 126

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 federal law."
Ibid., p140

...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.
Ibid., p144-145

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.
Ibid., p 145
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

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Last updated:  10/14/2006

History of Daycare- Background | History of Daycare - Overview | Overview - cont. | Precursors to modern Daycare | Precursors - pg 2
Daycare in the former Soviet Union  | Soviet Union - pg 2 | Daycare in the early Zionist kibbutzim | Daycare during the Great Depression |
Daycare during WWII | Daycare during WWII - cont. Daycare after WWII to the 1960's  | Daycare after WWII - cont. | Daycare today  

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