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The History of Daycare
Precursors to modern daycare

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Infant schools began to appear in Great Britain and Europe in the early 19th century.
In 1824 an eminent group of English reformers established an Infant School Society (in Britain)
1...
(In France,) a French Lutheran pastor, Jean Frédéric Oberlin, struck by the poverty and degradation of children in rural areas of the Vosges, opened at his own expense écoles à tricoter (knitting schools).
In Belgium, écoles-gardiennes opened to provide care and education for children whose mothers worked outside the home.
Similarly in Germany, Kleinkinderbewahranstalten (schools of necessity) existed primarily to "take care of children whose mothers were obliged to work".
In Italy, an abbot, Ferrante Aporti, opened an infant school in Cremona in 1828...
2

A forerunner of today's so-called "progressive" on-site daycare was established in Scotland in 1815 by Robert Owen for children of mothers who worked in his cotton mill, with one "teacher" in charge of 100 children.  Children attended this "infant school" in New Lanark from the ages of 18 months to 10 years.3   Owen's only aim was to keep the children healthy...until they were old enough to go to work in mills themselves."4

There is some debate about when day cares started in America:
Although the 1879 Fitch Crèche in Buffalo claims to be America's first daycare center
5, Elizabeth Rose writes that "the country's (United States) first day nursery was founded by Quakers in Philadelphia in 1795."6  Sonya Michel largely agrees, identifying it as the nursery at the Philadelphia House of Industry, but dates it to 1798.
-- Children's Interests/Mothers' Rights, by Sonya Michel, ©1999, P. 14. 
Margaret O'Brien Steinfels writes the 1828 "Boston Infant School...may have been the first day care center in America..."7  Geraldine Youcha claims "A day nursery for the children of seamen's wives and widows opened in Boston" in 1838.8
Mary Frances Berry notes "An infant school was organized in New York City in 1827.
9

Controversy surrounded infant schools, however.
...critics felt that separating young children from their mothers for prolonged periods of time violated the laws of God and nature.
10
(In Boston) other teachers reported that graduates of the infant schools were "less teachable" than their untutored peers.
11
Finally, an influential book by Amariah Brigham (in 1833) argued that (such early) schooling might in fact harm young children.
12

Past Caring, A History of U.S. Preschool Care and Education for the Poor, 1820--1965 by Emily D. Cahan, ©1989 by National Center for Children in Poverty, p. 9
2
Ibid., p. 10
Ibid., p. 10
4
 Minding the Children:  Childcare in America from Colonial Times to the Present by Geraldine Youcha, © 1995, page 319  

5
According to Tim Tielman in the Newsletter of the Preservation Coalition of Erie County, June 1996
6 A Mothers' Job: The History of Daycare, 1890-1960  by Elizabeth Rose, 1999, page 18

7
 Who's Minding the Children, by Margaret O'Brien Steinfels,
©1973, P. 36

8
  Geraldine Youcha, op. cit., page 322
9  The Politics of Parenthood  by Mary Frances Berry, ©1993, P. 76
10  Emily D. Cahan, Op. Cit. P. 10
11  
Ibid., P. 12
12  Ibid., P. 13

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Last updated:  03/07/2005

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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