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The History of Daycare
Precursors to modern daycare (Cont.)

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The concept of a day nursery to care exclusively for children whose parents were away from home at work originated in France with the invention of the créche. The first créche had opened in 1844 in Chaillot, on the outskirts of Paris, as a part of an effort to combat infant mortality. So great was the demand for low-paid unskilled factory workers that many industrial firms sponsored créches so that mothers...could continue their work in the mills.12
The first American créche was opened in 1854 in New York by Nurse's and Children's Hospital...for the care of infants whose parents labored away from the home.

Again and again, as one reads descriptions of these early day nurseries, one is forced to conclude that they were almost always limited to providing only minimal forms of care and protection for the children. 14
"...nursery care...consisted chiefly of 'herding children, feeding one end, and wiping the other'"15
It was not uncommon for one matron to be responsible for cooking, cleaning, laundering, and supervising between 30 and 50 preschool children.

After 1900, the day nursery fell into increasing disrepute. Jane Addams, herself an innovator...(who had)... sponsored a day nursery at the Hull House settlement...outlined an argument against group child care.
Settlement workers in Boston began to feel that (day nursery children) were no better off than the "full orphan".
Increasingly...the new social workers...believed that the home was the only proper place for children and that the mother was the best caretaker.
By 1911 it was clear that the day nursery was at best "makeshift," a "necessary evil," and at worst a partner of an industrial system "trying its evil best to thrust the working man's wife or widow, the mother of the working man's children, out of her home and into its insatiable mills"
In 1910, Dr. Carolyn Hedger, addressing the National Federation of Day Nurseries, asserted that it takes mother-love, mother arms, mothers breasts, and considerable common sense to grow a human properly for the first nine months and no institution, no matter how scientific, how philanthropic, can replace these things."
"Underscoring the negative attitudes toward day-care institutions, The Association of Day Nurseries dissolved in 1931...(acknowledging) that day nurseries should be a last resort..."21

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. 13
13  Ibid., P. 14
14  Ibid., P. 15
15 Children's Interests/Mothers' Rights, by Sonya Michel, ©1999, P. 113

16 Ibid., P. 16
17 Ibid., P. 18
18  Ibid., P. 19
19  Ibid., P. 20
20  Ibid., P. 25
21 The Politics of Parenthood,  by M.F. Berry, ©1993,  P. 105

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Continued on the next page

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Last updated:  01/29/2005

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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