This essay explores the meaning of local associations in America's postwar suburbs. It asks especially whether local associations tended to distract members from larger issues of public concern or to draw them out of the purely local into movements of wider significance. Using the cooperative nursery school movement in Montgomery County, Maryland as a case study, the essay argues that these associations tended to pull members into larger public issues and networks; enmeshed members in communities devoted to democratic values and practices; and prefigured the participatory democracy to which so many social movements of the 1960s claimed commitment. It also shows that women in the cooperative nursery school movement created a new form of motherhood, here called cooperative motherhood, which aimed both to embed families in larger communities and to allow suburban mothers the freedom to pursue lives beyond domesticity.

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pp. 285-310
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