Conceiving the Future
Pronatalism, Reproduction, and the Family in the United States, 1890-1938
Publication Year: 2007
Published by: The University of North Carolina Press
Series: Gender and American Culture
Title Page, Copyright
I began this book in the History Department at the University of California, Berkeley. My advisor, Mary P. Ryan, allowed me to complete this project by being both a model of scholarship and a model of support. Mary’s comments were always insightful and encouraging even as she tried to keep this far-ranging...
1. Nostalgia, Modernism, and the Family Ideal
The United States invested heavily in the reproduction of its citizenry during the early twentieth century. However, these investments did not take the form of legislated child allowances or baby bonuses. Instead, national campaigns for reclamation, conservation, country life, and eugenics became prominent expressions...
2. New Occasions Teach New Duties: Mary Elizabeth Lease’s Maternalist Agenda
In one of his few discussions of women and the political reforms of the Populist and Progressive Eras, historian Richard Hofstadter contrasted ideals of feminine beauty from 1860 and 1935. Where an 1860 farm journal satirized the refinement and affected beauty of the city girl, the 1935 Idaho Farmer advocated such beauty tips for farmer’s wives as manicured nails. Hofstadter thought that most...
3. Reclaiming the Home: George H. Maxwell and the Homecroft Movement
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1915 novel, Herland, begins as three male explorers discover a utopian country inhabited only by women and children. Drawing a connection between the Edenic landscape and the civilized nature of its inhabitants, Gilman’s misogynist antihero first notes the ways in which the women of Herland have managed their forests: ‘‘Talk of civilization. . . . I never saw a...
4. The Political Economy of Sex: Edward A. Ross and Race Suicide
In the March 1911 edition of Good Health magazine, Ellen Swallow Richards claimed that she had discovered the ‘‘true cause of race suicide.’’ As a founder of the field of home economics and an instructor of ‘‘sanitary chemistry’’ at MIT, Richards was a pioneer in the study of nutrition, and it was naturally in the field of nutrition that she found the real roots of what was seen as a pressing issue...
5. Men As Trees Walking: Theodore Roosevelt and the Conservation of the Race
The first National Conservation Congress in 1909 featured what in retrospect may seem like a surprising variety of papers on subjects ranging from conservation in lumber and electricity production to the conservation of child life and manhood. In addition to the expected papers on forestry, the public health and child labor efforts undertaken by the General Federation of Women’s Clubs and the...
6. Fitter Families for Future Firesides: Florence Sherbon and Popular Eugenics
The 1911 ‘‘Million Dollar Parade’’ of prize livestock and other agricultural products at the Iowa State Fair concluded with an automobile filled with preschool children. A runner on the side of the car proclaimed them to be ‘‘Iowa’s Best Crop.’’ A later report on the event noted that these children had participated in a preschool health examination competition in which the examiners followed the only criterion...
7. American Pronatalism
On October 18, 1940, the Leathers family of Clarendon, Texas, became the ‘‘nation’s most typical American family’’ as judged by a committee at the New York World’s Fair. White, with two children, nineteen-year-old John and sixteen-year-old Margaret Jean, the Leathers were described as ‘‘champion stock farmers’’..
Page Count: 248
Illustrations: 7 illus.
Publication Year: 2007
Series Title: Gender and American Culture
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