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Demanding Child Care

Womens Activism and the Politics of Welfare, 1940-1971

Natalie M. Fousekis

Publication Year: 2011

At the end of World War II, the federal government announced plans to terminate its public child care services that had been established during the war for working mothers. Analyzing the informal networks of cross-class and cross-race reformers, policymakers, and educators, Demanding Child Care: Women's Activism and the Politics of Welfare, 1940-1971 traces the rapidly changing alliances among these groups. Deftly exploring the structural forces impeding government support for broadly distributed child care as well as the possibilities for partnership and the limitations among key parties such as feminists, Communists, labor activists, working-class mothers, and early childhood educators, Fousekis helps to explain the barriers to a publicly funded comprehensive child care program in the United States.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: Women in American History

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-xiv

This book (and the child care movement it chronicles) relied on the generosity of the women who invited me into their homes and lives to share their memories of the battle for child care in California. I am thankful to Lynne Beeson, Barbara Gach, Sharon Godske, Loretta Juhas, Jeanne Miller, Tillie Olsen, Virginia Rose...

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pp. 1-11

In 1947, a recently divorced mother, whose two young children were enrolled in a publicly supported child care program that had its funding threatened, penned a letter to California Governor Earl Warren: “If there were fewer children affected by this action, I would not be writing to you. Because while this is a personal...

Part 1. War and Its Aftermath

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1. Californians Secure Wartime Child Care

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pp. 15-38

At 7 a.m. on June 18, 1943, fourteen children between the ages of five and eleven walked through the doors of San Francisco’s first public child care center, located in the McKinley School. The children played with dolls, stacked blocks, and read books. At noon they became members of the “clean plate club” by finishing...

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2. Postwar Hopes: The Fight for Permanent Child Care, 1945-47

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pp. 39-64

On August 20, 1945, just six days after Japan surrendered, the Federal Works Agency (FWA) notified the public that it would end many of its wartime services, including the Lanham Act child care centers. Big‑city newspapers devoted headlines to Japan’s surrender, to soldiers returning home from the war, and to negotiating...

Part 2. Mobilizing during the Cold War

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3. Child Care "Is a State Problem": Working Mothers and Educators Take Action, 1947-51

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pp. 67-92

On a spring evening in 1947, thirty‑four mothers assembled after work at the Van Nuys Child Care Center in Los Angeles County to draw up and sign a petition imploring Governor Earl Warren to “support an adequate Child Care program,” a permanent, state‑supported program offering child care to all. They regarded the recent...

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4. "We Need to Stand Together": Theresa Mahler, Mary Young, and the Coalition's Victory in the 1950s

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pp. 93-118

When asked about Theresa Mahler in 1998, Mary Young recalled, “She depended upon me for a lot.” In fact, Mahler and Young relied not only on each other but also on a wider network of mothers and educators to sustain their lobbying efforts for child care in the 1950s. During legislative sessions they spent hours...

Part 3. The War on Poverty and the Age of Protest

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5. "We Do Not Consider Ourselves Welfare Cases": Education-based Child Care and Low-income Working Families, 1958–65

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pp. 121-140

The passage of the Public Welfare Amendments to the Social Security Act in 1962 marked the first time since World War II that Congress had appropriated funds for child care services. These amendments were the first of many public preschool measures to be enacted in the 1960s. The goals of these new policies were...

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6. A Different Kind of Welfare State: California's Child Care Coalition in the Age of Protest, 1966–71

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pp. 141-168

In the fall of 1970, Lynne Monti and Willie Mae Addison composed a letter rallying the mothers in the California Parents’ Association for Children’s Centers (CPACC) to action. “This has been a bad legislative year for Children’s Centers in Sacramento,” wrote the two activist mothers. Association members needed to do...

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pp. 169-174

On November 13, 1971, the California Parents’ Association for Children’s Centers (CPACC) held its twenty-third annual conference in San Francisco. It was CPACC’s first meeting since AB 750 had “change[d] the thrust” of the children’s center program and since the retirements of John Weber and Theresa Mahler. The...


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pp. 175-215


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pp. 217-236


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pp. 237-245

E-ISBN-13: 9780252093241
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252036255

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Women in American History

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Child care -- California -- History -- 20th century.
  • Child care -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Women political activists -- California -- History -- 20th century.
  • Women political activists -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Public welfare -- California -- History -- 20th century.
  • Public welfare -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
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