Publication Year: 2011
Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title
The experiences of children in America have long been a source of scholarly fascination and general interest. In American Childhoods, Joseph Illick brings together his own extensive research and a synthesis of literature from a range of disciplines to present the first comprehensive cross-cultural history of childhood in America.
Beginning with American Indians, European settlers, and African slaves and their differing perceptions of how children should be raised, American Childhoods moves to the nineteenth century and the rise of industrialization to introduce the offspring of the emerging urban middle and working classes. Illick reveals that while rural and working-class children continued to toil from an early age, as they had in the colonial period, childhood among the urban middle class became recognized as a distinct phase of life, with a continuing emphasis on gender differences.
Illick then discusses how the public school system was created in the nineteenth century to assimilate immigrants and discipline all children, and observes its major role in age-grouping children as well as drawing working-class youngsters from factories to classrooms. At the same time, such social problems as juvenile delinquency were confronted by private charities and, ultimately, by the state. Concluding his sweeping study, the author presents the progeny of suburban, inner-city, and rural Americans in the twentieth century, highlighting the growing disparity of opportunities available to children of decaying cities and the booming suburbs.
Consistently making connections between economics, psychology, commerce, sociology, and anthropology, American Childhoods is rich with insight into the elusive world of children. Grounded firmly in social and cultural history and written in lucid, accessible prose, the book demonstrates how children's experiences have varied dramatically through time and across space, and how the idea of childhood has meant vastly different things to different groups in American society.
Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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Table of Contents
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There is no single comprehensive text on American childhood. Whilematerials exist for writing such a history, the matter of structuring thegrand narrative remains challenging. The term “American” suggestsunity, and surely at any point in time the national environment has con-fronted all children with common issues. But ethnic, racial, class, and...
Part I. Early America
Chapter 1. American Indian Childhood
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Chuka was born in Oraibi, reportedly the oldest continuously inhabitedtown in North America, in 1890, just before the Anglos descended onhis isolated Hopi mesa. While his mother was pregnant—originally withtwins, melded into one child by the medicine man—she took all pre-cautions, such as avoiding serpent images so as not to turn her fetus into...
Chapter 2. European American Childhood
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Richard Mather was born in the village of Lowton, England, in 1596, theson of a yeoman who, though not wealthy, assigned his son to a school-master rather than putting him directly to work. Young Richard studiedLatin and Greek, the latter through reading the New Testament, andat 15 became a schoolmaster himself. Three years later he underwent...
Chapter 3. African American Childhood
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Frederick Douglass was born in 1818 in Talbot County, Eastern Shore,Maryland, and there he spent his early years in the cabin of his grand-parents, Betsy (slave) and Isaac Baily (free), along with cousins and aninfant uncle. His mother lived nearby, though he did not see her duringthose years (later they were together several times) and was never deeply...
Part II. Industrial America
Chapter 4. Urban Middle-Class Childhood
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Thomas Mellon was born in northern Ireland in 1813 and, Wve yearslater, accompanied his parents to America, where they settled in westernPennsylvania and began tilling the land. Young Thomas was farmingfull-time by the age of 12, but reading Benjamin Franklin’s autobiogra-phy two years later turned him in another direction: “Here was Franklin,...
Chapter 5. Urban Working-Class Childhood
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Johanna Marie Carle was born during the autumn of 1798 to Hannahand Peter Carle, Dutch immigrants who had settled in Philadelphiathree years previous. Peter was a day laborer who walked a mile everymorning to the wharves along the Delaware River, his Wrst place to seekwork. Hannah remained in their small rented home, cooking for board-...
Part III. Modern America
Chapter 6. Suburban Childhood
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I was born in 1934 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and spent my Wrst fouryears in a city apartment with my stay-at-home mother. My father, anerstwhile college instructor, draftsman/estimator, and employee of theWPA., despite having been a lifelong inhabitant of the steel city, longedto return to his Pennsylvania German rural roots. His dreams were real-...
Chapter 7. Inner-City and Rural Childhoods
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Brent Staples grew up, the seventh of nine children, during the 1950s inthe industrial town of Chester, Pennsylvania, poor but not on welfare—just as urban African Americans began to be identiWed with both povertyand handouts, not to mention violence. His parents had migrated toChester from rural Virginia during World War II, lured by the economy. ...
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There are many books about the plight of American children at theonset of the twenty-Wrst century. Some take a long-range view, observing,for example, that the child shaped by biological evolution cannot easilyintegrate into a society constantly reformed by technological change.Others focus on such topics as health, parental neglect, or poverty and...
A Note on Sources
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Despite the enthusiasm for Philippe Aries’s L’Enfant et la Vie Familialesous l’Ancien Regime (1960), published in English as Centuries of Childhood:A Social History of Family Life (1962), the Weld of childhood history untilrecently has had only limited appeal for American historians. Aries’sassertion that no concept of childhood existed before the Wfteenth or...
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Lloyd deMause prompted me to enter the Weld of childhood historymore than a quarter-century ago. He also brought my cousin, the lateJohn Walzer, into the enterprise, which further encouraged me. My col-leagues in the Department of History at San Francisco State Universityenabled me to offer a course in the history of childhood, even though...
Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 26 illus.
Publication Year: 2011