Cover image for Children's interests/mothers' rights : the shaping of America's child care policy
Children's interests/mothers' rights : the shaping of America's child care policy
Michel, Sonya, 1942-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Haven, CT : Yale University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xii, 410 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HQ778.63 .M52 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Why is the United States one of the few advanced democratic market societies that do not offer child care as a universal public benefit or entitlement? This book-a comprehensive history of child care policy & practices in the United States from the colonial period to the present-shows why the current child care system evolved as it has & places its history within a broad comparative context. Drawing on a full range of archival material, Sonya Michel shows how child care policy in the United States was shaped by changing theories of child development & early childhood education, attitudes toward maternal employment, & conceptions of the proper roles of low-income & minority women. And she argues that the present policy-erratic, inadequate, & stigmatized-is typical of the American way of "doing welfare."

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

In this historical view of U.S. child care policy from the 1850s to the late 1990s, Michel (Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) shows how government, philanthropists, educational reformers, and social welfare professionals interacted to shape evolving policies. Among the many quoted key figures and documents in the history of child welfare and women's rights, particularly interesting are the efforts of social welfare professionals to prevent the establishment of universal day care. Michel states that "the presence of mothers in the workforce is presented not as a normal feature of advanced market economies, but as a `social problem' " and, since children are viewed as deprived, "children's interests are implicitly positioned in opposition to women's rights." Two other interesting recent books on child care history are Geraldine Youcha's Minding the Children (LJ 3/15/95) and Elizabeth Rose's A Mother's Job (Oxford Univ., 1998). Michel emphasizes policy and offers the most complete history of government and voluntary agency efforts. An excellent purchase for social welfare, social history, and women's studies collections at academic and public libraries.ÄMary Jane Brustman, SUNY at Albany Libs. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

In this superbly researched study, Michel seeks to understand why the US, alone of the democratic market societies, has failed to develop a comprehensive system of public day care. She demonstrates that throughout the 19th century, middle-class maternalist conceptions defined day care as a social welfare function and upheld the ideal of wage-earning women as mothers rather than as workers entitled to the right of child care. Little change has occurred in the 20th century. The Progressive Era's day nursery movement and mother's pensions reinforced women's traditional maternal role within the home rather than promoting state-sponsored child welfare to aid working mothers. In the late 1920s, the increasing influence of therapeutic discourse stigmatized the establishment of universal day care by labeling maternal employment as pathological. Both the Depression and WW II expanded child care policies but did not establish a precedent for permanent government-sponsored day care. During the last four decades, as the battle shifted to the federal level, Michel argues persuasively that the issue has been riven by class and race conflict and that little progress has been made in providing universal day care. An important book for social welfare historians, women studies scholars, and policy makers. All levels. E. W. Carp; Pacific Lutheran University