Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Science in the Service of Children, 1893-1935

Science in the Service of Children, 1893-1935

Alice Boardman Smuts
Robert W. Smuts
R. Malcolm Smuts
Barbara B. Smuts
P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 400
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1npfp7
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Science in the Service of Children, 1893-1935
    Book Description:

    This book is the first comprehensive history of the development of child study during the early part of the twentieth century. Most nineteenth-century scientists deemed children unsuitable subjects for study, and parents were hostile to the idea. But by 1935, the study of the child was a thriving scientific and professional field. Here, Alice Boardman Smuts shows how interrelated movements-social and scientific-combined to transform the study of the child.

    Drawing on nationwide archives and extensive interviews with child study pioneers, Smuts recounts the role of social reformers, philanthropists, and progressive scientists who established new institutions with new ways of studying children. Part history of science and part social history, this book describes a fascinating era when the normal child was studied for the first time, a child guidance movement emerged, and the newly created federal Children's Bureau conducted pathbreaking sociological studies of children.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12847-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Three Movements, One Goal
    (pp. 1-12)

    In 1918 only three psychologists and two psychiatrists were full-time scholars of childhood. By 1930 there were more than six hundred such professional researchers, and at the beginning of the twenty-first century there are an estimated eight thousand.¹ In this book I explore how female reformers, together with scientists and philanthropists, succeeded in launching the child sciences as we know them today. Unlike the establishment of the adult sciences of human nature, which took place over a relatively long period, the child sciences were institutionalized and professionalized in dramatic developments in the decade and a half following the end of...

  6. Part 1 Preparing the Way, 1893–1910

    • Chapter 1 Save the Child and Save the Nation: The Rise of Social Feminism and Social Research
      (pp. 15-30)

      A distinctly American ideology of domesticity originated during the earliest years of the republic and was embellished and expanded by evangelical Protestantism during the decades before the Civil War. A new nation with a sense of mission, the United States saw its destiny tied to its children. Children in early America were valued for their economic contributions to the family and nation. Boys were particularly valued also as future citizens who could fulfill the expectations of the democracy, whereas girls were prized as future mothers who could teach their own children to be responsible parents and citizens.¹ Children therefore required...

    • Chapter 2 G. Stanley Hall and the Child Study Movement
      (pp. 31-48)

      A new scientific psychology, modeled on the physical sciences, emerged in Europe in the 1860s, flourished in Germany, and reached America in the 1870s. It was the product of evolutionary biology, the empirical tradition in philosophy, and experimental studies of the physiology of perception and sensation. Now called early experimental psychology, it was based in the laboratory, where researchers studied conscious reactions to touch, sights, and sounds. Since subjects had to be aware of and able to articulate their inner experience, animals, illiterate or abnormal persons, and children were excluded. Wilhelm Wundt, who founded the first psychological laboratory in Leipzig...

    • Chapter 3 Scientific Child Rearing, Organized Motherhood, and Parent Education
      (pp. 49-61)

      In the decades just before and after 1900, scientists and physicians offered American parents new versions of the nature of childhood and new advice on how children should be reared. For the first time in U.S. history, ostensibly scientific views of childhood challenged traditional wisdom. Parents, of course, were not aware that the new ideas and the data on which they were based were questionable. Mothers formed clubs throughout the nation to acquire the new “scientific” child-rearing information and to share experiences. Scientific advice on children was also disseminated through mothers’ clubs, kindergarten and child study movements, milk stations, well-baby...

    • Chapter 4 Social Welfare Reformers and Reform-Minded Scientists
      (pp. 62-78)

      The New Woman first appeared on the stage and in magazines in the mid-1890s. According to Rosalind Rosenberg, “Her distinguishing characteristics were her independent spirit and her athletic zeal. She rode a bicycle, played tennis or golf, showed six inches of stocking beneath her skirts, and loosened her corsets. She expected to marry but she wanted a life beyond her home—perhaps even a career.”¹ Rheta Childe Dorr described the New Woman as one who wanted “to belong to the human race, not to the ladies’ aid society.”²

      Settlement workers were conspicuously new women of a different type. Mostly single,...

  7. Part 2 Creating the Models, 1910–1921

    • Chapter 5 The Children’s Bureau under Julia Lathrop: Government at Its Best
      (pp. 81-102)

      Although many diverse groups supported the campaign to establish a federal agency for children, no bill reached the floor of Congress during President Theodore Roosevelt’s administration. And, in spite of President William Howard Taft’s support in 1910, no bill reached the floor of either house that year or the next.¹ Opponents argued that a children’s bureau would be unconstitutional, because it would give the federal government jurisdiction over state and local agencies concerned with child welfare. Moreover, they maintained, a children’s bureau would duplicate the work of other government agencies, particularly the Bureau of Education and the Census Bureau, which...

    • Chapter 6 From Juvenile Delinquency Research to Child Guidance
      (pp. 103-116)

      No Progressive Era reform movement provides a better example of the interaction of clubwomen, settlement workers, male welfare reformers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and sociologists than the effort to improve juvenile justice. The main goals of this conglomerate were to help young offenders to discover and eliminate the causes of their misconduct, instead of punishing them as adult criminals. “We all felt,” Jane Addams wrote, “that in addition to the study of conditions responsible for the delinquency of the child there should be added the study of the child himself, not only that a scientific estimate of his abnormality might be placed...

    • Chapter 7 Better Crops, Better Pigs, Better Children: The Iowa Child Welfare Research Station
      (pp. 117-136)

      Early in 1915 a group of Iowa women led by Cora Bussey Hillis asked the state legislature to establish a child welfare research organization to study the development of normal children. Their slogan was “Better Normal Children for Iowa,” a radical suggestion.

      The study of disadvantaged and “defective” children at the State University of Iowa during the eight preceding years had been justified by the hope that research would find ways to eliminate children’s suffering, prevent child dependency and juvenile delinquency, and replace charitable and public funds devoted to remedial efforts. For those involved, disadvantaged children were, of course, other...

  8. Part 3 Breaking Through, 1922–1940

    • Chapter 8 The Children’s Decade
      (pp. 139-154)

      No one could have predicted before World War I that the 1920s would be hailed as the Children’s Decade, a time when children would assume unprecedented importance. Signs of children’s enhanced status were reflected soon after the Armistice in the strength and exuberance of grassroots child welfare and parent education movements, and in the rhetoric of leaders in government, philanthropy, and social reform.¹

      Following the lead of prewar social justice reformers and the founders of the Iowa Child Welfare Research Station, many Americans began to demand prevention rather than amelioration. They asked for positive new measures to create a better...

    • Chapter 9 Child Development Research: Preventive Politics
      (pp. 155-172)

      The National Research Council (NRC) Division of Anthropology and Psychology established a Committee on Child Welfare and Parent Education in 1920. It appointed Bird Baldwin, director of the Iowa Child Welfare Research Station, its chair. Carl Seashore discouraged Baldwin from involving the new committee in any significant activities, however, and it remained unfunded and almost totally inactive during its first four years.¹

      When Robert Woodworth, an eminent Columbia University psychologist, became chair of the NRC Division of Anthropology and Psychology in 1924, Lawrence K. Frank and Beardsley Ruml seized the opportunity to use the moribund child welfare committee to achieve...

    • Chapter 10 Out of Step with His Times: Arnold Gesell and the Yale Clinic
      (pp. 173-190)

      Although each of the seven major child development institutes supported by philanthropy in the 1920s made important contributions to the new field of child development, their unique histories remain largely untold. Only one, the Iowa Child Welfare Research Station, has received book-length attention and, as far as I know, the history of only one other, the Berkeley Institute of Human Relations, has been traced in a scholarly article. Of the remaining five, the Yale Clinic of Child Development, directed by Arnold Gesell, most urgently demands attention.¹

      The Yale Clinic began as the one-room Yale Juvenile Psycho-Clinic that Gesell founded in...

    • Chapter 11 The Child Guidance Movement: Another Approach to Preventive Politics
      (pp. 191-206)

      Nineteenth-century literature in the field of what is now known as psychiatry was limited almost entirely to the study of “insanity” in adults.¹ What sparse comments there were on mental illness in children almost always came from Europeans. Americans contributed only four of the fifty-five titles cited in an 1883 review of the literature on childhood insanity, and none of the four dealt specifically with childhood mental illness.² According to psychiatrist Eli Rubenstein, this “is the story of an entire era in America prior to 1900. . . . Original research is rare . . . there is no discovery...

    • Chapter 12 Child Guidance Becomes Child Psychiatry
      (pp. 207-225)

      Originally conceived as “common-sense psychiatry,” child guidance became a highly technical medical specialty during the 1930s. The evolution of child guidance into a uniquely American child psychiatry began in 1927, when the Commonwealth Fund abandoned its bold effort to prevent juvenile delinquency and adult neurosis and psychosis. Its new goal was to transform child guidance clinics into psychotherapeutic centers for the treatment of limited numbers of children, and child guidance into a medical specialty.¹ It was not until 1959, however, that the American Psychiatric Association formally designated child psychiatry a subspecialty of psychiatry.² To accomplish its new goals the Commonwealth...

    • Chapter 13 The Children’s Bureau under Grace Abbott: Uphill All the Way
      (pp. 226-251)

      “Uphill all the way” was Grace Abbott’s apt summary of her thirteen years as second chief of the Children’s Bureau. Julia Lathrop, the first chief of the bureau, had been more fortunate. Her administration rode and skillfully exploited the high wave of Progressive social reform that lasted until shortly after the Armistice.¹

      Abbott operated in a radically different political, economic, and social environment. When she assumed office in August 1921, the bureau and its goals faced intense hostility. The bitter dispute over the proposed membership of the United States in the League of Nations, the Bolshevik revolution, and the Red...

  9. Epilogue: What Happened to the Early Movements?: The Child Development Field after World War II
    (pp. 252-270)

    “World War I had helped bring child development alive. World War II nearly killed it,” declared Robert Sears.¹ The loss of staff members to the war effort forced the child development institutes to curtail their programs significantly. The Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD), almost bankrupt, failed to meet from 1940 to 1946. The National Research Council (NRC) once again paid the society’s bills and helped it to reorganize.²

    Sheldon White recalled that in the 1950s annual reviews of psychology described the field of child development as “near death.”³ By the early 1960s massive federal funding for university research...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 271-364)
  11. Index
    (pp. 365-381)