Have we gone too far with ‘scholarising’ childhood in the modern world? My new book, Visionary Women and Visible Childhoods, England 1900-1920: Childhood and the Women’s Movement, explores children’s experiences of home and school during the early Twentieth Century. I used people’s memoirs about their childhoods, written many years later, in my research.
I chose people who had attended the elementary schools, which were set up to cater for the poorest children. The memoirs suggest strongly that children of the time felt very strong attachment to their homes, and especially to their mothers, who worked so hard to keep the family afloat. People describe the sheer effort of wash-day, the endless toil of keeping the tiny home clean and tidy, the battle to provide enough food for everyone, given that a man’s wages were not enough to keep everyone alive, and that mothers too worked, at home and in the neighbourhood, to make a few extra pennies each week.
Accordingly, writers of memoirs recall feeling very strong attachment to their home, and very strong feeling of responsibility (more…)
Once upon a time, English women fought for childhood – not just for gender equality with men. In 1900 women fought for suffrage, but also for a socialist society – a better deal for all.
Children at that time had become visible in the new elementary schools. They were hungry, poorly dressed, lacking food and boots. Some were ill, some disabled. Women spoke up for these children: they could not benefit from schooling unless their health and welfare needs were addressed. Women argued that the state should share responsibility with parents for their health.
And women also saw that children had things in common: they grew according to laws of development; they learned by exploration – and that school should take account of these points. Therefore children were a special social group, and the future of society. As detailed in my new book, Visionary Women and Visible Childhoods, England 1900-1920: Childhood and the Women’s Movement, it is no accident that measures to improve the status of (more…)