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…)