Intellectual Baby Care Resources Helps in Raising Smarter Children

The Power of Music

Every parent wants to provide their child with every possible advantage to survive in a highly competitive world. During the 90’s, one of the potential advantages that was most focused on was parents’ increasing their child’s IQ. A famous study that showed some temporary improvement in spatial IQ test scores after listening to classical music resulted in a number of intellectual baby care products.

Baby Einstein, one of the most popular videos created using the theory that early exposure to intellectual material increased IQ, was purchased by Disney in 2001 and had sales of more than $17 million. However, despite the financial success of these videos, one study reported that for babies from 8 to 16 months old, every hour spent watching these videos rather than experiencing human interaction resulted in their having six to eight fewer words in their vocabularies compared to other babies their age. For children 17 to 24 months, their vocabularies increased and the negative effects were reduced.

While the claims made during the 90’s regarding the ability of intellectual baby care products to increase I.Q. were perhaps exaggerated to increase sales, experts agree that exposure to music may be one contributing factor in raising smart children.In an article in Scientific American, Don Campbell, author of more than 20 books on music, education, and health, including “The Mozart Effect” says that

“Music has a tremendous organizing quality to the brain.”

In addition to that quality, he also believes that music can also modulate mood and alleviate stress. Stress has been shown to be one of the major obstacles to learning.

While listening to music can improve learning ability, experts believe that learning to play an instrument has a more positive, and permanent effect on IQ. According to a study of 25,000 students conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles, those who had received music instruction tested higher on SATs and in reading proficiency than those who had not. Luckily, with the advent of the internet and YouTube videos, music lessons are now available to a far greater number of families than ever before.

The Power of Words

However, when it comes to intellectual baby care, there are more important factors to consider for building a strong foundation upon which your child’s budding intellect can be built. One of those factors is proper nutrition. Happily, the rising popularity of community gardens is resulting in an increase in the amount of healthy organic foods available for families, regardless of income.

Perhaps the best, and least expensive, element of intellectual baby care is verbal interaction. According to the results of one study, possibly the best intellectual baby care product parents can buy is a dictionary. The study measured how verbal ability can be affected by socio-economic conditions and found that children from professional families heard 2,100 words in an hour, children from working class families heard 1,200 and children from poor families heard only 600.

The study concluded that by the age of three, a child from a poor family would hear 30 million fewer words than a child from a professional family. Vocabulary is one of the most basic building blocks of knowledge. On a standard Bayley Cognitive Assessment, children from families with incomes below the poverty line score one-fifth of a standard deviation lower at age nine months, with the gap increasing to half a standard deviation by two years.

The good news is that whatever their income, parents can utilize libraries, the internet, and perhaps most importantly, one another, to expand their vocabularies as well as their knowledge and experience. These studies have all helped demonstrate that caring well for children begins with parents caring well for themselves. Today’s children are fortunate in that the income gap is becoming less relevant because parents have access to so many valuable resources. Of all the intellectual baby care products and resources available to children, affectionate communicative parents are still the most important, and effective.


social change for mothers

Social Change for Mothers Shapes Mothering and Crushes Our Illusion of Motherlove

“Whatever the message, the advice was given in the form of an order and the authors highlighted extreme consequences if mothers did not follow the methods of childrearing that they advocated.”

That’s what researcher and author Angela Davis said about the potential for childcare and parenting “bibles” to shatter their followers’ faith in themselves as parents.

“More than 50 years on and experts still cannot agree on the best way to approach motherhood, and all this conflicting advice just leaves women feeling confused and disillusioned.”

Not all social change for mothers has been positive. Ms. Davis, a research professor at the Centre for the History of Medicine at Warwick University, points out the “cyclical nature of these childcare bibles”. One reality of that cycle is that the influence of the strict rules first laid down by Frederick Truby King in the 40’s was slowly replaced over time by the less authoritarian influences of authors such as Donald Winnicott, John Bowlby and Benjamin Spock. However, in the 90’s, Gina Ford rose to prominence, once more advocating a more strictly regimented approach to parenting.

Rather than writing another child-care guide, Angela Davis instead concerned herself with the institutional and societal structures that affect motherhood. These include social pressures as well as the power relationships within individual homes. In her book Modern Motherhood: Women and Family in England, 1945-2000, published in 2012, Davis challenges the assumption of continual progress and social change for mothers towards greater social freedom.

The book is based on 160 oral history interviews of mothers and has been described as perhaps the first and most comprehensive study of motherhood during of the last half of the century. Ironically, according to many of the women she interviewed for the book, the best time to be a mother was during the 1970’s. Socially and economically, the 70’s afforded women equal opportunity to either stay home with their babies or go to work. Economic conditions have since become such that remaining at home to care for their children is now a luxury that relatively few mothers can afford.

Through her subjects’ oral histories, Davis is able to reconstruct the changing social framework of motherhood over the course of decades. Readers are able to see the social change for mothers as motherhood is redefined during each decade, as well as the primary duties associated with those definitions. Her subjects also speak in detail about the social methods used to train mothers to carry out their duties. The effects of factors such as shifting economic conditions and increased paid employment for women as well as the rise in single-parent households are discussed in depth by women who experienced them.

One of the conclusions of the study was that social change for mothers, as well as the definition of motherhood itself, is shaped not only by child-rearing experts, but by the “locality and type of community in which women lived”. Her findings were rendered more credible due to the fact that her study included a highly diverse sample of women, not only socio-economically, but in terms of different family structures. One of her most significant conclusions of the study were that throughout the time period of the study a time of increasing social change for mothers, women consistently expressed ambivalent feelings about motherhood. The other was that women consistently used the experience of motherhood to create social networks. It was these social networks that enabled women to reconcile the realities of their maternal roles compared to the idealized version created by the needs of society.

Recognizing the importance of these social networks, her findings have been applied to maternity policies that continue to affect a great number of mothers. A subsequent study also resulted in another book, Pre-school childcare in England, 1939-2010, which focuses on how official maternity policies affected English pre-school children during those decades of great social change for mothers. Angela Davis continues to work towards educating policy makers on the importance of adequate social networks for women to help insure that future social change for mothers is positive for both them and their children.

Here are some additional sources used for this article:

social change for mothers

authoritarian parenting styles

Authoritarian parenting styles in the 60’s – From Conformity to Rebellion

Authoritarian Parenting Styles, most of the time

There were all kinds of shades of authoritarian parenting styles in the Sixties: from Dr. Spock‘s positive parenting philosophy, to the popular Donald Winnicott and experts Loise Bates Ames and Frances Ilg with TV show “Parents Ask”

The 1960’s were a time of great social change. One of the most important changes was that birth control became widely available for women, which made family planning possible. Another important change was a post-WWII society in which mothers had more time to spend with children due to modern conveniences such as the washing machine. A post-war mentality focused less on the discipline and conformity necessary for the military, and more on individuality.

At the forefront of this more positive parenting mentality was Dr. Benjamin Spock, and his 1946 book Baby and Child Care. This popular book was republished several times, The 1968 edition, published during the Viet Nam war after Spock having spoken openly against it, sold half the number of copies of previous editions.

In agreement with Dr. Spock’s less rigid philosophy was the equally popular Donald Winnicott, who began a series of BBC radio broadcasts on the subject of parenting that endured for 20 years. Although experts were moving away from strict and harsh parenting styles, they are considered today as part of authoritarian parenting styles.

Other less well-known  experts of authoritarian parenting styles of the 1960’s include authors Loise Bates Ames and Frances Ilg , who hosted a popular television show called “Parents Ask”. They also wrote a newspaper column and many educational books that focused on the stages of child development. They continued the work of their mentor, Dr. Arnold Gesell, of Yale University, founding the Gesell Institute of Child Development.

Varieties of authoritarian parenting styles

However, not everyone was in agreement with these new philosophies or that child-rearing practices should be less rigid and more focused on developing a child’s individual talents. During the 1950’s, when modern forms of birth control were being developed, the average age that parents introduced their children to solid foods went from 7 months to 7 weeks.

Classic authoritarian parenting styles

One of the leading child care “experts” responsible for this trend was Miami pediatrician Walter W. Sackett, Jr. He is a fine example for more classic authoritarian parenting styles. Authoritarian parenting involves usually high parental demand; the parents tend to demand obedience without explanation and focus on status. Corporal punishment is a common choice of punishment. Yelling is another form of discipline for authoritarian parents.

In 1962, pediatrician Walter W. Sackett Jr. published “Bringing Up Baby” in which he stated that breast milk and formula were deficient, and that babies as young as 2 days should be started on cereal. He claimed that by 10 weeks, babies could eat bacon and eggs, and even suggested giving them coffee to acclimate them to adult eating habits. Profits of companies that manufactured formula and baby food skyrocketed as a result, which today, would likely not be viewed as a coincidence.

Regarding the need for schedules, he offered the opinion that parents who didn’t impose strict schedules on their babies were unpatriotic.

“If we teach our offspring to expect everything to be provided on demand, we must admit the possibility that we are sowing the seeds of socialism.”

He also compared what he considered indulgent parents to Stalin and Hitler.

Unfortunately, according to historian Howard Markel, much of the parenting advice of the time lacked any real scientific evidence of results, first because of the ethical problems associated with experimental trials on babies, and second, that if

“there’s no drug, no procedure, there’s not likely to be funding”.

While there was profit to be had in the baby formula and baby food industries, there was no profit to be gained by learning the long-term effects of rocking versus ignoring a crying baby.

However, some still attempted to utilize the methodology of science to improve child care practices. For example, T. Berry Brazelton, author of “Infants and Mothers created the Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale. This scale evaluated physical and neurological responses to 28 behavioral and 18 reflex items in infants up to two months old. These items measured an infant’s autonomic, motor and social-interactive systems, as well as individual differences and level of emotional well-being. The results described the baby’s adaptive responses, strengths and potential vulnerabilities, information that was used to formulate care-giving strategies that would provide maximum benefits to the child’s development.

This was an innovative approach towards popularizing the now widely accepted view that infants are uniquely individual social beings able to affect their environments by communicating through behaviors. Children had previously been viewed as passive recipients of influences in the environment.

Mothers today have the benefit of more research as well as far more resources for information on positive parenting than mothers of the 1960’s. For example, little was known about fetal alcohol syndrome in the 60’s, and it wasn’t uncommon to see mothers-to-be enjoying a relaxing cocktail with a cigarette. Consequently, today’s mothers are also much more likely to question the source of any new “discoveries” regarding parenting than they were in the past. One thing hasn’t changed, though. Mothers still want to be the best mothers they can be for their children, and rather like the 60’s, instead of competing, they are cooperating to find the best ways to accomplish that together.

Head over here, if you want to know more about the seventies and how they brought more social change for women and the concept of Negative Motherhood.

authoritarian parenting styles

parental bonds

Parental bonds in 18th Century England: Infanticide and Mind Control

“The principal destination of all women is to be mothers.”

This was an ever present concept in the 18th century. Parental bonds were solely with women. No longer was becoming a mother seen as an option for women; rather, it was the very thing that defined their femininity. If a woman chose to be single or not to have children, she was judged as being “unnatural,” as it was believed that the main purpose of a woman’s life was to bear children. These views likely influenced many women who were not longing to be mothers to bear children, in order to avoid the ridicule and judgment that came with being a childless old-maid.
Additionally, excessive pressure was placed on mothers to be the perfect parent and raise compliant children, resulting in often poor parental bonds.

The Absence of Parental Bonds: Infanticide

“Infanticide has typically been defined by the rhetoric of monstrosity,”

and those who commit infanticide have been called “Mothers of Inhumanity” (Francus, 1997). Infanticide, which demonstrates the enormous lack of seriousness some women had for parenting or parental bonds, was a relatively common occurrence of the 1700s. Two hundred women were indicted for murdering their new-born children in the courts of Yorkshire, Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmorland between 1720 and 1800. However, of these two hundred, only six women were found guilty (Jackson, 1996). The leniency displayed by the courts may be due to the fact that infanticide did not qualify as a legitimate crime until 1922. Many times, the reason infanticide was committed by a mother was in order to maintain her ability to work. This was somewhat accepted when it occurred in the lower-class, and it has been suggested that

“the willingness of society to recuperate these women—most of whom were single and working-class—back into the work force, suggests that socio-economic realities were of greater concern than the ethics and psychology of infanticide” (Francus, 1997).

While society was opposed to infanticide and demanded that these monstrous mothers be prosecuted, there was not much done to create parental bonds or care for unwanted children. The first effort to care for these children came with the establishment of Coram’s Foundling Hospital in the mid-1700s, however there were many restrictions on the children that they would take in. The main concern of many recent mothers in the 18th century was not raising their children with love and care, but rather to use any means necessary to rid themselves of the responsibilities of having a child.

Authoritarian Parenting Styles Used to ‘Train’ Children

Bad parenting was exhibited throughout the 18th century through an authoritarian parenting style in which parents aimed to control each factor of a child’s life. Obedience and appropriateness were seen as the most important traits of a child and proof of parental bonds and were taught through harshness rather than love.

The main goal of parental bonds in 18th century England was to train their children and shape their minds. A great deal of mothers wrote diaries detailing their hesitance in their ability as a parent, primarily concerned with their capacity to train the child. Mothers indicated in these entries that

“the child was not depraved but pliable and their duty as a parent was to bend the child’s will in order to achieve respect and obedience.” (Pollock, 1983)

An additional goal was to

“conquer a child’s mind ‘in order to control its insides’”.

This strict and rigorous style of parenting resembles the ideologies of Locke, who believed that children should not be coddled or raised tenderly, and that each aspect of the child’s development should be determined by the parent. Parents did not long for warm, strong parental bonds but rather aimed to control the minds, feelings, and needs of children through use of guilt, threats, and harsh punishments. As society has departed from the strict, authoritarian parenting styles of the 1700s and moved towards an authoritative parenting model, much more freedom in both parent and child behaviors is observed.

Today, we encourage our children to make their own decisions and choose their own pathways in life to follow. No longer do mothers aspire to ‘train’ their children; nowadays this term is reserved for pets or husbands ;).
In addition, women are able to decide for themselves whether or not they choose to become mothers, and there is less judgement based on their decisions. We learn how we came to think about parental bonds and about parenting. For instance that parenting styles are seriously determined by culture and historic setting.

If you feel inspired, you can find here some references that treated the topic in more depth. The last two are out of print but captured on Google.books.
Monstruous Motherhood: Eighteenth-Century Culture and the Ideology of Domesticity. 2012. By Marilyn Francus
The Making of the Modern Self. 2004. By Dror Wahrman
Forgotten Children: Parent-Child Relations from 1500 to 1900. By Linda A. Pollock.
New-born Child Murder: Women, Illegitimacy and the Courts in Eighteenth Century. 1996. By Mark Jackson

If you want to deep dive into the 19th century, you will have too choose between the spiritual education style during 1800 and 1850 or the more disciplinary education during 1850 and 1900.

parental bonds
La bonne mere (The good mother), Jacques Gabriel Huquier, 1770 Paris. Metropolitan Museum of Art
permissive parenting

The 1950s: The Age of Permissive Childcare

In today’s hyper-vigilant, overly cynical world, a world which doesn’t involve allowances for and indoctrination against the constant fog of economic and geopolitical instability, terrorism threats, or the ever-present monolith of technology seems distant. The events of September 11, 2001 drew a sharp, clear line of demarcation between the relatively innocent and prosperous twentieth century and the roller coaster of the new millennium.

It shouldn’t come as too much of a shock, then, to note that the overwhelming parental strategy nowadays seems to be the crossing of fingers and the burial of our youth’s collective nose in the comforting glow of the latest smartphone. After all, perhaps there’s some chance, however remote, that if little Johnny or Susan is busy with Candy Crush IV, their parents can insulate them from the outside world. It’s a helicopter-esque strategy born out of fear and uncertainty, but things weren’t always this way. In fact, in the halcyon days of the 1950s, permissive parenting was all the rage. To learn what permissive parenting is and why it was so popular (and some would say, so much better and more effective than the current paradigm), just keep reading.

Permissive Parenting: A Brief Overview

Whatever the reason, in the 1950s, permissive childcare was all the rage. Somewhat paradoxically, it involved a high level of trust granted from parent to child along with the simultaneous enforcement of a rigid, top down rule structure. For instance, parents would often send their sons to the market to buy Dad a pack of smokes or give their children free reign of the neighborhood with relatively few questions about what they did, where they did it, or with whom, but kids in violation of their no questions asked curfew could expect punishments that today’s child psychologists would deem to be downright barbarous.

In its essence, permissive parenting is a child rearing style based upon trust – trust of one’s children (and of their good judgement and senses of morality & self-preservation) and trust of the community as a whole. In those days, after all, it wasn’t uncommon for everyone to know everyone, and for folks to spend a lot more time in community interaction than is common nowadays. In other words, this style of upbringing was quite laissez-faire and communal in the “it takes a village” sense of things.

Factors Contributing to the Rise and Maintenance of Permissive Parenting

The 1950s were a very unique time in world history, especially with regard to the people and culture of the United States of America. It is the confluence of post-war values, affluence, and cultural mores that allowed for the parenting style discussed in this article, and as such, it may not be something that’s possible to duplicate in modern times, no matter how much some people might wish it. In any case, the mainstays of permissive parenting aren’t hard to pin down; a brief list follows.

Patriarchal Family Structure

In the 1950s, a man’s word was law as far as most things were concerned. This isn’t to say that women had no role or voice – the opposite is actually true – but with very limited exceptions, men were in charge, and what they said was the way things went. That such a philosophy would permeate the home was only natural.

Husbands and wives each had clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and spheres of influence. Men were the strong, silent, bread-winning leaders of the family while women were the sensitive, nurturing soil in which the children of the household were left to grow and thrive. Indeed, the only time a father would actively parent would be during the passage of / instruction in explicitly masculine traits to his sons, in matters of discipline (which usually took the form of corporal punishment), or under exceptional circumstances on the order of single fatherhood. While this might seem counterproductive or wrongheaded, children raised in this atmosphere were often quite mature and well-adjusted, a factor which no doubt contributed to the levels of parental confidence which allowed for such permissive childcare.

Generational Self Sufficiency

One thing that many people investigating the phenomenon of permissive parenting tend to gloss over, if not overlook altogether, is the fact that the people raising children in the 1950s had lived through some of the most remarkable, most turbulent times in history. In America, for example, the average 1950s parent would’ve been born around 1920, +/- two years. That means they would’ve been brought up during the stark privation of the Great Depression, given a brief respite of a year or two as a sort of cosmically macabre coming of age present, then hurled bodily into the meat grinder of World War Two. It wasn’t that the parents of the Greatest Generation were cruel or unfeeling in how they raised their own children, rather, they expected their offspring to embody the same virtues with which they themselves were instilled: Common sense. Virtue. Self-reliance. In other words, to be a so-called “helicopter parent” would’ve been, in the eyes of the 1950s parent, an insult and a hobble to their children. Their jobs, as these new fathers and mothers saw it, was to raise their kids to be capable, worthy adults, not to necessarily protect them from every bump, scrape, and eventuality of life.

Pseudoscience vs Modern Thinking

The final constituent factor in this parental style might be the fact that Freudian thought and similar schools of socio-medical belief were still relatively common. Modern medicine was largely unknown; back then, your doctor was quite likely a two pack a day smoker. Psychiatry was regarded as quackery, and much of the overprotective softness that marks today’s youth simply wasn’t present in those days – to have displayed or employed it would’ve been deemed to be a disorder on the part of the parents.

While the pros, cons, and overall efficacy of permissive parenting is still debated to this day, there’s no doubting its one-time popularity. Will it ever see a resurgence? Who can say? Maybe one day. In the meantime, hopefully you understand a little more about the parenting ethos of the 50s and are better for the knowledge.

permissive parenting

childhood and family life

What did childhood and family life actually mean during Colonial times?

My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.

said George Washington about his own mother. It seems indeed that all mothers want the best for their children and hope that they grow strong and healthy to maturity, and during Colonial America and its European counterpart, this was also true. However, standards about childhood and family life were very different then than they are today.

Childhood and family life in Colonial Times

Many things that children take for granted now were forbidden. Children needed to help with chores and learn their appropriate place in society. Many practices of child rearing, childhood and family life in colonial times could, by today’s standards, be considered child abuse and neglect, though all were common and accepted as the norm during the time period.

The Colonial Period was marked by high infant mortality rates. Because of this, all efforts were made to ensure that babies grew strong. In infancy, for example, mothers, midwives, and wet nurses kept babies swaddled, but not in the modern sense of the word. Rather, they were bound in fabric until their limbs were straight and immobilized, and slept in narrow cradles. This was thought to help them develop strong and straight bones. In early childhood, children usually wore a girdle or stays to ensure they continued to develop good posture. While perhaps not necessarily child abuse and neglect, it did inhibit natural infant development.

Crawling, strapping, walking, and passing out

Childhood and family life was not a cakewalk. When children learned to walk, they were typically forbidden from crawling. Crawling was seen as a form of animal behavior and therefore, teaching the child to walk was important.

Some tools used were pudding caps, a padded hat that would protect the head when the child fell so that their mind was not turned to, essentially, pudding, and babies and toddlers, regardless of sex, were kept in long petticoats and gowns that inhibited crawling and made it easy to toilet train.

Leading strings were also used to help a child learning to walk. The straps attached to a child’s clothing and were used to guide them as well as keep them from sitting down. Walking stools were another tool utilized to ensure children learned how to walk, roughly similar to a more modern walker without the body support to allow a baby to sit down.

It is documented that children might pass out from exhaustion due to standing for prolonged periods of time while in a walking stool, and by today’s standards might very well be considered child abuse and neglect.

Child abuse and neglect

Child abuse and neglect are strong words that bring with them a particularly abhorrent meaning today. This was not always the case. It was considered normal practice during childhood and family life,  that children in the colonies and Europe were expected to help with household chores, even burdens we might consider inappropriate, help with the family business, and learn a trade.

By the time boys went to grammar school, they were also expected to behave like an adult and threatening to put boys back in petticoats was used as incentive to behave.

Corporal punishment was acceptable by a school teacher when necessary, something considered most definitely to be child abuse and neglect.

And what about school?

Basic arithmetic and reading was taught, reading being important for learning how to read the bible. Religion was also taught in the classroom. Boys were frequently expected to learn a trade alongside their schooling, or were prepared for university. Girls were not generally allowed in the classroom unless they were enrolled in a dame school or if they were Quaker, but were taught domestic duties. The standards of childhood and family life or schooling seem to have changed.

Childhood and family life without holidays and gifts

For young children, even in puritanical New England, toys were permissible. But for school-age children, toys and playing were not the way of normal life. Even holidays such as Christmas were not children’s holidays, and celebrating in any form was forbidden in New England. In the middle colonies where Catholicism was more dominant, celebrating included feasting and merry-making, though no mention of including children is made. Children, just like servants, might be given gifts such as coins or other tokens of gratitude, but gift giving only went from parents to children, from masters to slaves or other help.

Punishment could be physical, and when a crime was committed, a child might be “bound out” or indentured as a servant for a specified period of time, up to a number of years, until the punishment had been worked off.

Children were very strictly expected to be seen and not heard, even at the dinner table, where they were made to eat quickly and depart, or sometimes were not even allowed to sit with their parents. Childhood and family life were in a sense kept separate. They were sometimes not even allowed to eat many of the things adults did because they were not deemed appropriate for children.

Inexisting concepts of child abuse and neglect

It was not until the Victorian Era that the concept of childhood as we know it began to slowly take shape. Imaginative play was accepted more and more into the twentieth century as innocent. Cribs as opposed to tight swaddling were used to allow children to move about safely. Concepts of child abuse and neglect slowly began to take shape and emerge. Even though child labor laws and other restrictions outlining inappropriate treatment of children had not yet been established, the mindset was beginning to change.

For further reading, here are some great resources:

And more on motherhood and childhood in the 17th century, is be found here.

childhood and family life
The Happy Mother, Jean Honoré Fragonard, 1760
Maternal craft

Maternal craft in 1850-1900: Disciplinary education

By the end of the nineteenth century not only medicine and science would have an impact but political and social changes as well. The imperial nations were in need of healthy and educated children. Maternal craft was essential. Social and racial progress was important for the welfare of its country.

The idealization of motherhood was strengthened. And moral reform came around the corner. Now women needed to stay virtuous and religiously dutiful but now also sentimental. Passivity and altruism were the virtues of a good wife. Open expression of feelings and emotions were condemned. Women became frail and sickly because they were educated this way. A day in bed when menstruating was a minimum. Prudery was an obsession. Not a coincidence this came in a time where paternal authority were promoted by state and church. Not a coincidence this came with total submissiveness of women to husbands and maternal craft expertise.

This is the time where extreme disciplinary education of children came to be.

The Beginning of the Maternal craft

Mothers read Elizabeth Chesser’s books on Mothering craft where the ideals of personal vocation and racial and national progress were put together. To provide morality, chastity and a desire to be a superior race were to be provided by the mothers only and nobody could do that task better. Women were born to do so.

Motherhood now a ‘science’ was thought through maternal craft courses

A scientific interest was omnipresent and Child Science and The Mothering or Maternal Craft was born. Motherhood was for the first time a ‘science’ that could be thought through courses. Important to note that the notion of maternal instincts, or natural bonds can not be further be removed.

The Child Study Movement, the Child Study Association, the Childhood Society, and the Parents’ National Education Union were all bodies that emerged in this period. They emphasized for the first time the importance of the first year of a child and the possibilities within a child to be realized according only to specific childcare methods and the mothering or maternal craft.

Now,  the mother role…

James Sull for example said that

“fathers rather than mothers should do most of the important observations of the development of the child. Mothers were likely to be  too involved, too sentimental and eulogistic.”

In America there was G. Stanley Hall the first American psychologist and also president of Clark University. He was the one who brought Freud to the US for his first visit and wrote many childcare manuals. He stressed the different development stages of children and the managerial tasks of the mother.

Women had fought their way into college and the first college educated women started to graduate. And it was at the same time that society believed it was absolutely crucial to be college educated to be a mother. And so the diploma of ‘mother’ or the maternal craft was invented. The demands of education were getting so high one needed to study four years to prepare for motherhood.

‘Women cannot conceivably be given an education too broad, too high, or too deep to fit them to become the educated mothers of the future race of men and women born of educated parents. The pity is that we only have four years of the college course to impart such knowledge to women who are to be mothers.

said Martha Carey Thomas, the American educator, suffragist, linguist, and President of Bryn Mawr College, in 1908.

Of course it was too good to be true to be both educated and be a mother and stay at home. Nothing in a woman’s life was more important than motherhood. The cult of motherhood was peaking. The reasons were multiple but are imbedded in its society. There were Darwin’s ideas: The Origin of the Species was published in 1859. And colonialism and the ideas on quality of race to begin with. But the Romanticism and the importance of religion had an equally important influence on the matter of Motherhood.

If you want to move  into the first part of the 19th century, head over to the spiritual education style during 1800 and 1850.

Maternal craft
Joseph Highmore by Joseph Highmore – The Yorck Project 10.000 Meisterwerke der DIRECTMEDIA Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Social Change of Motherhood

Early Feminism and Social Change of Motherhood

Motherhood was just left out by early feminists

… or at least did not complain of the burden as it would later on.

The care of children in their infancy is one of the grand duties annexed to the female character by nature .(…) We should then love them with true affection, because we should learn to respect ourselves.’

Mary Wollstonecraft said. The eighteenth-century English writer was regarded as one of the founding philosophers in feminism,  and is best known for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792).

“A woman as a slave to every situation to prejudice, seldom exerts enlightened maternal affection. The formation of the mind must be begun very early with affection tempered by reason. (…) To be a good mother, a woman must have sense, and that independence of mind which few possess who are taught to depend entirely on their husbands.”

It was not the first feminist that said the words,

“An independent mind improved the abilities to raise children

She emphasized the importance of education of women in general and she believed that further education and an independent mind improved the abilities to raise children. She clearly leaves the child minding to women because of –what she calls- the naturalness of the female character. Later feminists would not disagree and brought along the social change of motherhood roles.

Social change of motherhood roles

Most of the women active in early century feminism were married mothers. From their writings we see no issue in motherhood. Most of them did not see the boredom or tiresomeness where future feminists would at times complain about.

‘It fills up all the gaps of life just in a way that is most consoling, most refreshing

says Margaret Fuller. Fuller is another women’s rights advocate and active in early feminism. She was an American journalist and critic. By the time she was in her 30s, Fuller had earned a reputation as the best-read person in New England, male or female, and became the first woman allowed to use the library at Harvard College. Her seminal work, Woman in the Nineteenth Century, was published in 1845.

Feminism : Social Change of Motherhood

The emancipated mothers belonged of course all to the upper class. Servants and nannies did most of the tiresome and boring tasks that are part of raising children. The mothers would see their children one or two hours for tea in the play or drawing room or library. The emancipated lady brought social change of motherhood roles. Mothers were obviously loved by their children. When mother came it was ‘playtime’ or appraisal time’ or ‘time for a kiss on the front head’. Motherhood fills indeed the gaps of the day.

We understand why motherhood was not an issue for this feminist.

An educated woman, of active, methodological habits, blessed with good servants, as good mistresses generally are, finds an hour a day amply sufficient for her housekeeping. Nothing is gained by spreading it over a longer time.’

Emily Davies wrote in 1866 in The Higher Education of Women. However from the Victorian Gazette we see that not only feminists but indeed all mothers were not supposed to be all day with their children.

A professional woman spending a short time a day in the superintendence of her nursery and enjoying the society of her children, would find it a means of rest and refreshment.

A short day was enough. Apparently no instinct or natural impulse would make women unhappy if they stayed away from their children for most part of the day. The bond that tied mother and infant together was seen differently and far more pragmatically.

Slow process of feminism with heavy impact on motherhood

When women got the vote early in the twentieth century they did not vote in large numbers or for very different topics than did men. An average election in New York early 1920’s would have one third of the women have seen voting. They would vote similarly as their husbands and they did not vote for typical female issues or any other concerns different of the men’s issues. The vote did not bring the social change of motherhood .

As with voting, women did not go to work in great numbers immediately after the laws on equal pay and laws against discrimination at work. Women gradually started working throughout the twentieth century.

There was a backlash in the eighties and a percentage of the women going out to work returned home again. These backlashes are typical for each period where sharp advances have been made and seem to correct the general growth line a little bit. Susan Faludi, an American humanist and author, made that very clear in her book Backlash in 1991. Faludi is part of the very early Third-wave feminism. Third-wave feminism seeked to avoid the over-emphasis on the experiences of upper-middle-class white women. She describes each of the backlash periods we have known throughout the last 130 years of women ‘s liberation. But in the nineties the evolution of women going out to work picked up again.

Social Change of Motherhood
Motherhood by Thomas Hawk, CC
family life

Work, Religion, and the Threat of Abandonment: Family Life in the Middle Ages

“We are certainly influenced by role models, and if we are surrounded by images of beautiful rich people, we will start to think that to be beautiful and rich is very important – just as in the Middle Ages, people were surrounded by images of religious piety.”

said, Alain de Botton

Child mortality

While birth and childhood is a necessary part of growing up, our views of what childhood and family life should be, has changed throughout recorded history. In the twenty-first century, children are the most treasured people in a household and beacons of hope for the future. The family life of a young child during the Middle Ages, would, on the surface, look similar to what a twenty-first century child would experience. Yet, on a deeper look, most children would have far more knowledge of death than current day children do. Death was omni-present in family life at the time.

During the Middle Ages, a time of economic growth, warfare, and feudalism, childhood was much shorter and far more focused on work than it is today.  It is estimated that nearly one-fourth of children died in their first year of life, and about one-sixth did not live to see their fourth birthday. Generally, life expectancy was fairly dismal by today’s standards as the average life expectancy was 43 for women and 48 for men.

Women, on average, did not live as long because of routine complications during childbirth and from undiagnosed infections afterwards. It is estimated that 20% of women would die giving birth or in their immediate postpartum recovery. The likelihood, then, that a child would grow up experiencing the deaths of parents or fellow siblings was high.

Family life and the forbidden

“What progress we are making. In the Middle Ages they would have burned me. Now they are content with burning my books.”

said Sigmund Freud. The meaning of books has changed. And their influence on our lives. A major difference for children in the Middle Ages is that education during this period was not compulsory. For lower class families, their views of family life and the world were created almost exclusively by the church, which was a major economic force during this period.

There is evidence as early as the seventh century that monasteries took in boys for religious education; these children would live, work, and worship with the monks in preparation for a religious life as a monk or priest. Parents could also send their daughters to nunneries for education if they wished for her to become a nun. Family life as we know it, was here not existent. By the eleventh century, aristocratic families would send their children to established schools outside of religious organizations. Although religion was still a key component to their education, these schools also taught Latin, English, or French.

Work and play

While family life and education was limited, children were encouraged to find a trade early. Between the ages of 12 and 14, children were either put to work on the family farm or inside the house, or they were sent away to be trained for a trade elsewhere. Girls could train under a midwife and assist at births; during the Middle Ages, midwifery required skills to keep both mother and baby healthy. For some of the very poor children who were sent to be apprentices, their experiences were only slightly better than child slavery; apprentices were joined to their masters, who could work them as hard as they were able. Wealthier children (usually boys) had more options, as they could join another aristocratic household as a page, continue on their education in the hopes of joining the church or becoming a lawyer, or undergo military training.

Child slavery and abandonment

Sadly, even these educational options weren’t available to some children. During the Middle Ages, child slavery–along with adult enslavement–was somewhat common across Europe and parts of Asia. Those sold in child slavery came from two different sources: families who willingly abandoned their children and countries at war.

Unlike today, child abandonment was seen as a viable option for families who could not or did not want to keep their child. Without an adoption system in place as many countries have now, families who were overburdened with too many mouths to feed had few resources. Some families were also compelled to abandon their babies and children if they were the products of incest, had birth defects, or would cause too much tension on inheritances. In some cases, the parents would abandon their children at a church, while others (who were desperate for additional money) would sell them into child slavery. Many factors went into the final sale price of these children including if their parents were slaves or free, and the child’s health, gender, age, and size.

Child slavery was also a result of the wars, clashing political factions, and religious struggles of the Middle Ages. During their reign of power (from the 8th-12th centuries), the Vikings collected slaves from Ireland, Russia, Sweden, and beyond. They would often raid monasteries for the young men there and would sell them into child slavery in southern Europe: because they were educated, these boys brought higher prices.

While the flow of adult and child slavery was generally from northern Europe to southern Europe and the Middle East, there are records of Saracen girls being sold into French families in the 1200s. By the end of the Middle Ages, the main sources for child slavery were moving from eastern Europe and the Muslim world and over to Africa, an area that was the focus of the slave trade from the 1500s onward.

Family life and childhood was certainly more difficult and came with more risks that it does today. However, considering the death rates and brutality of the Middle Ages, such treatment of children fits into the larger cultural tone of the era.  And yet, child slavery still exists today. I have to agree with Alexis Herman who states

“If we can’t begin to agree on fundamentals, such as the elimination of the most abusive forms of child labor, then we really are not ready to march forward into the future.”

More on motherhood and childhood in Colonial Times, is be found here.

family life
Woman teaching geometry to male monks. 1309~1316. British Library from its digital collections.Catalogue entry Burney 275. Public Domain.

Instinctive motherhood and how to educate in the 17th century

“I think I may say that of all the men we meet with, nine parts of ten are what they are, good or evil, useful or not, by their education.”

wrote  John Locke (1632 – 1704), the English philosopher in his outline on education, Some Thoughts Concerning Education. The philosophy of the Enlightenment had affectionate and tender-hearted ideas of what a household was and had warm, chummy thoughts on children. This was new. Guidelines on how to educate were absent in philosophy or sociology books. They never had  very much attention for children in literature. But John Locke in the 17th century and Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the next century changed all that.

John Locke  expresses the belief that “education maketh the man”, or, more fundamentally, that

the mind is an empty cabinet”.

Locke wrote also on infants and helped mothers to take care and educate,

“the little and almost insensible impressions on our tender infancies have very important and lasting consequences.”

And children’s education came into being. He believed that the associations of ideas that a young person makes is not only more important that those made later but only defines the person. These associations of ideas are the foundation of the self: they are written at an early stage on the tabula rasa. “Associationism” had quite an influence throughout this period particularly educational theory and children’s education.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1778) was firstly a philosopher, but he influenced political, sociological, and educational thought. To educate was a central theme. He was himself greatly influenced by Locke. His educational thought is explained through his novel Emile, or On Education, a treatise on how to educate a whole person for citizenship. He exemplified the late 18th-century movement known as the Age of Sensibility, that had a bigger focus on subjectivity and introspection that later characterized modern writing.

Locke’s and Rousseau’s impact on mothers and how to educate children

Locke and Rousseau were popularized in this period and were read by teachers, parents and doctors. For the first time intelligent people could get interested and not only in the end process but enjoy also the process. The idea was that a child had tremendous possibilities if taken care of in the proper way. A child was also absolutely positive and good-natured at the start and society could corrupt him later but he is born with a good nature. To bring up babies with ‘rational tenderness’ would the only thing necessary.

Rousseau was also known for his plea to mothers to nurse their own children and not to send them of to wet-nurses. Both men believed in instinct of the caregiver and the baby and also in the individuality of the baby. Mothers were encouraged to seek the pleasures of running a nursery and to educate themselves rather than attending again the same and boring social activities. Fathers were encouraged to have a genuine and heartfelt relationship and interest in the development.

Already in 1798 mothers were told (source – Sir Eardley Holland, J. Obst. Gynae. Brit. Emp. 1951. 58.905ff.) that

the first object in the education of a child should be to acquire its affection and the second to obtain its confidence…. The most likely thing to expand a youthful mind … is praise.

Despite Locke’s continuing influence  today on motherhood and children’s education, the current “nature vs. nurture” debates are more present then it was the case in Locke’s century. Philosophers believed indeed in a more rosy and promising environmentalism, now less supported by science.

If you want to know more about motherhood and childhood during the 18th century, head over here.

Giovanni Segantini Two Mothers upload by Adrian Michael, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons