history of baby care

A Timely 1934 Manifesto for Reclaiming Our Human Liberties by Childcare Reform

The History of Baby Care in the U like this.S.

In the U.S. the history of baby care is largely a history of the economically disadvantaged. By the end of the 19th century, the child care system was largely subsidized by wealthy philanthropists. It consisted of a range of provisions for minorities, immigrants and the working poor, who were often stigmatized by it’s being based on charitable donations. Because it was dependent upon voluntary donations, services were often inconsistent. The system proved to be a weak foundation upon which to build an enduring network of quality child care needed by working women.

One of the earliest examples in the history of baby care was the National Federation of Day Nurseries, established in 1898, which was the first nationwide organization devoted to the issue of quality childcare for working mothers. This was inspired by a model day nursery created by Josephine Jewell Dodge as a social exhibit at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago.

The next development in the history of baby care was the U.S. Children’s Bureau, founded in 1912 with the goal of creating public policy to support mothers who wanted to stay home with their children. It was successful in that by 1930, most states had passed laws granting some form of mothers’ pensions. However, rather than addressing the need for child care, it attempted to reduce that need instead. It was soon discovered that the pensions were inadequate to support children and that many, often as the result of racial discrimination, were deemed ineligible to receive them.

In 1933, nearly 3,000 schools that enrolled 64,000 children in 43 states were started, being consolidated into 1,900 schools with a capacity for approximately 75,000 children. As WWII approached and women began working in the defense industry, the government created a program in which one child care worker was required for every ten women defense workers. While 2 million child care workers were needed to serve 19 million defense workers under this system, there were still only the 3000 child care centers with the capacity to care for only 130,000 children.

As a result, poor working mothers were often forced to leave their children alone or utilize inferior child care. Stories of tragedies that often befell these children were used to castigate working women as selfish, especially after the war when men returning were in need of jobs. Congress passed two welfare reform bills in 1962 and 1965, linking federal support to policies that required poor and low-income women to enter training programs and work outside the home.

In the 1980s, public expenditures for low-income families were reduced and tax incentives for higher income families were almost doubled. With its history of baby care lacking in developing a strong child care infrastructure for working mothers, the United States continues to compare poorly with other advanced industrial nations. France, Sweden, and Denmark all offer free or subsidized care to children over three and also provide paid parental leave.

The History of Baby Care in Sweden

In Sweden, which ranks in the top ten in the world for child care, the history of baby care has been very different. In response to falling birthrates in Sweden, sociologist Alva Myrdal and her husband, an economist, published a book titled Crisis in the Population Question. The primary purpose of the book was to present social reforms that would encourage couples to have more children without decreasing their personal liberties, especially those of women. The authors pointed out the danger that without reform Sweden “would at the end of the 1970s have almost twice as many elderly people in relation to individuals in the working ages now”.

In addition to encouraging people to have more children, the authors also proposed substantial changes in the prevailing patriarchal family system, in which fathers worked and women remained at home to care for the children, through a process of social engineering. This book, and its Nobel-prize winning authors, had a vast influence on the present system of daycare for preschool children that was introduced in the 1970s. By 1975, approximately 100,000 children aged one through five were enrolled in the system. By 2005, that number had increased to 420,000, representing 90% of children in that age group.

One of the reasons the system in Sweden is so successful is decentralization. Taxes totaling approximately 20% of individual personal income from 290 separate municipalities fund preschools, schools, and social services. Wealthier municipalities help subsidize poorer ones through a system of tax equalization. The costs of quality child care in Sweden are comparable to those of the United States. In the U.S. the cost per child in 1992 was $12,356, while the cost per child in Sweden was $10,000.

The internet has made it possible to study the history of baby care in many countries and for cultures to learn from one another in their mutual goal of providing all children with the best care possible. Hopefully in the next century, the history of baby care in our century will be little more than a list of continuous improvements that have resulted in a world full of happy, healthy children.

history of baby care
Wartime shipyard Government-subsidized Kaiser West Coast Shipyards nursery schools, which enrolled more than 7,000 offspr

On Father’s Day and Holiday’s Sentimental Attempts to Domesticate Manliness

Special Day Honoring Fatherhood

Father’s Day celebrated its 100th Anniversary in the U.S. in 2010. In 1909, Sonora Smart-Dodd of Spokane, Washington, being one of six children being raised by a single father, wanted to honor him. She suggested to her local churches that June 5th, her father’s birthday, be a day in which parishioners honored fatherhood. The pastors of the churches approved the idea of a special day honoring fatherhood, but needed more time to prepare sermons on the topic. That was why the first Father’s Day observance took place on June 19th, 1909.

Several people had suggested a holiday honoring fatherhood before that and had attempted to gain public support for the idea. One of those people was Grace Golden Clayton. While in mourning from losing her father in a mining disaster that took the lives of 361 men, she asked her local pastor to honor those men. The pastor agreed, both for her and on behalf of the approximately 1000 children the disaster left fatherless. Her request resulted in the first public celebration honoring fatherhood taking place on July 5th, 1908 in Fairmont, West Virginia.

President Calvin Coolidge recognized Father’s Day in 1924, and in 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed an official proclamation of recognition of Father’s Day and made a request that flags be flown on all government buildings that day in honor of fatherhood. Father’s Day wasn’t made a national holiday until 1972, by President Richard Nixon.

Today, Father’s Day is celebrated by over 50 countries.

In the U.S., it is customary for fathers to receive a tie as a gift. In other countries, Father’s Day may be celebrated on a different day and with different traditions and gifts.

For many countries, religious traditions are interwoven into the holiday. For example, in Brazil, Father’s Day is celebrated on August 2nd, in honor of Saint Joachim, the patron saint of fathers and grandfathers.

In other countries, in addition to honoring fatherhood, the holiday also honors men’s role in society, including their military service, with parades on Father’s Day.

In Germany, on the 40th day of Easter, men celebrate Father’s Day by loading wagons with beer and hauling them to the woods. Just as women are often relieved from their mothering duties on Mother’s Day, so German fathers are relieved of theirs during their celebration.

Australia’s Father’s Day celebration on the first Sunday of September consists of special meals, outings, and stories about inspirational men and how their actions have benefited children. Gifts of adventurous experiences, such as parachuting, are also gaining popularity.

While Father’s Day being declared a holiday was meant to publicly honor fatherhood and the important role men play in society, not all men have felt honored. According to one article, many men were offended by the idea of receiving gifts and flowers like women did on Mother’s Day. In his book “American Masculinities: A Historical Encyclopedia“, historian Timothy Marr says that men

“scoffed at the holiday’s sentimental attempts to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving, or they derided the proliferation of such holidays as a commercial gimmick to sell more products — often paid for by the father himself.”

In the U.S. and many other countries, Father’s Day does in fact increase sales figures. In 2009 Father’s Day, U.S. consumers spent an average of $90.89 on gifts in honor of fatherhood. By 2014, that figure had increased to $115.57, with an estimated total spending for Father’s Day a whopping 12.7 billion dollars. Those gifts ranged from simple cards to family outings, electronics and golf lessons. According to the retail federation, in 2009 Americans spent $749 million dollars on 93 million Hallmark Father’s Day cards alone. Hallmark has been printing Father’s Day cards since the 1920s.

Despite the fact that many lament the commercialization of Father’s Day, money spent is a symbol of the value of fathers to their children and society. However, the gift that father’s treasure most is the very real time, attention, appreciation and affection given them by their children, not just on Father’s Day, but throughout the year.


literature development stages

How Children’s Literature Helped Create Childhood

“More than this, I believe that the only lastingly important form of writing is writing for children. It is writing that is carried in the reader’s heart for a lifetime; it is writing that speaks to the future.”

Sonya Hartnett

Children’s Literature Development Stages

Most of us remember some of our favorite children’s stories from childhood. In fact, today’s children enjoy slightly different versions of many of those same stories in the form of animated feature films such as Cinderella. The modern story of Cinderella, and many other children’s stories, originated in France. However, at one time, there was no separation between literature for adults and children.

The first of the literature development stages was the oral transmission of stories. Parents verbally passed on stories that they had been told by their parents as children free samples. Historically, many of these stories were myths or folk tales that reflected the cultural beliefs of the societies in which they originated. For example, the story of The Asurik Tree was transmitted orally in Persia over 3000 years ago.

Stories have both captured and helped develop children’s imaginations throughout history. Many consider the Panchatantra, composed in 200 A.D. to be the oldest collection of stories for children in the world. Before the invention of the printing press in Korea in 1377 and the introduction of Guttenburg’s mechanized version of it in Europe in 1440, literary works were painstakingly written and illustrated by hand.

Until the 18th century, children were largely considered smaller versions of adults. The concept of childhood itself became popularized in the 18th century, and with it, the concept of a separate genre of literature specifically for children. As early as 1765, advertisements for children’s literature in a form that appealed directly to children appeared in newspapers. For example, a publisher named John Newbury created demand for his newest volumes that included “The Renowned History of Giles Gingerbread” with an ad that invited

“all his little friends who are good to call for them at the Bible and Sun, in St. Paul’s Churchyard; but those who are naughty to have none.”

In the early children’s literature development stages, moral instruction was a common theme in children’s stories. Newbury described his volume entitled The Valentine Gift with the subtitle of

“how to behave with honour, integrity, and humanity; very useful with a Trading Nation.”

In addition to moral instruction, social and economic considerations were also addressed.

Modern Changes in Children’s Literature

While during the early literature development stages, one of the focuses of children’s literature was teaching them to conform to societal norms, that focus began to change in the 19th century. The creation of the sub-genre of young adult literature around 1920 was another of children’s literature development stages. The role of modern children’s literature began to include social criticism and a questioning of social norms. This change was reflected in such stories as “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”.

The value of children’s literature lies in the intellectual, social and emotional development it provides. Young readers responding to literature and developing their own opinions about it strengthens their cognitive abilities. It can also encourage meaningful personal and social interactions and increase mutual understanding, since people’s individual responses to literature tend to be based partly on their own life experiences. Other skills reading helps develop include analyzation, forming hypotheses, and learning to summarize. It can also be a valuable tool in learning about both their own culture and that of others.

The huge popularity of modern children’s stories such as the “Harry Potter” series and “The Hunger Games” series is a testament to the enduring power of literature. Just as in the oral tales of old, characters in modern children’s literature face difficult circumstances that require creative solutions. They also make moral choices that have personal and social consequences. For that reason, children’s literature which models important decision-making skills can be a tool in developing reasoning skills as well as emotional intelligence. Finally, children’s literature encourages creativity.

One of the latest children’s literature development stages has been that of recognizing literature that encourages active discussion. To encourage literary excellence for the benefit of young readers, several organizations and awards have been created. The Newbury Medal has honored excellence in children’s literature since 1922. Since 1938, the Caldecott Medal has also honored distinguished children’s literature. Australia has had the Children’s Book Council awards since 1945 and the U.K. the Carnegie Medal since 1936. Internationally, the Notable Books for a Global Society Award has recognized contributions to children’s literature from all over the world since 1996.

Children’s literature may be said to be a child’s introduction to the wider world limited only by the imagination.

literature development stages
Good Friends (Portrait of the Artist’s Sister Bertha Edelfelt) by Albert Edelfelt, 1881, Pavlovsk Palace Museum, 1958; fo
historic parenting styles

The Basics of Culture: A Historic Account of Parenting

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”


Historic Parenting Styles of Ancient Cultures

Many ancient cultures had cultures had similarities as well as differences in their parenting styles. One of the most important ways parenting has evolved over time is that in most modern cultures, children are no longer viewed as property. In many ancient cultures, children were often sold into slavery. Parenting styles differed a great deal according to the social class of the parents.

The historic parenting styles of the ancient Greeks reflected the social values of Greek society at the time. Male children of the slave-owning class were trained to participate in the intellectual life of the culture from a very young age. They were also expected to learn social manners. Female children were not educated, but remained at home until they married. Slave women were responsible for most of the child care duties such as breast-feeding.

Historic parenting styles in ancient Roman culture revolved around the power of the father, who had the right to order the death of an unwanted infant. Fathers also had the right to sell their children into slavery.

As in Greek culture, female children were taught domestic skills within the home, while male children were formally educated.

Ancient Mesopotamian culture also placed a higher value on male children, and death from exposure was a common fate for unwanted female infants. Selling children into slavery was less common, and mothers nursed their own infants for up to three years. Unlike ancient Roman culture, in which fathers often used corporal punishment as a form of child discipline, the historic parenting styles of ancient Mesopotamia discouraged it. Corporal punishment was reserved for slaves.

Historic parenting styles of the ancient Han Dynasty in China were heavily influenced by Confucius. A review of Anne Behnke Kinney’s book, “Representations of Childhood and Youth in Early China”reveals that parenting practices in ancient China were heavily influenced by the ruling dynasty as well. One ancient author suggested that the way parents treated their children reflected the way they themselves were treated by their rulers.

Another writes about the power of mothers over children’s moral development, beginning with the fetus! It was believed that children absorbed the moral qualities of their environments. Female children were educated less than male children and, like most ancient cultures, were given in marriage between the ages of 13 and 16. They were expected to pledge loyalty to their husband’s family and cut ties with their own families.

The ancient Celtic culture in Britain during the Iron age consisted of clans. Children were seldom raised by their own parents, but were fostered by other members of the clan, often relatives. Each clan had its own social structure. Slavery was non-existent, largely because lands were communally owned. Women were considered equal to men and could own property, choose their own husbands, and even lead in war. Queen Boudicca led the Celts in a revolt against Roman rule.

Historic Parenting Styles Versus Modern Parenting Styles

Most modern societies find the concepts of infanticide and child slavery morally reprehensible. However, it remains true that many modern cultures continue to place a lesser value on women, both in terms of education and equal rights within the larger society.

One important difference between historic parenting styles and modern ones is that most modern child rearing experts reject historic parenting styles that use corporal punishment as a form of discipline. However, the influence of those styles is still evident. Until fairly recently, corporal punishment was often used as a form of discipline in schools as well as within the family.

Poland was the first country to outlaw corporal punishment in 1783. Many other countries began to legally abolish the practice in the 1970’s. While corporal punishment is now illegal in many countries, it continues to be legal in 19 states in the U.S.

Modern parenting styles have been influenced a great deal by the advent of modern medicine, including birth control. Historically, lower birth rates have resulted in a greater value being placed on infants and children as well as lower infant mortality rates.

Despite the negative aspects of ancient historic parenting styles, many modern experts agree that some aspects of parenting in ancient hunter-gatherer societies are worthy of emulating today. Keeping children close, giving them freedom to explore, and more involvement by fathers and other community members are among the features of such societies that experts consider beneficial to children.

There has been a shift in social evolution from viewing children as property of parents and state, to viewing them as individuals equally deserving of human rights. Since the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, many international organizations work tirelessly to manifest these principles into reality for the children of the world still suffering from the influence of the negative aspects of parenting styles of the past.

historic parenting styles
Akhenaten Nefertiti and their children
day of mother and child

On How the Carnation Does not Drop its Petals

The Origins of Mother’s Day

In the U.S., Mother’s Day, is celebrated on the second Sunday in May. According to an article about the origins of Mother’s Day in the U.S., Julia Ward Howe, an anti-war activist most well- known for writing the song “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” first suggested a Mother’s Peace Day in 1872. However, it is Anna Jarvais who is credited for organizing the first Mother’s Day celebration in Grafton, West Virginia in 1908.

Largely due to her efforts, President Woodrow Wilson declared a national day of mother and child, or Mother’s Day, in 1914. In a book about her, Anna Jarvais is also credited for fighting to keep Mother’s Day from being either commercialized or politicized. That fight entailed using most of her own financial resources to file lawsuits against those she considered to be using the holiday for political purposes or economic gain, which ultimately resulted in her dying penniless.

Despite her best efforts to keep Mother’s Day, meant to be a sacred day of mother and child, from being commercialized, Americans spent an estimated collective $21 billion dollars to on Mother’s Day in 2015. Equally ironic, Anna Jarvais herself had no children of her own. The majority of those $21 billion dollars were spent on cards, flowers, and jewelry with which people expressed their appreciation for the many sacrifices their mothers have made on their behalf. Anna Jarvais’s own mother’s favorite flower, the white carnation, was originally the official flower of Mother’s Day. About the flower, Anna Jervais was quoted in a 1927 interview as saying

“The carnation does not drop its petals, but hugs them to its heart as it dies, and so, too, mothers hug their children to their hearts, their mother love never dying,”

Day of Mother and Child Celebrations Around the World

A special day of mother and child is celebrated in many countries. Australians celebrate Mother’s Day on the same day as the U.S. There is also the similarity of the symbolism of the carnation. As in the U.S., Australia utilizes the carnation as part of the observance of Mother’s Day. According to their tradition, carrying a colored carnation signifies that one’s mother is still living, while a white carnation honors a mother who is deceased.

Grandmothers and other women who provide nurturing for children are honored as well as mothers.

Another tradition is for children to serve their mothers breakfast in bed as a way of expressing gratitude for all their mothers do for them throughout the year. In France for example, the day of mother and child is celebrated on the last Sunday in May with a family dinner ending with a cake in the shape of a bouquet of flowers to honor the mother of the family. In India, the focus is on to take time to think about all the pains their mother took while they were sick, the hardships she went through in bringing them up and all the sacrifices she made so that they lead a better life.

Ireland has celebrated a day of mother and child, based partially in the Catholic religion, since medieval times. During a time in which poor children were often sent to work as domestic servants in the homes of the wealthy, children were given one day off a year to worship the Virgin Mary and visit their own mothers. On that day, the fourth Sunday of Lent, the children would often pick wildflowers on their way home which they gave to their mothers, which began the modern tradition of giving flowers for Mother’s Day.

In Mexico the day of mother and child has been celebrated on May 10th since 1922, the holiday being credited to journalist Rafael Alducín, who wrote an article advocating a national celebration of mothers.

In Spain, Mother’s Day is celebrated on December 8th, and honors the Virgin Mary in addition to earthly mothers.

In Russia, before 1998, the day of mother and child was always celebrated on March 8th, which is International Women’s Day, partly in remembrance of the goal of global gender equality. Since 1998, Mother’s Day has been celebrated with light blue forget-me-nots on the last Sunday of November.

In Japan, the day of mother and child, called haha-no-hi, began to be celebrated on March 6th, to coincide with the birthday of Empress Kojun. The holiday was established by the Imperial Women’s Union in 1931. The celebration includes giving flowers, primarily carnations, as well as gifts and serving a special meal.

Mothers, and all they do to ensure the safety and happiness of not just their own children, but ultimately, their communities and the wider world, are well worth celebrating.

day of mother and child
Carnations. Dianthus caryophyllus. Coloured aquatint, c1839 CC4.0
religious conflict in family life

How to Religious Choices Can Enrich Family Life

“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

–Thomas Paine

Interfaith Marriages and Religious Conflict in Family Life

Despite the seeming hopelessness of ever peacefully resolving the issue of religious conflict depicted in recent newspaper headlines, the fact remains that a growing number of interfaith families are doing just that in their own homes. In the U.S., a recent study found that 39% of Americans who have married since 2010 married someone from a different religious group. That number has almost doubled from the 19% of those who married before 1960. Further, 49% of unmarried couples live with someone of a different faith or no religious affiliation.

The survey also revealed that adherents of some religions, including Hinduism(91%) Mormonism (82%) , and Islam (79%), are more likely to marry within their own faith than others. The statistics are lower within Judaism (65%) and Protestantism (59%). Those with no religious affiliated married a religious person at a rate of 56%. However, despite the increase in religious tolerance and willingness to marry outside one’s faith that these numbers represent, according to one article, statistics show that inter-faith marriages are three times more likely to end in divorce.

Common Reasons for Religious Conflict in Family Life

Many of the challenges that interfaith couples face are emotional in nature. For example, because one of the elements necessary for a successful marriage is successful psychological separation of each partner from their families of origin. If the couple’s families are against the marriage for religious reasons, the guilt from defying their parents can make this separation more difficult. While the families of many interfaith couples are able to accept their child’s decision to marry outside of their faith, many do not. As a result, those couples lose the valuable emotional support and guidance of their families and must attempt to navigate the new world of marriage without the benefit of direction born of years of experience.

The adjustment to marriage can be a difficult one even under the best of circumstances. Part of that adjustment period entails developing effective negotiation skills and learning the fine art of compromise. Compromise sometimes includes the willingness of one partner to convert to the religion of the other. This decision often results in feelings of anger and betrayal by the family of the convert, or even a refusal to attend the wedding. Traditional wedding rituals are deeply rooted in religious beliefs. Some couples, to avoid offending or alienating family members, choose to have a simple civil ceremony rather than a religious one.

Religious conflict in family life can also affect a couple’s ability to achieve personal intimacy. Most religious and non-religious people alike consider their beliefs to be an essential part of their personal identities. Understanding and respect of one’s most deeply held convictions is a necessary element in achieving the level of intimacy and complete acceptance required for any marriage to be truly successful. A successful marriage can be measured by the degree of emotional safety and support the couple is able to provide one another.

Choosing which faith in which to raise the children is also a common source of religious conflict in family life. In some churches, agreeing to raise any future children in the faith is a requirement for conversion. In marriages in which neither party converts to the religion of the other, couples deal with this issue in a number of different ways. Some choose to expose the children to both religions and allow them to choose for themselves at a certain age. Others choose to forego formal religious activities altogether to avoid confusing the children or potentially creating inner conflict or a sense of disloyalty towards one parent by choosing one religion over the other.

Ways to Reduce Religious Conflict in Family Life

One article offering tips on avoiding some of the religious conflict in family life presented by interfaith marriages stresses the importance of education, communication and inclusion. Communication is what makes it possible to incorporate many of the best traditions of both religions into the household. Most religions are rich in tradition and traditions are a wonderful way to both create happy family memories and anticipation of future events. While each religion may have different holidays, most are celebrated with a feast of traditional foods.

Couples educating themselves and each other about the meanings surrounding rituals and celebrations within their respective religions can also reduce the amount of religious conflict in family life. When meanings are understood and respected, favorite rituals can continue to be observed and celebrated to the benefit of the entire family.

Including extended family in the development of new rituals that incorporate common elements of both religions can serve to be a strong bridge towards mutual understanding and acceptance among family members who may feel alienated.

religious conflict in family life
Seated Mother Goddess, Indus Civilization, ca. 3000–2500 bc, Pakistan
abortion and social change

Abortion: The Controversy Continues, but Women’s Vision Remains the Same

Abortion and Social Change Around the World

Abortion has always been a controversial subject as well as practice. Historically, whether abortion was legal or not, women who were unprepared to become mothers, either financially or emotionally, have attempted to end their pregnancies. The largest difference legalization of abortion has made is that fewer women have died during the process.

In the United States, prior to the famous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that granted women the right to safe and legal abortion, 5,000 of the estimated 200,000 to 1.2 million women who received illegal and unsafe abortions each year died. Their deaths were often due to complications such as infections arising from non-sterile facilities or hemorrhages caused by the lack of professional medical expertise. Despite legal and medical advances in many developed countries, almost half of all abortions performed worldwide are still unsafe.

As of 2013,

  • unrestricted abortion is legal in only 61 countries
  • 66 countries forbid abortion except in extreme cases in order to save the mother’s life
  • 59 countries permit abortions for reasons related to the mother’s overall health
  • 13 countries permit abortion for socioeconomic reasons.

Abortion and Social Change Throughout History

Abortion has been practiced since ancient times. The abortifacient herb silphium, was in such high demand in ancient Greek society that it became extinct. Other techniques for ending unwanted pregnancies included abdominal pressure, strenuous activity, girdles, fasting, and even bloodletting.

During the Middle Ages, many plants, herbs, and unusual concoctions were believed to be reliable ways to effectively end a pregnancy. Even crushed ants and camel saliva were recommended for this purpose.

In the ancient Caledonian society of 1760 B.C. , women were fined for having miscarriages, the amount of the fine depending upon their social status, with the specific amounts for each social class listed in the Code of Hammurabi. Although the first recorded case of induced abortion was in Egypt in 1550 B.C. men continued to exert control over the process. According to the laws of Assyria in 1075 B.C., a woman could receive the death penalty for receiving an abortion against her husband’s wishes.

During the Middle Ages, many plants, herbs, and unusual concoctions were believed to be reliable ways to effectively end a pregnancy. Even crushed ants and camel saliva were recommended for this purpose. Throughout history, rates of abortion have risen during times of economic hardship. For example, Japanese documents from the 12th century show a rise in the number of abortions during a period of famine.

The Controversy Surrounding Abortion and Social Change

The debate regarding the morality of abortion has existed as long as abortion itself and continues the be a source of social and political division regarding abortion and social change. Many people believe that the debate reflects the lesser value placed on women’s rights as well as their lives. For example, the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that the male human embryo gained a human soul at 40 days, while the female human embryo didn’t gain one until 90 days.

The question of at what point an embryo becomes a human being is still being debated, but a general consensus has been reached that late-term abortions are morally objectionable. As a result of this consensus, a number of laws have been passed restricting late-term abortions, with some states requiring that they be performed within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Additional Issues Surrounding Abortion

Governments have historically used abortion laws as a tool for population control. For example, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic was among the first governments to legalize abortion in 1920. However, in 1936, Joseph Stalin, in order to encourage population growth, which some believe was for military purposes, banned abortion, and it remained illegal until 1955. The United States is currently facing a similar decline in population growth.

Other issues in the controversy surrounding abortion and social change cases of rape and incest which result in pregnancy. The religious beliefs of many people hold that all human life is sacred, even if that potential life is the result of a violent act. Further, they believe that abortion itself is a violent act, and that the rights of the unborn must be defended.

Others believe that denying women abortions is a violation of their basic human rights, which should include reproductive rights and control over their own bodies.

An important aspect of abortion and social change is the development of increasingly effective birth control methods that successfully reduce the need for abortions. There is a great deal of evidence that long-lasting and effective birth control methods such as intrauterine devices and hormonal implants, which don’t require daily monitoring, can successfully prevent millions of abortions. In cases of rape and incest , the “morning after pill“, which has become available over-the-counter in the U.S., can prevent pregnancy.

Even a safe and legal abortion is often the most emotionally traumatic choice a woman ever has to make. Although their beliefs may differ, all women envision a future in which all children are valued and are able to provide adequately for them.

abortion and social change

child slavery

Child Slavery: Raising Awareness Can Stop It

Child Labor in Modern Society

In 1999, the International Labor Organization, which created ILO Convention 182, which defined the worst forms of child labor. The convention was ratified by 180 countries as of October 2015. The worst forms of child labor include slavery, trafficking of children, debt and other forms of bondage, forced or compulsory labor, including recruitment for military purposes, prostitution, production of pornography, being used by adults in the commission of crime such as theft or drug trafficking or any work likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.

According to 2015 World Report on Child Labor from International Labor Organization, 168 million children remain trapped in child labor. Of that number, 47.5 million are youth aged 15-17 performing hazardous work.

Despite ratification of the convention, according to the 2015 World Report on Child Labor, 168 million children remain trapped in child labor, although the number has declined from the 246 million in the year 2000. Of that number, 47.5 million are youth aged 15-17 performing hazardous work. Asia and the Pacific constitute the highest number at 78 million or 9.3%, but Sub-Saharan African countries report the highest incidence per capita at 59 million or 21%, followed by 9.2 million or 8.4% in the Middle East and North Africa and 13 million or 8.8% in Latin America and the Caribbean. 59% of all child slavery occurs in the field of agriculture.

The Long-lasting Effects of Child Labor

Evidence from countries where data is available consistently show that involvement in child labor results in lower educational attainment and a reduction in the likelihood of obtaining future work that provides more than basic subsistence. For those who fall victim to forms of child slavery other than agriculture, the long-term effects can be even more devastating.

For example, it is estimated that one million children in Africa, Latin America, Europe, and Asia are forced to work in unregulated mines. From as young as the age of three, when bones are still forming, many suffer from bone deformities caused by carrying heavy loads.

Exposure to chemicals and dust cause permanent damage to the respiratory and nervous system and these children have no access to either healthcare or education.

According to a recent article in the Business Times, Anti-Slavery International reports that there are approximately 300,000 child soldiers in more than 30 conflict-ridden places around the world. These child soldiers are forced to kill or be killed by those who tear them away from their families. In many cases, even the few children who survive, rather than being liberated from their captors, themselves face war tribunals and imprisonment.

Girls are particularly vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation for profit and unpaid domestic service. Young women, often victims of child slavery, are often arrested for prostitution and fined or imprisoned. A criminal record further reduces their ability to find other work and escape their owners. There are many examples of child slavery in which children are abducted and sold at such a young age that they never learn that any other way of life exists. In the United States, there are an estimated 50,000 domestic slaves, and it is estimated that up to 17,500 more are brought into the country each year. Most are kept hidden and remain completely dependent upon their captors.

Even boys are often subjected to being forced into prostitution in the underworld of child slavery. An internal investigation for UNICEF revealed evidence of young boys being sexually exploited by men in Kabul and other regions of Afghanistan. Further, they found that police officers and other men in positions of political power, including Western visitors, often participated in the practice.

Positive Actions People Can Take to Stop Child Slavery and Labor

According to one article, one of the most important ways the average person can help stop the practice of child slavery is through exercising their consumer power. That means researching the business practices of companies and boycotting those who profit from any form of child labor. This can be difficult to achieve. For example, in 2010 an undercover BBC journalist discovered that the cocoa industry participated in child slavery, and that even chocolate stamped with a Fair trade seal may not in fact be child-labor-free. However, increasing consumer awareness is an important step towards putting companies that save labor costs by utilizing child labor out of business.

The Institute for Humane Education offers additional tips, resources and suggestions. Among those suggestions is putting pressure on retailers to hold wholesalers more accountable for their business practices. More customers demanding the Fair Trade Label on products has already resulted in some positive changes.

The CIRCLE (Community-based Innovations for the Reduction of Child Labor through Education) organization believes that through best practices consisting of awareness, education, advocacy and investment, it is possible to eliminate the human tragedy of child slavery.

child slavery
Children road workers near Rishikesh, India, by Paul Rudd, CC2.0
parental objectives

Parental Objectives and Designer Babies: Fooling Mother Nature or Accelerated Evolution?

“There is no time, to wait for Darwinian evolution, to make us more intelligent, and better natured. But we are now entering a new phase, of what might be called, self-designed evolution, in which we will be able to change and improve our DNA. With genetic engineering, we will be able to increase the complexity of our DNA, and improve the human race. “

–Steven Hawking

Parental Objectives for Designer Babies

The history of designer babies is a relatively short one, beginning when baby Jessica, who was conceived using the in vitro fertilization process, was born on August 13th, 1996. Parental objectives for utilizing the miracles made possible by science are as varied as the individuals. In this case, the parental objectives included choosing the sex of the child. In the 2000 case of Lisa and Jack Nash, their daughter Molly suffered from a bone marrow deficiency caused by a genetic disorder.

They “designed” their son Adam by choosing embryos that proved to be a perfect tissue match to be a bone marrow donor for Molly. Using stem cells from his umbilical cord, doctors were able to replace life-saving bone marrow. Parental objectives regarding designer babies have been the subject of a great deal of controversy. In addition to religion objections, a number of moral, ethical and legal questions have been raised regarding this issue.

One example of legal restrictions was demonstrated by the case of a British couple with a 4-year-old son named Charlie. Charlie had a rare condition requiring regular blood transfusions, and needed a bone marrow transplant. Britain’s Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority denied them permission to utilize in vitro fertilization. They then sought treatment at the Reproductive Genetics Institute in the United States, where genetic engineering is largely unregulated.

Ethical Considerations

According to one article, one of the questions raised is whether it is ethical for parents to choose specific embryos to have a child that can serve as a donor for another child. Many have questioned whether it should be legal, and many countries do have strict laws surrounding the use of science to influence the creation of children. Another question is whether designer babies could potentially adversely affect society by creating a group of people with unnatural advantages over their peers. Others have raised the possibility of genetic engineering reducing the necessary degree of variation within the gene pool to ensure continued evolution of our species.

Scientists argue that genetic engineering will make it possible to eliminate the suffering caused by genetic disorders and hereditary diseases. Additionally, they believe that rather than decreasing genetic variation, it will increase it more rapidly that nature alone. The most common parental objectives for genetic engineering is to ensure that they are able to produce a healthy child. Another increasingly common objective is to choose the sex of the child.

Scientific Advances in Genetic Engineering

There are now medical facilities that advertise the ability for parents to choose their child’s gender as well as offering screening for hereditary diseases. A new process called Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) has made it possible to determine the gender of the child with a success rate of 99.9%. In this process, the mother’s eggs are fertilized with the father’s sperm in a laboratory. Only a healthy embryos of the desired gender is implanted in the mother. Other healthy embryos can be frozen for potential future use. Several eggs are extracted from the mother by our doctors, sperm is supplied by the father.

It is now possible to screen for a great number of hereditary diseases. The process called the aneuploidy (abnormal chromosome count) detects some genetic abnormalities, such as Down’s Syndrome, Turner’s syndrome, and Kleinfelder’s syndrome. This process, combined with choosing the gender of the child costs approximately $17,000. Complete screening processes combined with donor services can cost as much as $30,000.

Parental Objectives and the Rise in Fertility Tourism

Strict regulation in many other countries has resulted in what is called “fertility tourism. Many prospective European parents go to the United States because of the lax regulations and the high success rates. Ironically, Americans often choose to go to India or Asia due to the high cost coupled with lower wages. Many women are confronted by the decrease in fertility that accompanies the aging process after spending years achieving the level of pay necessary to support a child.

Professional women for whom it is necessary to undergo in vitro fertilization to become pregnant has become increasingly common. In fact, it has become so common that recently Apple and Facebook began covering the costs of their female employees extracting and freezing their eggs. There have been mixed reactions to this news, with supporters saying that it will help women balance their careers and family lives and those who oppose accusing the companies of devaluing family life to retain workers longer.

Whatever the parental objectives or the ethical considerations, genetic engineering is here to stay. That’s why it’s important that as a global society, we must shape its direction through education and discussion, rather than allowing it to shape ours.

parental objectives
What Happened to Baby Jane, by Doug Bowman, Flickr cc2.0
baby care gifts

Celebrating The Amazing Event, The Birth Of A Child –Then And Now

The History of the Modern Baby Shower

Historically, all cultures have developed and maintained rituals surrounding childbirth. Many of those rituals incorporated elements of the culture’s religion. In ancient Greece, when a child was born, those present at the birth shoutedoloyge!” in celebration of the end of labor. A welcoming ceremony called Amphidromia was conducted on either the fifth or seventh day after the birth. In this ceremony, the father walked around the family hearth several times to symbolize the child’s entry into the household. Another ceremony called Dekate was observed on the tenth day, in which the new mother enjoyed a meal with friends and relatives celebrating her return to society. She would dedicate the gifts she received to the birth-goddess Eileithyia.

In ancient societies, women were often confined during pregnancy. In the Middle Ages, new mothers continued to be confined for 40 days after the birth of a child. That meant she was not even allowed to attend their baptismal ceremony! The child’s godparents usually bought gifts for the child, but rather than modern baby care gifts, the most common gift was a pair of silver spoons. During the Renaissance, gift items included wooden trays, bowls, paintings, sculpture, clothing and food. The most popular gift items were painted childbirth trays which, in addition to carrying food for new mothers, came to symbolize wishes for good health for mother and child.

The term “baby shower” is derived from the Victorian era custom of putting gifts inside a parasol, which, when opened, literally showered the recipient with gifts. Showers began as post-birth tea parties attended by other women, in which games were often played. The new mother was positioned in a decorated chair that symbolized a return to a pure virginal state, as well as an economically dependent one.

The economic prosperity during the baby boom after WWII helped give rise to the consumer ideology of the 1950’s and 60’s, which was the beginning of the modern baby shower. Baby showers served to help defray some of the costs for young parents. Some of the most common baby care gifts given by more financially established family members were expensive items such as cribs, playpens, baby carriages and changing tables. Baby care gifts given by friends often included adorable clothing items, bibs, diapers and toys, such as rattles. Gradually, motherhood itself came to be defined to a great extent by the accoutrements required for infant care.

In Western culture, modern baby showers are customarily given before the birth of a child, in part so that when the child is born, she will have everything necessary to care for a new infant. However, partly in response to high infant mortality rates caused by poverty, many other cultures observe similar rituals in giving baby care gifts after the birth of the child. Rather than baby showers, many countries observe other traditions surrounding the birth of children.

Childbirth Celebrations around the Globe

In Chile, one of the most important traditions is that of choosing godparents and the baby’s baptism. In Japan, baby care gifts aren’t given until after the baby is born. Mother and child are given a month or two to rest and bond before festivities begin. A gift of 10,000 yen is more traditional than purchasing baby care gifts. However, gifts which depict dogs may be welcome before the birth, as dogs are considered symbolic of a safe and speedy delivery.
In Pakistan, rather than a baby shower, the birth of a child is celebrated by giving alms to the poor. In China, baby showers are typically held on the first or second full moon after the birth of a child, and are often formal dinner banquets at which guests pass red envelopes symbolizing good fortune containing money, to the new parents. In France and Korea, baby showers aren’t given until the child’s first birthday.

In addition to traditional baby showers in which baby care gifts are given, some celebrate the event with a meal shower. As any sleep-deprived new mother knows, cooking can become more of a dangerous chore than a pleasure in the months following the birth of a child. A variety of home-made meals that don’t have to be prepared is a thoughtful and time-saving gift.

How Technology Has Changed Traditional Baby Showers with Baby Care Gifts

Advances in technology have resulted in other time-saving developments as well, such as invitations being created online and emailed rather than being delivered by post. Today’s mothers-to-be also have the option of setting up an online registry. Such registries have several benefits. One of them is that those who are unable to attend a baby shower in person can still have a gift delivered in their names. A second benefit is that gifts aren’t duplicated. The parents list items they need and the items are removed from the list as they are purchased.

Technology has also added some new games to the more traditional ones played at baby showers. There are even completely virtual baby showers! Whatever form it takes, or when, the birth of a child is perhaps life’s best cause for celebration.

baby care gifts
Charles and Catherine Darwin 1816 by Sharples