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Children as Topic No 1 - Prologue - Summer 2010

Children as Topic No 1 - Prologue - Summer 2010

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Published by Prologue Magazine
Marilyn Irvin Holt documents the evolution of White house conferences on children and how they reflected the changing behavior, attitudes, and tastes of the nation's younger generation.

What's new in the past? You're about to find out with Prologue magazine, the quarterly publication of the National Archives.

For more on the stories in the National Archives visit: http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue
Marilyn Irvin Holt documents the evolution of White house conferences on children and how they reflected the changing behavior, attitudes, and tastes of the nation's younger generation.

What's new in the past? You're about to find out with Prologue magazine, the quarterly publication of the National Archives.

For more on the stories in the National Archives visit: http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue

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Published by: Prologue Magazine on Jul 21, 2010
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10/25/2012

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Among the well-known child welfare advocates seated at the headtable with President Roosevelt at the end of the 1909 White HouseConference on Children and Youth were Jane Addams, James E.West, Homer Folks, and Theodore Dreiser. (The banquet was held atWashington’s Willard Hotel.)
Right:
High school youths hang out in front of a store, drinking pop inOakland, California, May 4, 1940.
B
etween 1946 and 1960, 59.4 million children were born in the UnitedStates. They learned to read with Dick and Jane or with Jack and Janet.They, as well as the teenagers who were children during World War II, otenattended schools that were overcrowded. They were told to “duck and cover”in the event o a nuclear attack, and or an increasing number, amily mobility meant growing up in the suburbs. This was the rst television generation. Against this backdrop o the baby boom and a culture that increasingly regarded teenagers as consumers rather than economic contributors, the 1950and 1960 White House Conerences on Childrenand Youth examined the state o American childhoodand adolescence in postwar America.
No.
1
Children as Topic
White House Conferences Focused on Youthand Societal Changes in Postwar America
By Marilyn Irvin Holt
Summer 2010
 
 when the U.S. Children’s Bureau was established in 1912 under theDepartment o Labor. And, intended or not, the 1909 conerence laidthe oundation or uture conerences. The next occurred in 1919.Others ollowed on the decimal year. The last was held in 1970.It was President Herbert Hoover who shaped the ramework or alluture conerences. There was a undamental shit rom the previousconcentration on welare standards and dependent children to anagenda that addressed the rights o children, including the right tomedical care and education. Although the 1930 conerence discussedearlier conerence topics o dependent children and their needs, themeeting put more issues on the table and considered all children.Hoover established the practice o providinggovernment unds; the 1930 conerence wasnanced with a grant rom money raised, but neverused, or post–World War I European relie.He also set the precedent or apre-conerence planning com-mittee. The committeeset the overall theme (theHoover conerence wasentitled “Child HealthThe concept o holding conerences targeting child-related issues was not new. The Midcentury Conerence o 1950 and the Golden Anniversary Conerence o 1960 continued a tradition that began in1909 when President Theodore Roosevelt, urged on by activists andreormers in the national child welare movement, sponsored the rst White House Conerence on Children and Youth.Some child-related issues such as care or dependent children appearedon the agendas o every White House Conerence on Children and Youth, but many topics represented trends o an era and immediatechanges occurring in America. This was especially true or the postwaryears, when conerences were infuenced by the need or amily housingand more schools, the sudden infuence o television, and the socialshits created by the civil rights movement.Themed “Care o Dependent Children,” the 1909 conerenceendorsed a number o recommendations or promoting the healthand welare o young laborers, the orphaned, and the children o impoverished parents.It was the Progressive Era. Reormers wanted more governmentregulation, rather than less. They called or ederal legislation dealing with such issues as controlling child labor, but one o the mostimportant demands o the conerence was ormation o a ederalbureau devoted to issuesdirectly related tochildren. That goal was accomplished
Children as Topic No.1
 
The Interdepartmental Committee on Childrenand Youth consisted of federal agencies that fundedyouth-related programs. The committee providedconference participants with data on programs andthe numbers of youngsters served.
and Protection”); worked with the U.S. Children’sBureau, state, and local organizations; decided who would be invited; and dealt with the nuts andbolts o meeting arrangements. White House Conerences expanded inparticipation and content with each meeting. Thisis apparent in the 1950 and 1960 conerences, which oer a window to the impact o the waryears and to what oten seemed overwhelmingdemands o the baby boom o the 1950s.Many topics, such as juvenile delinquency and oster care, had been discussed since therst White House Conerence in 1909, but thecontext in which they, and newer subjects, wereviewed took on added relevance and urgency by the mid-1900s.To some degree, conerences ocused onrighting problems that were “typical o thedecade.” At the 1950 conerence, or instance,little attention was given to the quality o television programs or the medium’s impact onchildren. There were, ater all, ewer than 100commercial television stations in the country.Nor did meeting delegates ully understand,or appreciate, postwar population shits tothe suburbs or to states that “boomed” withemployment opportunities in deense industries.By 1960, however, both television and thedemands o changing population patterns were widely discussed in orums that ranged romthe topics o social services to education.The 1950 and 1960 conerences receivedinormation rom the Interdepartmental Com-mittee, which was made up o ederal agenciesand departments that administered programsthat in some way aected children. Establishedin 1948 to reduce duplication o services andto promote better communication within thegovernment, the committee had 28 membersby the mid-1950s. The statistical data andanalysis collected and disseminated by thecommittee was an important resource or thoseplanning and later attending the White Houseconerences. Where else would conerenceattendees learn that the National School LunchProgram ed 9 million children during the1950–1951 school year? And how many wouldhave known, unless amiliar with the program,that over 155,000 war orphans (children o servicemen killed in World War II and Korea) were eligible or aid through the War OrphansEducational Assistance Act?It would be impossible here to treat eachtopic in depth, but a small sample providessome idea o what concerned the generalpubic and policy makers o mid-20th-centur America. Included here or consideration arecivil rights/integration; juvenile delinquency;adoption; oster care; housing; and the Cold War shadow o communism.Perhaps the most socially charged issue o the postwar era was civil rights. The discussion was not new. The nal report o the 1940conerence, or instance, devoted a chapter tothe extent that minority children (not only  Arican American, but Filipino, Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, and Native American) weredeprived o social services and schooling.In 1950, the status o minority childrenremained an issue, but the ocus was on thoseo Arican American heritage. Studies o Aid toDependent Children programs oered a casein point. In southern states, discriminatory practices kept many Arican American childrenrom receiving support through ADC programs,and when money was provided, it was ar lessthan that available to children in other sectionso the country. In Mississippi, or example, the
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President Herbert Hoover is greeted by a youthband during the 1930 White House Conference onChildren and Youth.
20
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