In Civilizing the Child: Discourses of Race, Nation and Child Welfare in America, Katherine S. Bullard analyzes the discourse of child welfare advocates who argued for the notion of a racialized ideal child. This ideal child, limited to white, often native-born children, was at the center of arguments for material support to children and education for their parents. This book illuminates important limitations in the Progressive approach to social welfare and helps to explain the current dearth of support for poor children.
Publisher: Lexington Books
Number of pages: 158
Weight: 249 g
Dimensions: 234 x 165 x 11 mm
Bullard's most interesting contribution is her linkage of race, children, and social welfare. Concerned with the nation's racial composition, reformers turned to poor white children and children of immigrants, attempting to civilize and mold them for citizenship.... The final chapter, on the Children's Bureau, is the book's strongest, with compelling sources and a clearer narrative. Bullard brings together the threads of race, nation, and childhood to demonstrate that the Children's Bureau helped to `establish a nominal social citizenship' for white American children. Here, too, Bullard clearly shows the role of social science in building racial distinctions into the mechanisms of the modern state.... [T]he book [is] approachable. Precisely because reformers like Riis and Addams are likely to be familiar names for students, individual chapters could stand alone in undergraduate courses. Bullard's evenhanded insights enrich our understanding of social reform, particularly reformers' motivations.... Scholars of race, childhood, and welfare will find interesting new insights into child welfare policy's links with developments in social citizenship and the racialization of the modern American state. * Journal Of The History Of Childhood And Youth *
This thought-provoking study of child welfare reformers in the early twentieth-century U.S. argues that racial difference, national identity, and imperialist assumptions both inspired reformers' programs to improve the lives of the nation's children and set limits on their notions of deserving childhood. While reformers integrated the children of European immigrants into their vision of the ideal child upon whose welfare the fate of the nation depended, they did so by drawing increasingly rigid boundaries between `whitened' Americans, who could lay claim to the nation's settler heritage, and racialized Others-African Americans, Asian Americans, Mexican Americans, and Native Americans-who did not fit into the national mythology of newcomers seeking (and finding) success in the New World. Civilizing the Child is a solidly researched and provocatively argued study that will be of interest to historians of social welfare and public policy, children and childhood, race and empire, and nineteenth- and twentieth-century America. -- Anya Jabour, University of Montana