Child Care in Black and White: Working Parents and the History of Orphanages
The Working Class in American History series, University of Illinois Press, 2012.
Now available in paperback and Kindle editions!
This innovative new book tells the story of families who used orphanages as an early form of childcare in times of family crisis. Set at the turn of the last century as industrial capitalism was wrecking havoc on America’s working families, Child Care in Black and White explains how private charities struggled to make a dent in massive social problems long before there were any public safety nets. The study compares the United Presbyterian Orphan’s Home and the Home for Colored Children – “sister” agencies founded in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by the same person – revealing the gender, race, and class inequalities built into the very foundation of our modern child welfare system.
Author Jessie Ramey argues that orphanages, and their concern with “dependency,” had a long-term impact on U.S. social welfare and raises questions about the role of childcare itself in perpetuating social inequalities. Using rich new sources available for the first time, she looks at working parents, children, orphanage managers, progressive reformers, staff members, and the broader community as the institutions developed from 1878 to 1929. In this highly readable account, Dr. Ramey combines quantitative analysis of the records of over 1,500 children living at the two orphanages with numerous stories of parents struggling to work and care for their children in the new urban, industrial economy.