On the fiftieth birthday of a distinguished man, the image he has created and the work he has done are viewed against the background of his times. To look at a distinguished institution like the Children's Bureau in the same way seems useful.


The Children's Bureau was established in 1912 by the Congress. Those were vigorous days. Since the turn of the century reforms of the kinds, "progressive" movements, had been the order of the day. We had left behind pioneering in the West and had begun to pioneer in our own backyards, in our own communities. There was a new concern for man himself and for the underdog. Working conditions, progressive education, industrial hygiene, trust-busting, women's suffrage, adult education—these and many others were of growing concern to the people and their leaders. Ellen Key had not yet raised the slogan "the century of the child," but at Hull House and Henry Street Settlement and in many other quarters there was a growing concern about all children—not just our own, or those in our jail, or school, or orphanage.

Life for children and for those who cared for them was a vastly different one than today. Information on how to bring up children was largely handed down—how to feed them, how to prepare a bottle or make a baby dress, what to do about minor illnesses or temper tantrums. There were few magazine articles or books, no radio, television shows, or lectures where these problems were discussed. The average physician was too busy taking care of children with temperatures over 102°F, those choking of diphtheria or toxic with scarlet or typhoid fever, to bother with less serious problems of childhood.

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