Raising the World opens in postwar Europe, as American voluntary workers tried to rehabilitate a generation of children devastated both physically and psychologically by World War II. American organizations saw interventions into European child-rearing practices as a means of helping the vulnerable and also as a way to reshape the political landscape in Europe, particularly in Germany, which many Americans saw as overly "authoritarian." A number of American-led training programs instructed European parents and child care practitioners in American methods of caring for children. American voluntary agencies also designed virtual "adoption" programs that matched European youngsters with "foster parents" in the United States. Many participants saw these programs molding young minds and laying the foundations of international kinship that would lead to an enduring peace.
But amidst these calls for peace, the United States was waging the Cold War. Agencies called upon ordinary Americans to donate funds that would uplift youngsters and prevent them from succumbing to the lures of Communism. In countries across the Asian continent, they sought to provide children with the familial love that they saw as the hallmark of democratic regimes. By the late 1950s and 1960s, American agencies were active in developing countries around the world, working to provide a generation of youngsters with the "modern" outlook they thought would help launch their countries into the future. By the 1970s, however, American efforts to help children overseas faced growing scrutiny both at home and abroad. Voluntary agencies recast their work as feminism left its imprint on the project of child-rearing and Americans reassessed their country's duties overseas in the wake of the Vietnam War.
Raising the World:
Child Welfare in the American Century
Raising the World explores American efforts to assist children overseas during the decades following the Second World War. It examines how American-led international child welfare agencies supported larger U.S. efforts to guide the trajectory of development abroad, first in postwar Europe and then in the developing world. These voluntary agencies situated the intimate sphere of the family as a key site in the global struggle against communism, and looked to interventions in foreign child-rearing practices as a means of reshaping the political and economic landscape overseas. In the process, they endowed the work traditionally performed by women with global significance and gave women, children and families a central role to play in international reconstruction and development. See below for my research archives.
My research in 2011-2012 was generously supported by a dissertation fellowship from the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation.
Research Archives & Libraries
I have enjoyed conducting research at the following organizations, institutions and libraries.
ChildFund (formerly Christian Children's Fund), headquartered in Richmond, was one of the largest American child sponsorship agencies: by 1968, the organization supported over 100,000 children around the world.
Photo: Naibuddin Ahmed, In the play-house, December 14, 1958, American Friends Service Committee Archives, Philadelphia, PA.
Plan International (formerly Foster Parents' Plan) was an American organization active in overseas child sponsorship. The organization's extensive collection of historic documents is housed at the Special Collections Department at the University of Rhode Island.
Save the Children, headquartered in Westport, Connecticut, matched American sponsors with children overseas and in the United States.
The Girl Scout National Historic Preservation Center in New York City documents the organization's work promoting friendship between girls around the world.
The American Friends Service Committee engaged in humanitarian and community development work in countries across the globe. Many of the organization's projects focused on children.
The Joint Distribution Committee's archive in New York City sheds light on the work of the largest international Jewish humanitarian assistance organization in the world.
The Andover-Harvard Theological Library houses the records of the Unitarian Service Committee. This American voluntary group established projects aimed at improving child care and education in a number of countries overseas.
The National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Maryland, contains a wealth of information on American-led international child welfare efforts. Some of the collections I have explored include the records of the U.S. Children's Bureau, the records of the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, the records of the Department of State, and the Records of U.S. Foreign Assistance Agencies.
The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, housed at the Center for Jewish History in New York City, holds the records of the German-Jewish Children's Aid, an organization that brought European Jewish children to the United States before, during, and after World War II.
The New York Public Library houses the papers of Ernst Papanek, an Austrian-born child psychologist and educator who worked to assist refugee children during and after World War II.
The papers of Katharine Lenroot, who served as the chief of the U.S. Children's Bureau from 1934-1951 and was active in the field of international child welfare, are housed at Columbia's Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
Among the many interesting collections at Radcliffe's Schlesinger Library are the papers of Martha May Eliot, a pediatrician whose work with the U.S. Children's Bureau, the World Health Organization, and UNICEF improved the care of children around the world.
Rescue Children, Inc. cared for young Jewish Holocaust survivors and ran an "adoption" program that matched these children with sponsors in the United States. The organization's papers are housed at Yeshiva University's Mendel Gottesman Library.
David C. McClelland was a social psychologist who applied his findings on human motivation to the problem of stimulating economic growth in developing countries. McClelland saw methods of child-rearing as shaping the kinds of personalities necessary to promote national development. His papers are housed at the Harvard University Archives.
My research in 2012-2013 was supported by a dissertation completion fellowship from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR).
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