A childcare crisis: Poor black and white families and orphanages in Pittsburgh, 1878--1929
by Ramey, Jessie B., Ph.D., Carnegie Mellon University, 2009 , 371 pages; AAT 3353015
"This study re-conceptualizes orphanages as childcare, exploring the development of institutional childcare, from 1878 to 1929, through a comparison of the United Presbyterian Orphan's Home and the Home for Colored Children. As a close examination of these two "sister" agencies, founded in Pittsburgh by the same person, this project represents the first full-length comparative study of black and white childcare in the United States. The project particularly focuses on the agency of poor families in their use of the institutions as childcare. It places parents and children in a dialectic of cooperation and conflict with orphanage managers, who also had to negotiate with progressive reformers, staff members, and the broader community over the future of their organizations. By investigating the intertwined logic of gender, race, and class hierarchies at the foundation of orphanage care, the dissertation suggests the consequences of these persistent inequalities on modern childcare. It also raises questions about the role of childcare itself in constructing and perpetuating these social relationships. The study addresses significant historiographical gaps in the literature on working-class and African-American families, labor, children and social welfare. Using rich new sources not previously available to scholars, the project incorporates rigorous quantitative analysis of the records of 1,597 children at the two orphanages, providing new insight into the lives of working-class families struggling with the modernizing industrial economy and the ways in which they used institutions for their own purposes."