Sunday, July 19, 2009

Miriam Forman-Brunell

Miriam Forman-Brunell is Professor of History at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. She is the author of Made to Play House and general editor of ABC-CLIO’s Girlhood in America. She is also co-editor of Children and Youth in History & Culture. Her new book is Babysitter: An American History.

From her Q & A with Salon's Katharine Mieszkowski about the new book:

Has there ever been a golden age of baby sitting?

There really never has. Many parents continue to think that way back when, in the postwar years, girls were affable and also plentiful.

But in fact that was not the case. Back in the 1950s, and even before that, during the war and during the Depression, girls complained about the working conditions and the ways in which they felt they were being treated unfairly by their employers.

I was surprised that some girls even formed baby-sitting unions.

In the years right after the war ends, when the baby boom really begins to soar, parents are desperate for baby sitters. These baby sitters really have developed a sense of themselves as being workers. And they have a sense of what is acceptable to expect of a worker and what isn't.

In various parts of the country they begin to organize these informal unions. Girls get together to draw up a code in terms of what's the minimum wage, what can their employers expect of them. Basically identifying the do's and the don'ts.

The unions don't last. And one of the reasons is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue