The Public Interest

Other people's children: the day care experience in America

Sheila M. Rothman

Winter 1973

VERY few recent proposals in social policy have received such enthusiastic and unqualified endorsement as the idea of day care centers. The chorus of approvals broadcast these past five years has gone almost unanswered. To a startlingly wide variety of proponents, the establishment of centers for the care of pre-school children seems like a good idea whose time has come. Such a reform, they contend, will beneficently reorder the existing relationships between sexes, generations, and social classes. Important support for the movement comes from women liberationists, who insist that day care will eliminate the most crucial barrier—that is, the day-to-day responsibility for children- which confronts women who try to enter the labor force and to pursue careers. Indeed, women liberationists argue that day care centers have actually fulfilled this function in the past. World War II is their paradigm case: As soon as the federal government built day care centers, women entered the factories in unprecedented numbers. It follows that as soon as the government recommits itself to this program, women will again enjoy full opportunities for work.

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