Cold War Kids: Politics and Childhood in Postwar America, 1945-1960
In the first part of the twentieth century, narrow and incremental policies focused on children were the norm. And then, in the postwar years, monumental events such as the introduction of the Salk vaccine or the Soviet launch of Sputnik delivered jolts to the body politic, producing a federal response that included all children. Cold War Kids charts the changes that followed, making the mid-twentieth century a turning point in federal action directly affecting children and teenagers. With the 1950 and 1960 White House Conferences on Children and Youth as a framework, Marilyn Irvin Holt examines childhood policy and children’s experience in relation to population shifts, suburbia, divorce and family stability, working mothers and the influence of television. Here we see how the government, driven by a Cold War mentality, was becoming ever more involved in aspects of health, education and welfare even as the baby boom shaped American thought, promoting societal acceptance of the argument that all children, not just the poorest and neediest, merited their government’s attention. This period, largely viewed as a time of “stagnation” in studies of children and childhood after World War II, emerges in Holt’s cogent account as a distinct period in the history of children in America.
“Marilyn Irvin Holt’s Cold War Kids is a brisk and nuanced exploration of the unexplored decade-and-a-half before the troubled and dramatic 1960s. From health to entertainment, from education to housing, and from crime to welfare - with insights into the effects of race, class, and gender sprinkled throughout - Holt covers all of the pertinent issues tentatively addressed by post-war politicians and policy-makers as they took the first steps toward re-imagining the government’s role in the lives of American families and children.” - James Marten, President of the Society for the History of Children and Youth.
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