Children and Youth during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

Children and Youth during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era



In the decades after the Civil War, urbanization, industrialization, and immigration marked the start of the Gilded Age, a period of rapid economic growth but also social upheaval. Reformers responded to the social and economic chaos with a “search for order,” as famously described by historian Robert Wiebe. Most reformers agreed that one of the nation’s top priorities should be its children and youth, who, they believed, suffered more from the disorder plaguing the rapidly growing nation than any other group. Children and Youth during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era explores both nineteenth century conditions that led Progressives to their search for order and some of the solutions applied to children and youth in the context of that search. Edited by renowned scholar of children’s history James Marten, the collection of eleven essays offers case studies relevant to educational reform, child labor laws, underage marriage, and recreation for children, among others. Including important primary documents produced by children themselves, the essays in this volume foreground the role that youth played in exerting agency over their own lives and in contesting the policies that sought to protect and control them.



Publication Date



New York University Press


New York




Table of Contents

Part I. Shaping the Future: Institutions and the Law

1. Playing Progressively? Race, Reform, and Playful Pedagogies in the Origins of Philadelphia’s Starr Garden Recreation Park, 1857-1904

2. Model Schools and Field Days: Colorado Fuel and Iron’s Construction of Education and Recreation for Children, 1901-1918

3. Of Families or Individuals? Southern Child Workers and the Progressive Crusade for Child Labor Regulation, 1899-1920

4. “I Was So Glad to be in School Here”: Religious Organizations and the School on Ellis Island in the Early 1900s

5. The Trajectory of Benevolence: Progressivism in the “Little Colonel” Books

Part II. Managing Change: Children, Youth, and Families

6. Willful Disobedience: Young People and School authority in the Nineteenth-Century United States

7. The Contested Meanings of Child Marriage in the Turn-of-the-Century United States

8. Sex, Abortion, and Prostitution in the Lives of Gilded Age Chicago Girls

9. Ohio Departures: George as Progressive Youth in Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio

10. Fit Body, Fit Mind: Scandinavian Youth and the Value of Work, Education, and Physical Fitness in Progressive-Era Chicago

11. Duty and Destiny: A Progressive Reformer’s Coming of Age in the Gilded Age

Documents: Thinking with Their Heads

Questions for Considerations


About the Contributors


Children and Youth during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era