Children's History

The experience of childhood has varied widely throughout American history. In early America, most children worked on farms and contributed immediately to the household. Over time the emphasis on children has largely shifted from labor to education.

The Cherokee Origins and Traditions

A brief overview of Cherokee culture and traditions before 1540. Covers the clan system, the creation myths, and the matriarchal nature of their tribe.

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  • 1790 - It is estimated that the fertility rate per American woman averaged 8.0 children over the course of a lifetime -- higher than modern-day totals in Niger or Mali.
  • 1837 - Sarah Josepha Hale becomes the editor of Godey's Lady's Book, a position she will hold until 1877. This popular magazine advances the ideals of "Republican Motherhood".
  • 1863 - John Clem, The Drummer Boy of Chickamagua", becomes the youngest noncommissioned officer in the U.S. Army at the age of twelve.
  • 1876 - Mark Twain's novel of American boyhood, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, is published. Set in the 1840s, it soon becomes a classic of American literature.
  • 1880 - An estimated 25% of children under 15 years are employed in manufacturing and other jobs. A much greater number are working when family farms are included in the total.
  • 1904 - The National Child Labor Committee is founded to advocate against child labor, commissioning Lewis Hine as a photographer. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 eventually regulates the practice at a federal level.
  • 1917 - Minnesota becomes the first state to seal adoption records. This becomes common practice, leading to controversy when some adoptees are unable to determine the identity of their birth parents.
  • 1926 - The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is administered for the first time.
  • 1934 - Shirley Temple becomes an international star at the age of six with her movie Bright Eyes.
  • 1946 - Dr. Benjamin Spock publishes his influential book Baby and Child Care which advocates for a more nurturing, responsive style of parenting.
  • 1954 - Brown v. Board of Education outlaws segregated schools. President Eisenhower is later forced to deploy the 101st Airborne Division to enforce the decision.
  • 1959 - The first Barbie doll debuts to much acclaim and controversy. It becomes a hit for Mattel.
  • 1960 - The release of "The Pill" leads to a steady decrease in family sizes. The Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973 also contributes.
  • 1985 - The Nintendo Entertainment System is released in North America, revolutionizing the video game industry.