Thursday, December 13, 2018
Young boy at a non-traditional child care center reading William's Doll  by Charlotte Zolotow (1972). Photo by Bettye Lane, February 6, 1974. Courtesy of Schlesinger LibraryYoung boy at a non-traditional child care center reading William's Doll by Charlotte Zolotow (1972). Photo by Bettye Lane, February 6, 1974. Courtesy of Schlesinger Library

The recently processed papers of Rosalyn Fraad Baxandall highlight her role as a founding member of the Women's Liberation Movement, a successful educator, and prolific feminist scholar. Equally important but less well known is her long term involvement in New York City's community controlled childcare movement, which is documented in interviews, speeches, and writings in her papers.

Children played a highly visible role in demonstrations for affordable child care. Photo by Bettye Lane, August 20, 1974. Courtesy of Schlesinger LibraryChildren played a highly visible role in demonstrations for affordable child care. Photo by Bettye Lane, August 20, 1974. Courtesy of Schlesinger Library

Fast forward to the 1960s, when this belief was challenged and overturned by women in the Civil Rights Movement, Poor People’s Campaign, and the Women’s Liberation Movement. These social movements—coupled with national concerns over rising welfare costs, a growing number of single working mothers, and the push for early childhood development—were major factors in the development of community controlled childcare.

Faced with the refusal of state and federal governments to fund child care facilities, local communities were forced to develop alternative strategies. In 1967, Baxandall was married, raising a small child, and working full time. Hampered by the lack of affordable day care, she joined with a diverse range of working mothers to organize Liberation Nursery, New York City's first feminist day care center. Located between Avenues C and D on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, it was an unlicensed, cooperatively run center in a run-down storefront. The organizers funded extensive renovations: installing new floors, plastering and painting, and installing shelving; purchased gender neutral toys; and developed and taught their own curriculum. However, Liberation Nursery, like many other community controlled childcare centers in New York, failed to meet the rigid regulations that guaranteed funding. Their decision to fight for government funding on their own terms resulted in widespread demonstrations and sit-ins at city offices, which continued throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

Non-traditional child care centers encouraged young children to play with gender-neutral toys. Photo by Bettye Lane, November 9, 1976. Courtesy of Schlesinger LibraryNon-traditional child care centers encouraged young children to play with gender-neutral toys. Photo by Bettye Lane, November 9, 1976. Courtesy of Schlesinger LibraryMore detailed information about the challenges and success of community controlled childcare, especially in comparison with current issues surrounding child care, is available in the Papers of Rosalyn Fraad Baxandall, which offer a personal and highly informative perspective.

Papers of Rosalyn Baxandall, 1933–2015

 

Author: 
Emilyn L. Brown