All SHCY members receive the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth. Published three times a year, it features scholarly research and critical book reviews.

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Jun  17

JHCY Best Article Prize Winner Announced

The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth is happy to announce the winner of the JHCY Best Article Prize for 2015: Magda Fahrni’s “Glimpsing Working-Class Childhood through the Laurier Palace Fire of 1927: The Ordinary, the Tragic, and the Historian’s Gaze.” The article appeared in the special issue on children and spaces of death, Volume 3 (Fall 2015). Pamela Riney-Kehrberg (Iowa State University) chaired the selection committee, which also included Luke Springman (Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania) and Bianco Premo (Florida International University).

This article has also been honored by the Canadian Committee on Labour History and the History of Children and Youth Group of the Canadian Historical Association.

Magda Fahrni is Associate Professor in the Department of History at the Université du Québec à Montréal. She is the author of Household Politics: Montreal Families and Postwar Reconstruction (University of Toronto Press, 2005); the co-author of the 3rd edition of Canadian Women: A History (Nelson, 2011); and the co-editor of Epidemic Encounters: Influenza, Society, and Culture in Canada, 1918-20 (University of British Columbia Press, 2012) and of Creating Postwar Canada: Community, Diversity, and Dissent, 1945-75 (University of British Columbia Press, 2008). She is currently working on a monograph on risk and accidents in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Quebec and on a short history of families in Canada.

Jun  17

Guest Post: Children, Childhood, and the Irish Revolution

Marnie Hay is a lecturer in History at St. Patrick’s Campus, Dublin City University, and Sarah-Anne Buckley is a lecturer in History at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Forty children under the age of seventeen were killed during the 1916 Easter Rising, a week-long rebellion against British rule in Ireland. Most were innocent bystanders, children in the wrong place at the wrong time. Three of the boys who died participated in the insurrection, two as combatants and one as a dispatch carrier for the rebels. The story of these forty young lives lost, as told by RTÉ broadcaster and author Joe Duffy in his book Children of the Rising (Dublin: Hachette Books Ireland, 2015), has hit the bestseller list and seized the public imagination in Ireland as we mark the centenary of this seminal event in the development of the modern Irish republic. This is one of the positive aspects of the current commemoration of the rising—the way in which it is helping to broaden perspectives on the rebellion. Commemorative publications, events, television programs, and even banners have engaged with the experiences of combatants and civilians of all ages, genders, social classes, and political persuasions.

The impact on children and youth of not only the rising, but the wider events of the Irish Revolution, which took place circa 1913-23, is one of the themes being explored as part of this year’s activities to commemorate the rebellion. The guest editors of the Spring 2016 issue of the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth (JHCY) are playing a role in this. For instance, Marnie Hay co-organized a multidisciplinary symposium on “Children and the Irish Revolution” held at the St. Patrick’s Campus of Dublin City University on February 27, 2016. This symposium featured sessions examining the experiences of children and adolescents during the revolutionary years, the depiction of the Easter Rising in recent children’s literature, and the challenges of teaching children on both sides of the Irish border about the events of the Irish Revolution. Furthermore, Sarah-Anne Buckley is organizing an upcoming conference entitled “Children and Childhood in the Revolutionary Period,” which will be held at the National University of Ireland, Galway on September 16-17, 2016. The conference will feature Joe Duffy, Eunan O’Halpin, Caoimhe Nic Dháibhéid, Marnie Hay, Tony Fahey, Ciara Breathnach, Caroline McGregor, and many other expert scholars. Events will be held on and off campus, integrating Culture Night in Galway with an event in Galway museum entitled “Childhood and Galway. “ More information on the Galway conference is available from and will be updated over the coming weeks.

The publication of this Irish special issue of the JHCY, the popularity of Duffy’s book, and the organization of these two academic events (not to mention various public lectures exploring the youth dimension of the rising) all attest to the increasing growth of public and academic interest in the history of Irish children and childhood.

Jun  06

CHC: Season 2, Episode 5: Historical Truth and Childhood Trauma

Childhood: history & critique (CHC) is a multi-media series of interviews, essays, and reports on happenings in the historical study of childhood hosted by a team of scholars and edited by Dr. Patrick J. Ryan. The series is published and circulated online by the Society for the History of Children and Youth.

Audio of Patrick J. Ryan’s Conversation with Ronald Niezen

Part 1 of Patrick J. Ryan’s Conversation with Ronald Niezen

Part 2

Part 3

Commentary by Patrick J. Ryan

Ronald Niezen was trained as an Africanist and his first research took place in Northern Mali. As a young scholar, he found work in health and human services with the James Bay Cree, and this set his career in a new direction. He later lived and worked in Northern Manitoba where he began hearing stories about Canadian residential schools.

The Canadian aboriginal residential school project imitated the American model and built upon the ideas in Canada’s 1857 “Gradual Civilization Act.” At their height in the interwar period, the Roman Catholic and the Anglican Churches operated about 130 schools with funds and according to regulations provided by the Federal government of Canada. An estimated 140,000 students attended these schools. The last one was closed in the mid-1990s.

Resistance to the schools was inspired by global anti-colonial and civil rights movements. Radio and later television coverage on the CBC developed lines of critique over several decades. In the 1960s and early 1970s, the most visible objection was that the schools alienated young people, produced language loss and cultural disintegration. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, the accusations had shifted to corporal punishment, emotional trauma, family separation, sexual abuse which caused a cycle of hardship for the families of former students.

The shift toward visible violence, separation, and trauma made the complaints of former students and First Nation’s communities ‘legible’ at law. This resulted in a series of legal victories (and ultimately an enormous class-action suit) against the government of Canada in the new century. By 2007, a general settlement was reached that would pay former students approximately five billion CAD. The agreement also produced the world’s first Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) dedicated to state crimes against children.
Truth and Indignation Selected.indd
Truth and Indignation is an institutional ethnography, inspired by two disjunctions that Ron encountered in the developing narrative on the schools. In the 1950’s, the schools had been publicly promoted as an altruistic effort to improve literacy, discipline, piety, and security for native peoples. Within three decades the prevailing opinion had completely reversed; residential schools became viewed as sites of language loss, trauma, moral corruption, and violence. As one of the few writers who has conducted interviews of former operators of the schools (Oblate Brothers), Ron became aware of another divergence – and one that remains largely invisible or untouchable. These men recall schools as places of learning and pastoral care. Their memories could not have been more at odds with the cases brought forward by thousands of former students themselves.

Taking these divergences seriously, Truth and Indignation explores how historical memory is formed. It unpacks structures and operations that were unique to Canada’s TRC. Along the way readers gain insights into the Commission’s template for truth and the significance of key exclusions in the scope of its investigations. The government of Canada called it a TRC, but there was no context transitional justice (no transformation of government in play). Canada made sure the Commission had no judicial powers or processes, and that it carried on without Crown representatives. We might borrow a phrase from David Silverman’s Discourses of Counselling and call Canada’s TRC an “institutionalized incitement to speak.” If so, it was an invitation that excluded major categories of actors. The process excluded (for quite formalistic reasons) those who had been part of about 1,400 similar care-giving and educational institutions. The TRC’s proceedings included no perpetrators, no naming of them. More importantly, they lacked participation from former administrators, teachers, and staff. Reading Truth and Indignation, one has to ask; in what sense was this a process of reconciliation at all?

A book that effectively shows how Canada’s TRC created exclusions, templates, and practices for a specific kind of truth risks being read as an apology for the residential schools. Some may equate a phrase like the ‘production of truth’ with the ‘production of lies,’ precisely because the common term (production) weakens a more comfortable distinction between falsehood and truth. Others may be so motivated by child-saving, so offended by grotesque mistreatment of children at these schools, that they will wish to suspend critical inquiry into memory, trauma, or the making of history. It is an understandable response. The irony will not occur to them that child-saving discourse stood at the foundation of the schools themselves, reappears in the emotions that motivate our reluctance to examine the TRC critically.

It seems to me that we are the beneficiaries of Ron Niezen’s willingness to take risks and examine the TRC in a careful way. I encourage you to read the book.

Patrick J. Ryan

About Patrick J. Ryan

Dr. Patrick J. Ryan is Program Coordinator of Childhood & Social Institutions at Kings University College at Western University – Canada. He is VP and President-Elect of the Society for the History of Children and Youth, the long-time managing editor of H-Childhood (est. 1998), and the author of scores of publications in the history of childhood and youth, including Master-Servant Childhood: a history of the idea of childhood in Medieval English Culture (Palgrave, 2013).

Ronald Niezen

About Ronald Niezen

Ronald Niezen is Katharine A. Pearson Chair in Civil Society and Public Policy in the Faculties of Law and Arts at McGill University, where he has served as Chair of the Department of Anthropology. Among his many works are: The Origins of Indigenism: Human Rights and the Politics of Difference (University of California Press, 2003); A World Beyond Difference: Cultural Identity in the Age of Globalization (Blackwell, 2004); The Rediscovered Self: Indigenous Identity and Cultural Justice (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009); Public Justice and the Anthropology of Law (Cambridge University Press, 2010); and Truth and Indignation: Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indian Residential Schools (University of Toronto Press, October 2013).

May  11

CHC: Season 2, Ep 4: Roundtable Discussion with Marah Gubar and Shauna Vey

Childhood: history & critique (CHC) is a multi-media series of interviews, essays, and reports on happenings in the historical study of childhood hosted by a team of scholars and edited by Dr. Patrick J. Ryan. The series is published and circulated online by the Society for the History of Children and Youth.

Audio of Martin Woodside’s Roundtable with Marah Gubar and Shauna Vey
Commentary by Martin Woodside
In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to child actors on the 19th century stage. I entered this conversation through my work on Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, in which child performers and notions of childhood played a prominent and under-appreciated role. In my research, I came across the work of Shauna Vey and Marah Gubar, two scholars who have done much to shed light on the dynamic relationship between changing ideas of childhood and early forms of 19th century popular culture. Marah and Shauna come from different disciplinary backgrounds— the former a children’s literature scholar and the latter a theatre historian—but their work addresses similar themes, adding layers of nuance to our understanding of children’s culture and child labor and complicating conventional narratives about the influence of childhood innocence in 19th century America. In this discussion, I invited both Marah and Shauna to comment on these issues, describe our current understanding of 19th century performers, and imagine how we can productively build on existing work in this field.

In reading Marah’s work on 19th century children’s theatre, including the Viennoise Children, a juvenile ballet company, and Shauna’s in-depth case study of child actors in the Marsh Troupe, I became interested in how the lives of these children enrich and complicate our understanding of childhood innocence during the second half of the 19th century. Early in our talk, Shauna noted that her work was more about competence than innocence, a comment that helped to frame the conversation that followed. Both Marah and Shauna suggested their work demonstrates the agency of child actors in ways previous scholarship has failed to properly account for, and they both make a forceful argument that 19th century child actors were often valued for their craft and respected as professionals rather than categorically appraised as victims or exploited workers.

Still, as we talked, it became clear that the murky relationship between innocence and competency gestures to unresolved questions about these performers and 19th century ideas of childhood. During the interview, Shauna argues that actors “are always playing two faces at the same time,” so that the children in the Marsh Troupe were considered workers, much like their adult peers, even as their appeal was bound up in a growing cultural fascination with helpless, innocent childhood. In a follow-up email, a few days after our talk, Marah suggested this was an important paradox, one that 19th century audiences were fully aware of; they celebrated the child actor’s innocence while deriving pleasure and profit from that same child’s labor. It seems clear to me that these child actors were paradoxical figures, and I wonder how much we can learn from that. How aware were children of this paradox? How did these contradictions inform their own sense of agency and influence their understanding of themselves as children, as performers, and as workers? These questions remain difficult to answer.

Our broader consideration of audience opened up the discussion to the changing place of the theatre in 19th century culture and what those changes suggest about contemporaneous ideas of age, class, and gender. Shauna brought up Highbrow/Lowbrow, Lawrence Levine’s classic study of how American theater was gradually reorganized and reimagined in the 19th century, with theatre audience becoming more isolated and stratified. Reflecting on our work, we discussed what a messy process this was and how children’s relationships with the theater during the 19th century—both as performers and audience members—remains under-explored. Marah talked about the Grand Duke’s Opera House, a functioning professional theater put together run by newsboys in New York’s Five Points neighbourhood during the 1870s, and Shauna brought up the popularity of home theatricals among middle class girls in the Victorian Era. Examples like these ask us to reconsider children’s relationship to the theatre, blurring the line between work and play and troubling the notion of childhood innocence as a monolithic force in the late 19th century. Both Marah and Shauna have made significant efforts to address these complex issues, and it’s clear to me from our conversation that 19th century child performers have a lot more to teach us.

Selected Bibliography
Frey, Heather Fitzsimmons, “Defying Victorian Girlhoods through ‘Oriental Fantasies.’ Tensions and Possibilities for Girls in Nineteenth Century Drawing Room Theatre.” For the Performance Research For/By/With Young People conference at Brock University. Uploaded April 6th 2014.

Gubar, Marah “Entertaining Children of All Ages: Nineteenth-Century Popular Theater as Children’s Theater,” American Quarterly, vol. 66, no. 1 (2014): 1-34.

Levine, Lawrence. Highbrow/Lowbrow: the Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988).

Varty, Anne, “Children and Theatre in Victorian Britain: All Work, No Play.” (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).

Vey, Shauna, Childhood and Nineteenth-Century American Theatre: The Work of the Marsh Troupe of Juvenile Actors (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2015).

Martin Woodside

About Martin Woodside

Martin Woodside earned his Ph.D. in Childhood Studies from the University of Rutgers-Camden. He has a background in Children’s Literature and Creating Writing and has published five books for young readers and a full-length collection of poetry. He spent 2009-10 as a Fulbright Fellow in Romania and has published two books of Romanian poetry in translation. He studies gender, popular culture, and Young Adult Literature, and his critical work has been published in Extravio and Otherness: Essays and Studies.

Marah Gubar

About Marah Gubar

Marah Gubar, Associate Professor of Literature at MIT, is the author of Artful Dodgers: Reconceiving the Golden Age of Children’s Literature (Oxford University Press, 2009). Her second book is tentatively entitled How to “Think About Children: Childhood Studies in the Academy and Beyond.” It attempts to generate a philosophical account of what it means to be a child that could function as a shared language, enabling researchers who work on children and childhood across the arts, sciences, and humanities to communicate their key insights not only with each other, but also with people outside of academia.

Shauna Vey

About Shauna Vey

Shauna Vey is a theatre historian and Associate Professor at NYC College of Technology of the City University of New York. Her research focuses on the material, cultural, and economic circumstances of American stage performers. She is the author of Childhood and Nineteenth-Century American Theatre: The Work of the Marsh Troupe of Juvenile Actors (Southern Illinois University Press, 2015).

Mar  21

CFP: (Re) Examining Historical Childhoods: Literary, Cultural, Social

(Re) Examining Historical Childhoods: Literary, Cultural, Social
An Australasian Society for the History of Children and Youth Symposium
December 12-13, 2016
Melbourne, Australia
Deakin University

In this inaugural Australasian Society for the History of Children and Youth symposium, we are keenly interested in bringing together scholars of the history of children and childhood to consider new perspectives, new methodologies, and new cross- disciplinary frameworks that will enrich the field. We invite proposals for panels, papers, or roundtables that explore histories of children and youth from any place and in any era.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
• Representations of the histories children and childhood in the media, film, literature, music and popular culture
• The ‘difficult’ histories of children and youth
• Histories that consider children’s agency and voice
• Children and their relation to space, place, and the built environment
• Education and the histories of children and youth
• Material culture and the commemoration of children’s heritage
• Histories of ‘girlhood’ and ‘boyhood’
• Cross-cultural and Indigenous experiences of childhood across time
• Histories of childhood and public policy

Paper and panel proposals are due no later than 15 May 2016. They should include the following information in a single document and should be sent to the conference convener Kristine Moruzi ( Notifications of acceptance will be made by 15 June.

1. Name of presenter, institutional affiliation, address and email.
2. Title of individual paper
3. 250-word abstract of paper
4. Brief bio (max 50 words) for presenter
5. Audio-visual requirements

Other members of the programme committee are:
Kate Darian-Smith, University of Melbourne
Margot Hillel, Australian Catholic University
Nell Musgrove, Australian Catholic University
Carla Pascoe, University of Melbourne

Mar  17

Guest Post: Leslie Ginsparg Klein on Dress Codes and Uniforms as a Socialization Tool

Leslie Ginsparg Klein is the academic dean of Women’s Institute of Torah Seminary – Maalot Baltimore.

My daughter, an elementary school student, started wearing a uniform this year. As a parent, I’m thrilled. Uniforms mean less laundry, less time spent picking out clothes, and less fighting over why tutus are not an appropriate clothing choice in the dead of winter. My daughter is happy to wear a uniform as well. For her it marks the transition from being a little girl to a big girl. She loves her uniform, for now. I can’t help but wonder if she’ll grow to resent it. I remember myself, as a high school student, hating my uniform. I found the scratchy sweaters and polyester pleated skirts chafing, both literally and figuratively. Those sentiments seemed to have only increased over time. The news is full of reports of students protesting and even suing their schools over dress codes.

In my just-published JHCY article, “No Candy Store, No Pizza Shops, No Maxi-Skirts, No Makeup’: Socializing Orthodox Jewish Girls Through Schooling,” I discuss the way that uniforms and dress codes have been used to socialize Orthodox Jewish girls into appropriate gender roles. The dress codes conform to a combination of the traditional Jewish laws of modesty and social conception of what constitutes appropriate dress. Orthodox girls’ schools require girls to wear skirts and dresses (no pants) that cover the knees, sleeves that cover the elbows, and necklines that don’t dip below the collarbone. Students are expected to adhere to these standards both inside and outside of school. School leaders use uniforms and dress codes to enforce the dress and behaviors that are expected in their community.

However, school leaders have acknowledged that uniforms and dress codes can have an educational downside. An administrator at an Orthodox girls’ high school admitted to me that while rules succeeded in creating an environment where all students adhered to the religious community’s standards of modesty, school leaders forfeited an opportunity to engage with students on the issue and educate them on the reasons for and ideology behind dressing modestly.

Orthodox girls’ schools are not unique in using dress codes and uniforms to socialize students. These rules are a way for any public or private school leader to inform students of appropriate dress and behavior, and to exhibit social and cultural control. For example, when school leaders forbid students from wearing gang colors, they are declaring violent behavior socially inappropriate. In this case, dress codes are designed to preclude students from importing street rivalries into the school building, thereby allowing teachers and administrators to retain control of the school environment. Similarly, other clothing is restricted because school leaders perceive it as too informal for the school environment, or too sexually provocative.

Whether in Jewish or secular schools, dress code rules tend to have a strong gendered component. Within the Orthodox Jewish world, dress code policies are tightly intertwined with the laws of modesty, which are generally directed toward women. Similarly, dress codes issued by public and private schools, although seemingly directed towards both boys and girls, generally only focus on girls’ dress. For example, a California junior high school in 1982 restricted students from wearing tube tops, bikini tops and short skirts. Dress codes in the 1990s, although again presented as gender neutral, began targeting boys’ dress as well. School designed these regulations to prevent the gang-related clothing typically worn by males. This gendered element is oftentimes the source of student protest. More recently, students have protested that these gender specific rules are discriminatory against transgendered students and are inconsiderate of more fluid conceptions of gender.

These protests don’t typically take place in Orthodox girls’ schools. The parent body is a self-selecting population which generally supports the schools in socializing students into community norms. Though students have complained about increasingly strict dress codes, they generally choose to remain within the boundaries of the community. But as the Orthodox community becomes increasingly influenced by general American society, protests against dress codes and the accompanying gender socialization may become more common.

Mar  08

Johns Hopkins University Press Features Latest Issue of JHCY

Johns Hopkins University Press has featured the latest issue of JHCY on their blog.

From the piece:

Late last year, the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth published a special issue which took a look at the thorny subject of child death. Kathleen Jones organized a discussion of young people and death at the 2013 conference for the Society for the History of Children and Youth, the sponsoring organization for the journal. This event drove the creation of the special issue. Jones, Associate Professor of History and Director of Graduate Studies at Virginia Tech, served as guest editor for the issue with Vassar College Associate Professor of History and Director of Victorian Studies Lydia Murdoch and Tamara Myers, Associate Professor of History at the University of British Columbia. The trio provided collective answers for a Q&A session.

Read the full interview.

Mar  08

Guest Post: Children, Poverty and Film in Mid-Century Mexico

Eileen Ford is associate professor of history at California State University-Los Angeles and author of “Childhood and Modernity in Mexico City: Print Media and State Power during the ‘Mexican Miracle’” in the next issue of the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth.

Luis Buñuel’s classic film Los olivdados (1950) has mesmerized me for quite some time; countless viewings of the film and its use in my history courses over the years have continued this fascination.  Buñuel’s gritty portrayal of poverty in mid-twentieth century Mexico City and the corrupting influence of urban environment won him a prize at Cannes Film Festival in 1951 and unleashed countless commentaries in Mexico and abroad.  The fascination with his work continues; at least two book-length examinations of the film in the last decade or so contain reproductions of his original script with Buñuel’s notes and his photographs used to research the city in preparation for the production.[1]

The fact that Buñuel, a Spaniard by birth but resident and eventual citizen of Mexico, produced such a scathing portrayal of Mexico’s youth led some to call for his expulsion from the country.  After conducting extensive research in Mexican periodicals from the era, the discovery of photographs and discourses of childhood in peril that paralleled Buñuel’s film merited further scrutiny.  Newspaper articles depicted images of mangy dogs superimposed over street children; the exact same image appears in the film near the tragic end.  In fact, Buñuel reportedly developed his idea for the film after reading an article about the brutal discovery of a child’s body found in a garbage dump.  He later toured various parts of the city taking photos and notes about the conditions he encountered and consulted files of the Juvenile Court and the psychiatric department affiliated with it.[2]

While Buñuel’s depiction of juvenile delinquency and poverty certainly rang true for the most disadvantaged portion of the capital’s child population, it represented only part of the story told in print media in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.  In this article, I demonstrate how both the depiction of children in peril and an idealized childhood experienced by more privileged children opened a public dialogue about how all children deserved to experience a protected childhood.  “Childhood and Modernity in Mexico City: Print Media and State Power during the ‘Mexican Miracle’” examines how photographers and journalists used languages of childhood to critique the ruling party in Mexico and the failure of the 1910 Revolution to bring about socioeconomic equality.

While Los olvidados is but one artifact from the era, it nevertheless provides the viewer with a haunting depiction of childhood in peril.  The film challenges practitioners and students of history to examine more closely the historical forces that caused social inequality in the past and its persistence in today’s world.

[1] Carmen Peña Ardid and Víctor Lahuerta Guillén, Buñuel 1950: Los olviadados guión y documentos (Spain: Instituto de Estudios Turolenses, 2007); Agustín Sanchez Vidal, Gabriel Figueroa Flores, Rafael Aviña, and Carlos Monsiváis, Los olvidados: una película de Luis Buñuel (Mexico: Fundación Televisa, 2004).
[2] Sanchez Vidal et al., Los olvidados, 35.

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