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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Aug  31

Catherine Jones wins 2016 Grace Abbott Book Prize

The Society for the History of Children and Youth Grace Abbott Book Prize for the best book on the History of Children and Youth published in English in 2015

The 2016 Grace Abbott Book Prize committee has selected Catherine Jones’s Intimate Reconstructions: Children in Postemancipation Virginia (University of Virginia Press) as the best book on the history of children, childhood or youth published in English in 2015. In their citation, the Committee wrote:

“Jones’ study is an outstanding example of what happens when a researcher approaches a familiar historical narrative from a child-centered perspective. Based on meticulous, extensive and creative archival research, and successfully blending traditional social history with novel analytic categories, Intimate Reconstructions reveals not only how children in Virginia were affected by the process of Reconstruction, but also how Reconstruction itself was shaped by concerns and debates about the treatment, training, reformation and protection of children.

Jones convincingly claims that children, both as direct participants and as cultural symbols, were central to postemancipation struggles over the meaning of freedom, victory and defeat; kinship and citizenship, and the interplay of public and private life.

By attending to the diversity of children’s postwar experiences (in the households of formerly enslaved people and former slaveholders, as apprentices or institutionalized orphans, in the new public schools), to whatchildren had in common as a group (age) and what divided them (race, class, and gender), Jones offers a rich and subtle account ofthe social, political and emotional gains and costs of emancipation. Intimate Reconstructions is an original contribution to the histories of Reconstruction and children, but its detailed storytelling, compelling and clear arguments, and important lessons on the interdependence of private and public—of families and the political and economic contexts in which they are embedded—give it a much broader appeal as well.”

Thank you to the members of the Grace Abbott Prize Committee for their service, Adriana Benzaquén (chair, Mount St. Vincent University), Nara Milanich (Barnard College), and Hugh Morrison (University of Otago).

by Mona Gleason, President, Society for the History of Children and Youth

Aug  31

Lydia Murdoch wins Fass-Sandin Prize (English)

The Society for the History of Children and Youth Fass-Sandin Prize for the best article (in English) on the History of Children and Youth published in 2015

It is with great pleasure that the committee for the Fass-Sandin Prize for the best article (in English) on the History of Children and Youth published in 2015 announces that the award goes to Lydia Murdoch for her wonderful essay “Carrying the Pox: The Use of Children and Ideals of Childhood in Early British and Imperial Campaigns Against Smallpox,” Journal of Social History, vol. 48, no. 3 (Spring 2015), pp. 511-535. The Committee wrote:

“In a strong and varied field, Lydia Murdoch’s essay stood out for us not only because of the fascinating story she tells – of the use of children as carriers of smallpox vaccines around the globe in the early nineteenth century – but also as a result of her careful attentiveness to the multiple ways in which the category of childhood was made and remade in intersection with ideas relating to class, race, and gender. What she demonstrates is that shifting conceptualisations of childhood in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries facilitated both the increasing social acceptance, as well as the dissemination, of vaccination. New ideas about childhood innocence were, as Murdoch notes, ‘flexible’. The concept of the pure, innocent child was crucial to popularising and legitimating vaccination particularly among middle- and upper-class parents: vaccination was a sign of their love and care for their children. But, equally, in their innocence, children’s bodies were believed to offer doctors and scientists a tabula rasa on which to test anti-smallpox treatments. Perhaps unsurprisingly, children who were poor, black, and without the protection of their parents were particularly useful for officials and doctors working to make the smallpox vaccine widely available. Murdoch charts the journeys by land and sea of a group of child vectors of the vaccine, whose bodies and work allowed imperial authorities to paint the British Empire as a benevolent parent of people around the globe, but whose treatment and living conditions were certainly well below those afforded to white, middle-class children.

By dint of their innocence – and vulnerability – children were, then, significant to the extension of scientific and medical knowledge, and also to the making and entrenchment of imperial rule. This is an article that asks us to think carefully about how unstable age categories are crucial to the workings of power.”

Thank you to the prize committee Sarah Duff, University of Witwaterand; Daniel Grey, Plymouth University; and Leroy Rowe, University of Southern Maine for their service.

by Mona Gleason (President, Society for the History of Children and Youth)

Jul  25

JHCY CFP: Histories of Children and Childhood in Museum Settings

The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth seeks submissions on the portrayal of the histories of children and of childhood in museum settings.  Individual articles (8000 words), a roundtable (perhaps 20,000 words by five or six different authors), or even a proposal for a special issue would be welcome.  Extensive illustrations would be a possibility.  Queries should be directed to James Marten, editor, JHCY, at  Submission guidelines can be found at

Jul  25

CHC: Season 2, Ep 6: Transnational Youth

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 Rick Jobs

Part 1 of Patrick J. Ryan’s Conversation with Rick Jobs

Part 2

Commentary by Patrick J. Ryan

When Rick Jobs first learned about the upheavals in Europe during 1968 as an undergraduate student, he thought, “Wow, look at these … young people articulating their aspirations…”  Youth culture and activism provided a compelling widow on the past for him.  Later, he decided to continue with graduate studies in history while backpacking around Europe.   His parents may have hoped he’d pursue the law, but he had other dreams.  “I’ll get my Ph.D., and it will enable me to come back here.”

He fulfilled those hopes in the years that followed, and they seem to have served as initial seed for his forthcoming book Backpack Ambassadors: How Youth Travel Integrated Europe.   The book explores how the transnational mobility of young people in the second-half of the twentieth-century fostered European integration.  It is not a history of the European Union, as such, but takes a wider view of the cultural integration of Europe after the destruction of the Second World War.  Some of the things we will learn about include transitions in youth hosteling, youth circulation between sites of protest in 1968, state-sponsored programs for youth to travel together, the Franco-German Youth Office, the development of Eurorail passes, and the rise youth back-packing.

In our conversation, Rick highlighted that by the 1970’s one million American youth annually traveled around Europe.  “The more and more that they travel, the dense network of their circularity begins to expand outward.” As they expanded from northwest Europe into Spain, North Africa, and the Eastern Bloc, the ideas, practices, and sensibilities of youth popular culture spread.  He hopes the book will find an audience with both advanced scholarly and undergraduate readers.

cover art for Transnational Youth by Rick JobsWe discussed the concept of transnational youth at-length.  Rick argued the we are missing something “pretty huge” in the history of childhood and youth, if we don’t confront its “profound transnationality.”  I agreed that national histories of childhood had limitations, but I also wondered about the seeming progressive narrative underpinning the work I had read in this area.  In his recent keynote address at the “Horrible Histories Conference” that launched the Children’s History Society, David Pomfret argued that “childhood functions as a space where empires can be collapsed.”  I asked Rick if the opposite wasn’t also true.  Doesn’t the history of imperialism (programs such as Canada’s Indian Residential Schools – CHC S2 Ep5 – to name only one example) demonstrate repeatedly that empires have been erected on the politics of childhood and youth?  I was thinking of a recent article written by Toby Rollo, “Feral Children: settler colonialism, progress, and the figure of the child,” in Settler Colonial Studies (June 2016).  Rick agreed that age categories are full of paradoxes, but he emphasized that the general significance of childhood and youth deserved greater recognition by scholars if we were to sort through these difficulties.  We could, he said, “think about ‘collapsed’ in another way…the totality of imperialism itself can be enfolded within… childhood [and youth].”

Select Works by Richard Ivan Jobs:
Backpack Ambassadors: How Youth Travel Integrated Europe (University of Chicago Press, in press, forthcoming 2017).

Transnational Histories of Youth in the Twentieth Century, co-edited with David M. Pomfret, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

“Youth Movements:  Travel, Protest, and Europe in 1968,” American Historical Review Vol. 114, No. 2 (April 2009):  376-404.

Riding the New Wave: Youth and the Rejuvenation of France After the Second World War (Stanford University, Press, 2007).

Richard Jobs

About Richard Jobs

Richard Ivan Jobs is Professor of History at Pacific University, and served as the Chair of the department there from 2008-2014. He earned is doctorate from Rutgers University in 2002, and since this date has authored or edited three books. He is a cultural historian of modern European youth with an emphasis on France.

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).

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).

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