Meet Rebecca: A Russian-Jewish immigrant doll

The American Girl series of historical fiction for young adults has been a big success in the US. A similar series runs in Canada, and includes a story about the home children: Orphan at My Door: The Home Child Diary of Victoria Cope, written by Jean Little. The Canadian series is called Our Canadian Girl.

The American Girl series also has accompanying dolls. Launching this weekend, to great anticipation, will be Rebecca, the Russian-Jewish immigrant doll to go along with Jacqueline Dembar Greene’s Meet Rebecca.

According to the May 23rd edition of the Sunday New York Times, a great deal of research went into what a Russian-Jewish immigrant doll should look like, with early comments favourable (Previous American Girl dolls stirred up controversies).

The early years study ~ 10 years later

The landmark Early Years Study, subtitled The Real Brain Drain, was released on April 20, 1999.

See also a “very brief history” of the Early Years Study posted on the Health Nexus Santé (formerly the Ontario Prevention Clearinghouse) blog in March 2005, including links to the follow-up report The Early Years Study: Three Years Later, recounting how the early years initiative was rolled out in Ontario via the Ontario Early Years Centres.

Fraser Mustard and the Council on Early Child Development continue to work to raise awareness of and support for an early childhood learning and care program for all children and their families across Canada as the first tier to the formal school system.

See the upcoming conference sponsored by the Council on Early Child Development May 13-15 in New Brunswick, Putting Science into Action: Equity from the Start Through Early Child Development.

How responsive have the Ontario Early Years Centres been to immigrant and refugee families and young children?

Children of a new world, by Paula S. Fass

Excerpts from: Nihal Ahioglu. Review of Fass, Paula S. Children of a new world: Society, culture and globalization. H-Childhood, N-Net Reviews. April 2009. (Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial Works).

Children of a New World is an impressive book consisting of essays that the author has previously published on children in nineteenth- and twentieth-century America. Two underlying themes connect these essays. The first suggest that childhood has become a significant working area in social history. Though these essays are profoundly informed by social history and carry a deep concern about large-scale shifts in the experience of children, Paula S. Fass also provides sharp pieces of cultural analysis. She relates her evidence to political history, and to other disciplines, such as literature, education and psychology. 

From the interpretation of children and childhood using a broadly conceived historical approach, Fass reveals her second main theme: the influence of a “new world” or “globalization” on children and the meanings of childhood.

In the first part of the book, Fass emphasizes historical change regarding children and the meanings of childhood in terms of schooling and migration in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America. Schooling was critical in a pluralistic society accommodating a great number of immigrants. Integrating different cultures into the same values and thus the idea of establishing “a mutual national identity” become one of the most important aims in these years. In spite of the existence of such a political objective, to protect and maintain their own cultures, immigrants preferred alternative or religious schools for their children. Nevertheless, changing economical conditions and the rise of specialized clerks increased the significance of public schooling. In this context, intelligence tests were invented to predict what an individual could accomplish with education or training. Testing served as a tool for solving social and cultural problems by sorting children and (purportedly) allowing the educational and child welfare systems to meet the psychological needs of individuals. According to Fass, it caused a kind of segregation in education to the disadvantage of immigrant youths because the tests were culturally biased. Complementing the intelligence testing movement in the interwar period, American educators attempted to develop a comprehensive and uniform curriculum. The new curriculum included “extracurricular activities”, through which students found opportunities to prove their self-direction in social, citizenship, athletic and academic subjects. This was aimed to improve the citizenship and advance assimilation of diverse cultural groups. But the results were not always so straightforward….

The last two centuries have been a period in which significant changes have occurred in childhood. Children of a New World presents this change strikingly to readers by using different social, cultural, and economic incidents, events, and experiences. In addition to presenting different examples about the social history of children and the cultural history of childhood in a systematic and analytical way, this book encourages us to ask new questions about how these distinctive stories fit into a larger modern transformation of childhood.

Role of race and ethnicity in the lives of children in history

The US-based Society for the History of Children and Youth is holding an online discussion through their listserv, H-Childhood. Responses will help shape the next Society for the History of Children and Youth newsletter.

Facilitators have posted two general questions that they hope will spark a good discussion. Here are the questions:

  1. What role did race and ethnicity in particular (along with class, gender, age, and region) play in the lives of children and youth of color in history? More pointedly, did race and ethnicity make for or lead to fundamentally different experiences of childhood for children and youth of color as compared to their white counterparts?
  2. Why is it important (if you think it is) to study children and youth of color in history? Will this work change our understanding of the history of childhood and youth in fundamental ways? If so, how so?

Discussion ends April 3rd.