Fun Fact: The US Had Federalized Childcare In The 1940s

It may sound mythical but it’s actually true! In the 40s, as women were being called into the workforce in World War II, America realized that the country needed a way to ensure that someone was watching the babies. The government passed the Lanham Act in 1941 intended to put more money into childcare. As a response, 4,400 communities set up some form of day care (about 3,000 centers serving 600,000 children). Most notable among them was the Kaiser Company in Portland, Oregon, which was founded after Eleanor Roosevelt talked the Kaiser family into contributing to this specific effort.

In 1943, The Kaiser Company in Oregon was open six days a week, 52 weeks a year with trained teachers and nurses. The center eventually became a 24-hour facility to help women who worked the graveyard shift. The Oregon facility accepted children as young as 18 months to six years of age complete with a kitchen, a cafeteria, an infirmary, and an isolation room for sick children staffed with nurses and pediatricians. The Kaiser company eventually tacked on a second program for children aged six to twelve for school vacations and summertime. And get this — at the end of the day as mothers came to collect their children, they had the option of picking up a a fully cooked dinner to bring home.

According to The Mommy Myth, Kaiser wrote that the centers “were among the first places where people of average means have been able to afford good nursery education for their children.”


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