"Gendering Childcare: Working-Class Fathers and Orphanages in Pittsburgh, 1880-1929" | Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies
University of Pittsburgh

"Gendering Childcare: Working-Class Fathers and Orphanages in Pittsburgh, 1880-1929"

January 20, 2010 - 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Jessie Ramey (Visiting Scholar in Women's Studies)

Women's Studies

The women who built Pittsburgh’s child welfare institutions at the turn of the last century pitied widows and their half-orphaned children. In an era before modern daycare or social welfare programs, the city’s orphanages served the childcare needs of these desperate mothers, but also helped a surprisingly large number of men and their children. Dr. Ramey’s talk will focus on the working-class fathers who turned to institutional care for their children during times of family crisis. Her study reveals the gender dynamics at work in the construction and development of childcare.

Dr. Ramey’s research re-conceptualizes orphanages as childcare, exploring the development of institutional care in Pittsburgh from 1880 to 1929. Her current project examines the United Presbyterian Orphan’s Home and the Home for Colored Children and is the first full-length comparative study of black and white childcare in the United States. By investigating the intertwined logic of gender, race, and class hierarchies at the foundation of orphanage care, Dr. Ramey suggests the consequences of these persistent inequalities on modern childcare. Her work also raises questions about the role of childcare itself in constructing and perpetuating these social relationships.

Jessie Ramey completed her Ph.D. in History in 2009 at Carnegie Mellon University. She is the 2010 recipient of the John Heinz Dissertation Award of the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI), presented to the best dissertation from any discipline on the topic of social insurance.

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