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CHILDREN AND YOUTH

CHILDREN AND YOUTH. Attitudes toward children and youth in Cleveland and the Western Reserve have varied over time, affected by local factors and national trends. One motif has been the change from viewing children as miniature adults with few rights to seeing them as autonomous individuals with unique needs. Class, gender, and ethnicity have always helped determine the characters of particular maturation experiences. Other persistent themes include an emphasis on education, concerns about infant mortality and health, worries over moral development, and exaltation of the family. Lay people, private FOUNDATIONS, and professionals in many fields initiated long-standing changes for local young people, while local researchers pioneered in areas such as child health, growth and development, and education.

The few children in early Cleveland often had adult responsibilities but few rights or privileges. Local churches grew out of Sunday schools established for children's moral and religious edification (see RELIGION) in the rough pioneer area. Between 1820-40, the burgeoning village developed institutions for EDUCATION and the care of orphans and dependent children and youth (see WELFARE/RELIEF). These included the BETHEL UNION's Ragged School, the private CLEVELAND ACADEMY (1821), public-supported schools (1836, see CLEVELAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS), JOHN MALVIN's schools for African Americans, and, in the next few decades, many orphanages. Clevelanders discussed questions such as the corporal punishment of children at forums such as the CLEVELAND LYCEUM.

In the 1850s, new organizations addressed the welfare of children and young people, including the City Industrial School (1853), the YOUNG MEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSN. (1854), the CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY (1854), and the House of Correction for young delinquents and vagrants. Child advocates emphasized education as shaping children for the "moral reformation" of society. A Children's Aid Society motto claimed: Education and Industry Secure Wealth and Happiness. By the 1870s, some Clevelanders crusaded for purity and TEMPERANCE to save young people from obscenity and/or drunkenness.

Infant and childhood mortality remained high in the area, as elsewhere in the nation, into the 20th century. Although proportionately more children died in less affluent families, wealthy parents also faced the deaths of their progeny. The grief-filled letters between JAMES A. GARFIELD and Lucretia Rudolph Garfield after the death of their 3-year old daughter disprove popular lore that families expected these losses and therefore mourned them less than in the modern era. Most early hospitals did not accept children; fewer took infants. The Marine Hospital (est. 1837) first provided children's beds (see HOSPITALS AND HEALTH CARE). In the 1870s obstetrician Hunter H. Powell established a separate cottage for sick children at Lakeside Hospital. Between 1870-1910, local institutions emphasized children's health. The city hired a milk inspector (1870s), and public schools conducted eye tests (1899) and, later, medical examinations. Lay organizations such as the Milk Fund Assn. (1899) and the CLEVELAND HUMANE SOCIETY (1873) often spurred professional efforts. The Milk Fund later became Babies' Dispensary and Hospital (inc. 1906), a forerunner of Rainbow Babies and Childrens Hospital (see UNIV. HOSPITALS). In 1886 the CLEVELAND DENTAL SOCIETY pioneered preventive dentistry and in 1909, school clinics. The shocking deaths of 172 children in the tragic COLLINWOOD SCHOOL FIRE (1908) heightened safety concerns nationwide.

Locally and nationally, people started seeing early childhood as a special time. The CLEVELAND DAY NURSERY AND FREE KINDERGARTEN ASSN. began educating Cleveland preschoolers (1882). Separate institutions for children, such the CLEVELAND JEWISH ORPHAN ASYLUM (1868), continued to multiply. Concern for future wage-earners led to the city's first public trade school, EAST TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL (1908). Citizens addressed the AMERICANIZATION of immigrant children (see IMMIGRATION AND MIGRATION) in SETTLEMENT HOUSES. The CUYAHOGA COUNTY JUVENILE COURT (1902) for young offenders was the nation's second.

Along with state-mandated education (1877), Cleveland children had more organized recreational opportunities, including a Fresh Air Camp for urban youth, begun in 1874 (inc. 1895, later HEALTH HILL HOSPITAL FOR CHILDREN). The local BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA organized in 1910, the GIRL SCOUTS in 1914. City playgrounds offered summer classes beginning in 1903; the CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART presented classes in public schools even before opening in 1916. Worries over the effects of INDUSTRY and urbanization spurred these efforts, among others.

In 1909-10 seminal national and local conferences focused on children and the "integrity of the family." Along with the development of child psychology and pediatrics as specialties in MEDICINE, the conferences signaled society's (and Cleveland's) acceptance of children's distinct needs. The Western Reserve Conference on the Care of Neglected and Dependent Children (held in 1910, a year after the White House Conference on Dependent Children) resulted in the creation of the WESTERN RESERVE CHILD WELFARE COUNCIL to carry out recommendations regarding placement and CHILD CARE in institutions. Health continued as a prominent concern. In 1912 the city created the Bureau of Child Hygiene; public schools began providing hot lunches. In 1913 the Medical School of Western Reserve Univ. (WRU, later CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIV., CWRU) appointed its first professor of pediatrics, HENRY JOHN GERSTENBERGER, who had practiced the new specialty at City Hospital (see CUYAHOGA COUNTY HOSPITAL SYSTEM) since 1906. In 1909 SAMUEL WALTER KELLEY, MD, chief surgeon at ST. LUKE'S MEDICAL CENTER, published the first American surgical treatise on children's diseases.

During World War I, professionals involved Cleveland children in patriotic boosterism. For example, (JAMES) LANGSTON HUGHES presided over CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL's Americanism Club, organized by the school principal. Hughes claimed that this particular effort was short-lived, since it was "never quite clear . . . what we were supposed to do or why." Recreational and cultural activities continued during wartime: a choir of 2,000 children and the HIRAM HOUSE band entertained on 22 December 1917 on PUBLIC SQUARE.

The decade of 1920 represented another watershed. In response to a Children's Survey completed by the Welfare Federation that year, the Federation and the Community Fund formed the Cleveland Children's Bureau (1921) to coordinate local placement of orphans and dependent children. In 1923 the Children's Bureau Clinic opened at Univ. Hospitals. The city created a Recreation Council (1920-27) in response to the Recreation Survey (1919) sponsored by The CLEVELAND FOUNDATION. Wealthy residents established the RECREATION LEAGUE OF CLEVELAND (1927), in part to protect their offspring from the evils of popular diversions such as DANCE HALLS.

The CHILD GUIDANCE CENTER OF GREATER CLEVELAND (1924), a national demonstration clinic, represented a new scientific attention to childhood. Local pediatricians formed the Northern Ohio Pediatric Society in 1925; the next year the ACADEMY OF MEDICINE OF CLEVELAND created a pediatric section. At least 2 other local efforts manifested this focus, the BRUSH FOUNDATION's pioneering research on childhood growth (beginning in 1929), in search of the "well-born child," and RICHARD BOLT's efforts to reduce infant mortality through the CLEVELAND CHILD HEALTH ASSN. (1929-48). Even the area's first birth control clinic (see FAMILY PLANNING), the Maternal Health Assn. (see PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF GREATER CLEVELAND), focused its statement of purpose (1929) on children's (not women's) well-being: That Every Child May Be Given a Chance for Mental and Physical Health. The unique Cleveland Health Education Museum (1936, see HEALTH MUSEUM), embodied this concentration in its classes, lectures, and exhibits. In the 1930s the Cleveland College of WRU offered parent education. Clevelanders cared about their children: in 1931 Cleveland Foundation donors designated "a major portion" of their gifts for child welfare. The local CONSUMERS' LEAGUE and local leaders such as ELIZABETH MAGEE successfully fought to pass a state child-labor law (1933). The Cleveland Foundation commissioned a study on local child care needs in 1930 and a second survey on recreation in 1936, which resulted in centralization of city recreation offices and improved playgrounds. State and federal initiatives included: the state Children's Code of Laws (1913), providing for juvenile courts and Mothers' Pensions; the National Youth Administration for vocational training (1935, begun in Cleveland in 1936); and the Aid to Dependent Children in the federal Social Security Act (1935). Some local university researchers drew acclaim in the area of pediatric health. Dr. Frederick Robbins of the School of Medicine of WRU, for example, received the Nobel Prize (1954) for his work on the polio virus. Dr. Benjamin Spock, author of the Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care (1946) taught child development at Western Reserve Univ. from 1955-67.

The focus on children also expanded culturally. The CLEVELAND PUBLIC LIBRARY opened a children's section under librarian WILLIAM HOWARD BRETT; local educators such as MAY HILL ARBUTHNOT promoted children's literature nationally. The CLEVELAND MUSIC SCHOOL SETTLEMENT (1911), school concerts by the CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA (beginning about 1921), the Cleveland Children's Symphony Orchestra (1948) and other programs brought MUSIC to children. New organizations reflected the city's increasing diversity. JANE EDNA HUNTER's PHILLIS WHEATLEY ASSN. (1911) aided young African American women, while ROWENA and RUSSELL JELLIFFE, founders of the Playhouse Settlement (1919, see KARAMU HOUSE) concentrated on interracial activities. The Jewish community (see JEWS AND JUDAISM) established the Welfare Assn. of Jewish Children (1921, see the JEWISH CHILDREN'S BUREAU), the Bureau of Jewish Education (1924), and the JEWISH FAMILY SERVICE ASSN. (1943), among other entities. Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant groups formed within the BIG BROTHER/BIG SISTER MOVEMENT, beginning in 1919.

Around World War II, local children's organizations again reflected the national paranoia about differing politics and patriotism. For example, in 1940 the Cleveland Children's Bureau quoted NEWTON D. BAKER as stressing (in 1933) the need to build in children "strong, self-reliant characters and a love for their country which will make them willing to serve it and sacrifice for it." In 1947 a Cleveland Press headline read: "Children's Aid Society Promotes Democracy."

MONTESSORI SCHOOLS, which opened in Cleveland in 1959, and the ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS of the 1960s signaled a new affirmation of children's autonomy. The movement of Clevelanders to the SUBURBS greatly affected both urban and suburban children. The years between the 1960s-90s began with discontent and activism, marked starkly by the HOUGH RIOTS and the busing controversy. Child advocates again hoped to solve social problems through school reform, e.g., the PACE ASSN.'s (1963-74) expansive
improvement agenda for the Cleveland Public Schools. However, modern problems proved too deep-seated, long-term, and expensive to be resolved so easily.

The issues of education, dependent children's welfare, infant mortality, and the quality of family life persisted in the late 20th century. Headstart, one federal children's initiative begun in the 1960s, still educated many underprivileged Cleveland preschoolers in 1995, despite threats of funding cuts. By the 1990s a renewed emphasis on family life dramatically reduced county support for institutionalized children and increased foster home placements. Paradoxically, the increasing incidence of both parents working and the large single-parent population heightened the demand for CHILD CARE and led some to bemoan the demise of the nuclear family. In 1993 groups such as the federally funded Healthy Family / Healthy Start addressed infant mortality (on a par with Third World countries in some impoverished areas of Cleveland and East Cleveland). Children also died at the hands of other children and adults. Organizations and individuals called for local and national efforts to end child-directed violence in homes, schools, and on city and suburban streets. In the mid-1960s, the FEDERATION OF COMMUNITY PLANNING operated a pilot Registry on Abused Children, which led to a state-mandated registry.

The emphasis on children and teens as separate groups with distinct needs (and marketing opportunities) intensified. The Regional Pediatric Emergency Care Program (1979), a joint effort of Univ. Hospitals and CWRU (partially funded by the Cleveland Foundation) dealt specifically with critically ill infants and children. New cultural institutions such as the CLEVELAND CHILDREN'S MUSEUM (1986), entertainment such as video arcades and children's programs on TELEVISION and RADIO, and specialized retail establishments such as children's bookstores and giant toy stores catered to children's edification, fun, and purchasing power. A Cleveland Museum of Art exhibit of illustrations by artists of picture books for African American children (Lasting Impressions, April 1994) revealed a heightened awareness of the importance of portraying ethnicity as well as childhood in mainstream institutions.

Myriad organizations advocated and aided children, including Solidarity for Homeless Children, the CENTER FOR HUMAN SERVICES, UNITED WAY SERVICES, the Children's Defense Fund of Cleveland, and Providence House, a shelter for infants and young children, among many others. Yet in 1994, some area young people endured violence and deprivation and doubted their survival to adulthood. Other youth, overachievers, drove themselves to the brink of suicide over high school class rank. Hopeful child advocates claimed the 1990s as a time to regroup and refigure the concept of the extended family. Clearly, Cleveland still struggled with the historical concerns for children's education, health and safety, and moral character, and the well-being of the family.

Jimmy E. W. Meyer

Case Western Reserve Univ.


Abzug, Sydney Severin. "History of the Cleveland Children's Council" (Master's thesis, School of Applied Social Sciences, CWRU, 1938).

Polster, Gary Edward. Inside Looking Out: The Cleveland Jewish Orphan Asylum, 1868-1924 (1990).

Children's Aid Society Records, WRHS.

Western Reserve Child Welfare Council Records, WRHS.