And Jill Came Tumbling After

from Womankind (1971). Raising children in a sexist society is a challenge as this first person account reveals. from Womankind (1971)

(Editors Note: The author had twins: one boy and one girl. The way these two children grew up is indicative of the challenges parents face raising children in a sexist society.)

My children, girl and boy twins, are only two years old. It may seem that sexism couldn’t yet have been much of a problem. Instead, I’ve found that “normal” dealings with babies include many sexist attitudes and behaviors guaranteed to stunt the growth of any human being.

Sexism showed up very early. In fact, my twins’ appearances at birth were an embarrassment to some well— wishers. Rachel weighed two pounds more than Adam and his hair was longer than hers. Not one person who saw then lying next to each other told me what a big, strong daughter I had or how very delicate my son was. In most people’s minds, when the right compliment is attached to the wrong sex, it ceases to be a compliment. What people did notice and comment on was that Adam was far more active than Rachel.

They said: “He’s a little man already.” Since my children’s activity levels were predisposed in traditional sex role directions, I was always explaining that it was only chance and could have been the other way around. lt was frustrating, because, with Women’s Liberation a hot controversy in the mass media, people translated the fact that one boy was more active than his twin sister into the final word on the question. Of course I (and they) knew baby girls who were very active and boys who lolled around all day. Every time this kind of boy moves at all, someone says, “He’s such a little man.”

There were also behaviors that I had to overcome. I found myself poking my head in Rachel’s crib and saying, “How’s my sweetie?” My husband would call her a princess. At first, we only called Adam “little man”. When other people called Rachel a “honey” and Adam a “fine boy” even their tone of voice was different. To her they spoke softly and sweetly, and to him they used the kind of gruff voice that fathers use with their sons. I could feel a more direct warmth in the first, a holding back, teasing, and rough quality in the second. This voice difference made me angry because it seemed obvious that Adam needed more soft sweetness in his life since he was active and kind of nervous, and Rachel could have used the stimulation. But human needs aside, the input was already being selected for the roles they would be expected to fill later.

Our initial tendency was to be physically rougher with Adam. We threw him in the air from the time he was a month old. But we had to remember to roughhouse with Rachel, which was her favorite activity too. People would caress and cuddle Rachel, while Adam would get a playful jab in the ribs. A person's sense of her body depends on how people treat her. Of course it makes a difference if you are treated like a glass statue or like a prize-fighter.

For gifts, Adam got overalls and denim pants. Rachel got many fancy dresses. If you dress a girl up a lot because you want her to look pretty,you're also going to care a lot more how dirty she gets. You’ll be more likely to pick her up off the floor when she gets to a dirty place. Cleanliness becomes an important part of her image. No wonder she’ll be less explorative, even afraid of new challenges. What image are we after when we dress our girls in frills? lt’s a kind of Christmas tree appeal.

She (the person) is there in the middle, while hung about her are all the ornaments to admire. A boy is dressed simply, and the same holds for Rachel and trucks. Playing with cars and trucks has already made her interested in all kinds of motor vehicles. She doesn’t have to become a truck driver, but I would like her to feel comfortable with machines. Everyone knows we live in a technological age, but so far only men can relate to a machine.

There are many more aspects of sexism in the first two years. The most crucial is probably the way people in the family— whatever kind of family it is — relate to each other, and what they do with their lives. Also, I have many unresolved questions. Adam’s hair has reached a length where even hippies think he is a girl, and I don’t know whether that is a good reason to cut it.

When I finally put a dress on Rachel last spring, she started to cry, presumably from unfamiliarity. I realized two things: one, there’s nothing wrong with dresses sometimes, and two, I would be afraid to raise a daughter who was that uncomfortable in a dress.

These little incidents reflect a far deeper dilemma— I don’t want my children to feel like freaks, but I also don’t want to condemn them to repeat our past mistakes and suffering. I think the best answer is to provide our children with a community of peers with similar values so they are not alone.

The exact solutions to many sexist problems are not easy to find. But for ourselves and all our children, to struggle is essential. Having girl— boy twins has made it clear—I and others contribute, either to creating one—half a personality in each child, or a whole human being in both.

Using Your Maiden Name

by Diane and Linda from Womankind (1971). Explains the everyday legal and financial hassles faced by women who chose to use their own names. by Diane and Linda from Womankind (1971)

(Editors Note: Women who chose to use their own names ran into all kinds of legal hassles. This article explained how to cope with them.)

A woman's right to continue using her maiden name after marriage is not clearly defined under present Illinois law. There is no state statute which specifically requires that a woman change her name when she marries. However, case law indicates that based on common law principles and "immemorial custom", a woman abandons her maiden name and takes her husband's surname, which then becomes her legal name. The general common law rule that a person may legally assume any name she or he wishes without resort to the legal process apparently does not apply to married women. After a divorce decree, a woman may resume her maiden name without permission of court.

As a result of the ambiguity in current Illinois law, a married woman who chooses to retain her maiden name may face inconvenience and possibly serious legal consequences. For example, a woman who fails to change her voter registration after marriage loses her right to vote. A woman is technically in violation of state law if she fails to notify the Secretary of State of a name change on her driver's license after she is married. In Illinois it is unlawful to conduct any business under a name other than one's legal name without filing a notice in the newspaper for three consecutive weeks. If you don't follow these procedures you can be fined or imprisoned. Married women using their maiden name may be denied contract or other rights or absolved of legal responsibility.

Women who use their maiden names may not face legal problems such as these, but they are certain to face inconvenience and harassment. Marshall Field's, for instance, insists that women turn in their credit cards after marriage and have them reissued in their husband's name. If a woman can prove she has an independent source of income, the store may allow her to have her own card issued to her first name and her husband's surname. Under no circumstances will she be allowed to maintain an account under her maiden name. As a man in Field's Credit Department explained, "She no longer exists as a person under her maiden name.' Married women who for personal or professional reasons chose to retain their maiden names may also meet resistance in entering into contracts, buying insurance or purchasing items such as a car or furniture. Many companies refuse to permit a woman to use anything but her "legal" name when entering into an agreement.

Recognizing the need for legal clarification and modernization on this issue, State Congresswoman Eugenia S. Chapman introduced a bill in the state legislature which would have allowed a married woman to choose her surname for legal purposes.

The bill was defeated by a vote of 45 (yes) to 58 (no), with 74 not voting (89 votes are needed for passage). Those against the bill expressed concern as to what name children would have if such a bill passed, while others worried that state motel owners would be unable to safeguard "public morals" if married guests were allowed to register as Miss Jane Doe and Mr. Joe Schmoe. Ms. Chapman intends to reintroduce the bill in the next session of the Legislature. Those interested in testifying before a committee on the need for such a bill should contact Ms. Chapman through her office.

Action Committee on Decent Childcare

author(s) unknown(1972). A description of the CWLU's childcare group and its battles with the Chicago city administration. author(s) unknown

(Editors Note: This article, reproduced from a 1972 Women: A Journal of Liberation, was an assessment of ACDC one year after its highly successful beginning.)

In Chicago, the Action Committee for Decent Childcare (ACDC) was organized a year ago as a coalition of women who work in childcare centers, need childcare or are interested in the problem. As a result of experience in attempting to develop client-controlled childcare centers, women realized the need for building a movement which could challenge existing policies and win reforms. The ACDC was formed as a direct action, mass organization which supports but does not become directly involved in setting up centers. The ACDC's goal is to change the existing political situation (and the codes and financing which reflect it) which ultimately will mean that groups will be able to develop centers in Chicago.

Before discussing in more detail the specific strategies and tactics of the ACDC, our underlying concepts should be made clear to put our work in context with our respect to our perspective on the women's movement.

In the past few years our movement has expanded rapidly, involving thousands of women across the country in the search for understanding women's oppression. At this point we feel it important to move on this understanding, with organization that can unite us in order to actively fight for ways to immediately improve our lives and build a base of power for women.

We have learned that women are oppressed in a variety of ways; but we are just beginning to learn the meaning of our own self-interest and how to act on it. For our movement to continue to expand, we must develop the power to challenge existing power relations and win power for ourselves. This can only be accomplished if we relate to all women's needs, beyond identifying the sources of our oppression and understanding them (as in consciousness raising alone). Our task must be to organize power.

Organizing for power means that we must create those structures that will enable us to move forward in developing our abilities and skills and bring about change.

Organizing for power also means that we must have a conception for the kinds of reforms we are fighting for. In many places the word reform is associated with cooptation--if you win, you must be doing something wrong, or what you are fighting for must be "counterrevolutionary". A few people in our society have power. Our task is to build a movement which can change that fact. This means organizing around specific demands that can be won, and which in the process will alter power relations, thus building our power base as women. Winning in one situation will give us the ability to move beyond that victory to greater challenges and the accumulation of more power. We feel one of our movement's worst enemies is its lack of visible success - to give us faith that we can win. Such small, tangible successes also help to make our vision concrete.

At the same time, in the struggle for concrete victories women will gain a sense of power and the meaning of power in our society. As women, one of the major obstacles we must confront is the belief we have no power and there is nothing we can do about it. Most of us have never had any influence over policies that effects our lives; and we have never experienced a situation where that might be different. Our challenge is to prove that wrong by building organizations which, in fact, win.

The basic question is determining what issues are in our self interest as women and then determining what kinds of reforms are possible. On the basis of self-interest, alliances can be built between two groups of women.

With these underlying assumptions the Action Committee for Decent Childcare was begun.

When we first began to organize, it was clear that most women in Chicago did not realize there was a crisis in childcare services in the City. Thus our initial work involved publicizing the crisis. We organized a demonstration of women and children at the at the City Council when the 1971 budget was passed to publicize the fact that no allocation for childcare services were being made. We then held a series of community meeting in different areas of the City, both as an educational program and as a way to find women who might be interested in working for us.

In July, a delegation of 60 women and children and the press met with Mr. Wade Parker of the City's Department of Human Resources. Visibly shaken by the angry group, he agreed to three of our five demands -- to undertake a review of licensing codes and procedures, to end closed door meetings of the department and to attend a public hearing on problems with licensing in the City.

Following up on the demands, the ACDC prepared for the public hearing scheduled for August 30th. The plan was that the day care center operators would present their grievances to the City and demand action. Women who attempted to open centers would also discuss their problems of harassment from the City due to its arbitrary licensing policies.

On August 16, Mayor Daley appointed Ms. Murrell Syler as Director of Child Care Services and shifted control of day care operations (but not really since she didn't have any power). Syler agreed to attend the meeting. By next week, both Parker and Syler tried to back out of their commitment. Additional pressure from women (calls from center operators all over the city -- both black and white and a delegation going to see Ms. Syler) and from the press convinced them to attend.

Through a carefully developed citywide network, over 200 people attended the public hearing. The testimony about the City's codes and procedures and specific questions raised about the City's plans, broke the wall of silence on the issue. Press coverage was extensive and for the next several weeks, day care was in the news with charges and countercharges by City departments. At the public hearing, the ACDC presented its analysis of licensing code and procedures with specific recommendations for change.

As a result of the meeting a complete review of licensing codes is underway. A City committee was created of which ACDC is a part. As in the case with most such committees, work is progressing, but very slowly. An action is being planned at the next meeting to demand a timetable for implementing the recommendations of the committee.

In September, the ACDC conducted a citizens investigation of a center the City was threatening to close down because it did not have a fire alarm (even though it was a modern, brick, building with steel structures)! The press coverage proved significant enough to force the City back down. In another case, we accompanied a center in their court hearing and the case has been given a continuance based on the City changing the code.

Currently a series of three community meetings is being planned in preparation for the City's budget hearing and a State Summit on Day Care called by Governor Ogilvie. Demands will be made to local politicians that they support legislation to provide funds for child care facilities. In a addition, ACDC will organize demonstrations a both these meetings to provide pressure for our demands.

ACDC is a citywide organization with representatives to a steering committee form six local communities and one representing woman at-large. We have a chairwoman and one staff person. Our goal is to organize local chapters in various Chicago communities but this depends on our abilities to raise funds for the organization. We meet weekly to discuss strategy and to evaluate our work.

What has ACDC won? At this point, we have succeeded in forcing the City to review its arbitrary licensing codes and many changes are highly likely (assuming our continued pressure). Two centers have not been closed down due to our efforts. The day care issue is now a public one and the City has been affected by our pressure (calling us and demanding we get of their backs, and telling us, "you don't bite the hand that feeds you"). And, perhaps most importantly, ACDC is established as an organization committed to fighting for free, client-controlled, 24 hour childcare in Chicago.

The struggle has just begun and we feel the pressure of developing quickly enough so that we will have the power to prevent the City from taking control of day care as part of its patronage system. We also anticipate the development of forced childcare for women on welfare (already a reality in Nixon's and Governor Ogilvie's proposals) and we must be strong enough to prevent that from happening. Further, as money becomes available, we must be in a position to ensure community groups can establish the kind of services they need and under their control.

Significantly, as women, we are developing skills to be able to confront the City and be able to use the press to our advantage. All of us have developed skills and confidence during the past year. As a women's organization, we feel that ACDC is a viable model for organizing for power. With all the frustrations, disappointments, difficulties, and hard work, we are slowly learning and helping each other to learn the meaning of power and how to fight for it

Family Relations Court

by Alice (1972). A description of Chicago's Family Relations Court and how women fare in its proceedings from Womankind. by Alice

(Editors Note: This article is from Womankind of April 1972. A CWLU member describes a typical session of Chicago's Family Relations Court and how women fare in its proceedings.)

Some marriages are said to be made in heaven. But divinely ordained or not, when family life doesn’t work out, the people involved suffer in very down—to—earth ways. Those who can afford it usually buy the services of a psychiatrist or counselor to try and save the marriage or help them adjust to its falling apart. Once it falls apart, they can buy the services of lawyers who will battle in their behalf for an advantageous divorce settlement.

The poor, however, often end up in what is known as Domestic Relations Court with a judge to rule on their dispute. When family problems get bad enough and the family members have no other resources, the law provides an opportunity for one partner to try to force the other to either change, pay, or go to jail.

In Chicago, Domestic Relations Court is on the ninth floor of the Police Headquarters Building at 11th and State. This location is convenient for the defendants who also happen to be prisoners in the lock—up at 11th and State. The judge is Maurice Lee, a little old man who considers himself “very strict.” The public defender, the lawyer assigned by the court to people who can’t afford to hire one privately, is a sympathetic woman. She betrays some understanding of what her defendants are up against. “Even the nicest people, when they’re in that marriage situation, do crazy things” she told us.

On the Friday that we visited Domestic Relations Court, most of the defendants were men, charged with failure to support their children. In each case, the charges were brought as a last resort by the woman.

Despite the hostile situation, one couple seemed almost friendly as they stood trial, without lawyers.

Judge: Are you two still together? No? I know you’re not married.

According to Mother, he owed $3000 child support which he had neglected to pay over a period of two years.

Judge (to him): How much money do you have on you?
Him: $160.
Judge: Give it to her.

And so he did —— in a manner suggesting this courtroom episode was quite familiar. They both kept their cool.

Another couple was obviously less experienced. The woman was angry. She said, “I told him (her husband) even if it’s only five dollars, please give it to me.” They were married with one child. He was about to marry again but hadn’t divorced her yet —— a divorce costs money —— nor had he guaranteed her any form of child support. The same formula was applied.

“How much money do you have on you?”
“Give it to her.”

He seemed annoyed, but handed over two fifty dollar bills.

In both these cases, although the judge ruled in the woman’s favor, the women got very little justice and very little support —— maybe enough to postpone a visit to the welfare office another month. Still they didn’t leave the courtroom empty—handed.

Other women didn’t do as well. One accused husband didn’t show up. The judge said, “I’ll issue a warrant, ma am.” In another case, the unwed mother had the misfortune to argue against a lawyer representing the father of her child. The father was a student, well—dressed, and with obvious means since he could afford a lawyer. He got off. He who can pay for it receives the most justice of all —— seemed to be the moral of that story.

The best lesson of the day in Domestic Court came with a case involving a couple in their early forties. For this trial, the defendant, a man, was brought from the lock—up in back of the courtroom. His wife had had him arrested because she wanted him out of the house. It was not the first time.

“What happened since last time?” asked the judge Since last time he was unemployed, drank, and he apparently had hit her and the kids. “That’ll be $25 and it will be $25 every time you’ re arrested.”

Guess who paid the $25? Yes, the same woman who had signed the complaint. Both left in disgust.

In theory, and to some small extent in practice, Domestic Relations Court protects the rights of women and children. The Court may provide help in the form of a little money for child support, or it may keep a brutal husband away for a few months. In the long run, of course, the Court helps neither defendant nor complainant because it cannot change the fundamental conditions affecting their lives. It cannot even pretend to recognize those conditions. For example, a man will be judged equally guilty of not supporting his family when her the unemployment rate is 3% or 30%.

For a woman, even winning in Court is a painful and self—defeating experience. She has had to ask contemptuous strangers, policeman and a judge, to force an intimate relation to meet his responsibilities or change some improper behavior. This is usually impossible for him to do. In addition, there is the Court’s assumption about families. A woman with children is not simply a woman with children but an incomplete family. If she and her old man couldn’t make their family work —— because they are personal failures, of course —— she gets another old man, the Court. Her new family is not likely to be a substantial improvement.

CWLU Legal Clinic

(1972). The CWLU established a Legal Clinic to help women face the sexist complexities of our justice system. from Womankind April 1972

(Editors Note: The CWLU organized a Legal Clinic to help women deal with the sexism in the justice system. Most of the Legal Clinic's work involved family related problems.)

The CWLU Legal Clinic is in its fourth month of helping women with all kinds of legal problems. The Clinic workers — women lawyers, women law students, and other women interested in helping— have tried to relate to the women who come in an women first, not clients. This doesn’t mean women don’t get legal advice — it means we get it in a way we can understand and in the context of a human relationship, and for free.

Most of the cases have concerned women’s personal lives: divorce, child support, wife—beating, etc. There have also been some criminal cases and many creditor problems. The Legal Clinic is a legal advice operation. Cases are referred to lawyers rather than handled directly through the Clinic. So far all women who have needed lawyers have been referred to women lawyers throughout the city who take cases for reasonable rates and in some cases, for free.

An unexpectedly large number of women have come in complaining about lawyers they have already contacted (and often paid money to), who are doing nothing about their cases. The Legal Clinic staff is working out ways to deal with these situations, but to help prevent this oppressive situation from happening to more women, the Clinic has put out a few guidelines for women planning to contact lawyers in divorce cases:

Insist on an understanding of what the case will cost. If the lawyer tells you it depends on whether its easy or complicated, get the range it might cost, and find out what makes it easy or complicated so you will know whether you’re being treated fairly later.
Any tine you pay money, get a receipt and ask the lawyer to mark on the receipt what it’s for.
Ask the lawyer for a copy of the divorce complaint and read it to be sure it says what you want it to say.
If your lawyer has worked out a settlement agreement with your husband’s lawyer, ask for a copy and read it to be sure you’re getting what you want to get.

The Legal Clinic, located at 852 W. Belmont (just a block east of the Belmont El stop), is open to all women who need help of any kind with legal problems every Wednesday evening from 7—9pm.

Lesbian Mothers and Their Children

from Womankind (1972). All parents face challenges in raising children, but lesbian parents have their own special complications to contend with. fromWomankind November 1972

(Editors Note: All parents face challenges raising children, but lesbian parents have an additional complication to contend with-society's relentless homophobia.)

The lesbian who is also a mother faces a unique oppression in this society. Lesbians without children may, in a certain way, escape the scrutiny of society in their personal lives, simply because of the low visibility given to female homosexuality in comparison to male homosexuality. However, even this small security, and its worth is certainly minor when compared with all the other negative forces facing gay women, is withdrawn from the lesbian mother. A mother, any mother, is subject to a certain moral code demanded of her by a whole society. Mothers socialize children and therefore must be observed and controlled to a high degree, because a social system maintains itself largely through the passing on of its values to its children.

Lesbians, women who consciously choose to love other women, are a tremendous threat to male supremacy, to the nuclear family, and to most institutions of our present system. But lesbian mothers are even more of a threat because they transfer their values to at least part of the next generation. Children raised in lesbian households have a chance to experience the world differently from the children of heterosexual couples. They see women not in positions of inferiority and subservience to men, but as independent human beings. Many of them see a love relationship significantly different from the traditional sexual role stereotypes. Many have the possibility of being encouraged to, develop in freer and less limited ways than the conventional “boy” or “girl” roles.

A lesbian with four children says “In talking about being a lesbian with my children, my oldest, who’s twelve, who could verbalize it, said it was really hard for him to accept, because for twelve years he’s lived with a mother and a father. It’s not that he can’t accept it, but he said it’s something he has to get used to, because it’s really a new feeling for him. With the smaller children, they could tell the difference just being around my lover and me and having been around my husband and me. They were simply told my husband and I weren’t living together because we fought a lot, rather than any long explanation. But they can very much feel the difference in how I am when I’m with my lover.”

The very openness the above women has with her son leads to one of the main threats facing a lesbian mother - that of losing her children because of a social system that labels her behavior as “unfit” for a mother. The fear that her children may reveal something to an in-law, or to their father, thus precipitating a custody fight, is ever present. For many lesbians, the court fight comes just after they leave their husbands, or the fathers of their children. If a woman has publicly declared her wish to live with another woman, she is particularly vulnerable. But the woman who simply wants to live with other women in a commune, or apart from her husband, or without men period, is also fair game.

In California, the law states that a court cannot find a mother “unfit” on the basis of homosexuality. It must consider the best interests of the child. This almost always means that the judge will find in favor of the father, or the in-laws, because they represent the heterosexual value system and thus must be in the “best interest of the child.”

Even when a judge is forced to find in favor of the woman( takes the law at its word?) the father can appeal— this happened recently in California when a woman of her children in the first suit and in the retained their custody, but with these restrictions:

  1. The woman and her lover could never live together, or she would lose the children.
  2. Her lover may never visit her when the children are in the house.
  3. The woman may not leave her house to visit her lover when her children are at home (even if they have child care).

The punitive character of this decision is obvious. The second judge felt he was obliged to obey the letter of the law. But his conditions deprive the woman in question of any say in determining her life style, lest she lose her children.

A group of five lesbian mothers on the west coast have realized that they have a better chance of changing their lives if they act together. They say “It’s especially important for lesbian mothers and other lesbians or just single mothers to get together and really help each other, because if we don’t we’re really isolated. We have to create a community so that we can support each other in the kinds of problems that come up. A part of the revolutionary process itself is the process of including children, of being open with children, of allowing children to be viable human beings within their environment in relation to other human beings, rather than a special group to be pushed off to the side.”

parts of the above article taken from MOTHER LODE


So Who Needs Daycare?

by Mary M. from Womankind (1973).The struggle to establish decent affordable childcare is outlined in this article by a feminist mother.
by Mary M. from Womankind-Sept 1973

(Editors Note: Daycare was an important issue for the CWLU as this first person account explains.) 

Working full-time, it is very difficult to provide adequate care for my children, aged 3 and 5, especially for my five-year-old, who is in kindergarten for half a day.

Both my children have been in daycare centers and I am pleased with their experiences. As a teacher in a daycare center and a visitor of several centers around the city during the past months, I know these are some of the happiest places I've been, with children and staff sharing and learning from each other.

In this article, I want to discuss my experiences with childcare and look at how society is dealing with the need for it.

The position of women in our society has much to do with the low priority given to childcare needs, for we are told that a woman’s first responsibility is to stay home and raise the children.

However, when a political or economic situation demands it, such as during World War II when society needed women to work, we are told to get a job, and that society will provide childcare.

Today, the economic reality of many women's lives is that we must work at a paying job as well as raising our children. We are put in a double bind - we are told that our place is in the home taking care of the children, and yet many of us must work.

The lack of adequate childcare forces us to make any kind of arrangement we can, regardless of the quality. It also makes us feel guilty about working, even though we must. If we are visible and vocal in our demands for childcare, we are seen as failures because we are not supposed to need childcare in the first place.

We must ignore what society says about childcare and begin to define our needs in terms of our own and our children's best interests.

Politicians continue to write off the need for childcare by claiming it is primarily needed by those on welfare and by minority groups. It is true that the majority of people who use existing subsidized daycare facilities earn low incomes and would be forced on welfare without it. But many more people also want and need day-care. All of us must demand that our tax dollars go for the care of our children.

When Nixon took office, he talked about his commitment to the needs of children. As usual, his actions have been different than his words. He vetoed the Comprehensive Child Development Act of 1971 that would have set up childcare facilities offering education, nutrition and health programs for two and one-half year-old to school age children, the services would have been available on a sliding scale, depending on the income of the family.

Nixon has stopped funding for some daycare centers in the federal budget for 1974, and has changed eligibility standards to make it virtually impossible for working families with an income between $6,000 and $8,000 a year to afford daycare.

In Chicago, according to the 1970 census, there are 112,940 children under six years of age whose mothers work. However, there are only 26,000 children in licensed daycare centers and daycare homes, and there are no more spaces available.

Working mothers must make their own provisions, however inadequate, for their children. When the inadequacy of some arrangements becomes well-known - for example, the fire several months ago in an apartment where the children were left alone - the working mother is quickly blamed for being irresponsible local and national governments are really to blame, for they refuse to deal with our childcare needs.


Chicago does not give one penny for childcare, but it certainly harasses daycare centers. In the spring of 1972, when licenses were up for renewal, the city decided that daycare centers must have their own electrical units, units which can cost thousands of dollars. When the Daycare Crisis Council of the Chicago Area protested, the city agreed to waive the requirement for 1972. This April, the city sent out a notice that the units must be installed. Though most centers cannot afford it, their feeling is that they will continue to operate because they are committed to serve the parents and children.


Given the lack of federal funds and the scarcity of daycare facilities, it is likely that an increased number of private centers will open. However, from my experience, parents can have no control over what happens in a private center. Since we are paying for the childcare, we should have a right to have control over the quality of the care. But quality care costs a lot of money and we know that quality care and high profits are incompatible. It is advisable to spend time at a center with your child before deciding whether to use a private center. If you observe any practices you think are not in the best interests of the children, report it to the director and other parents.


Though I am not guaranteeing success, here is a list of some of the places you might try if you are looking for daycare. If you can make informal arrangements to meet your needs, you will not have to deal with the limited supply of daycare available.


The Department of Children and Family Services (341-8400) licenses daycare homes and has a complete listing of licensed homes in Chicago and the suburbs. Licensed daycare homes are private homes which are licensed by the state as meeting certain standards and in which children are taken care of for pay. It would be a good idea for you to visit the daycare home and talk with the daycare mother before placing your child. Since the daycare home has built-in small groups and consistently present adults factors which foster the positive development of young children, it could fully meet the needs of a child over or under three.


A cooperative daycare center is one that is planned and controlled by parents. It typically serves no more than 10 to 15 children in a program, and is staffed by the parents on a rotating basis. It does not preclude having a paid staff person who may or may not be a parent. My experience is that it proves to be successful at meeting the needs of adults and children using the center.

Starting your own center is not as awesome as it sounds, it is possible to create a good one on a small budget, but the size of the budget depends on whether or not you will hire staff and pay rent. One of the advantages of this kind of program is that the hours and ages of children can be as flexible as the needs of the people using it require. It is advisable to first assess the needs of your group and then decide what needs the center can realistically meet. You can use a parent's, home, apartment or basement, but if possible, it is best to have a separate space.

As far as staffing, each person should work a substantial period of time in a row, such as a morning or an afternoon rather than a couple of hours, It is good to have one person who can work full time responsible for program planning, and to provide continuity and reassurance for the children as other adults come and go.

It would be ideal if this person had a practical and theoretical background in early child development, but if he/she does not, consultations with others who have experience will help, Forming a study group to discuss what is happening can also help the program come up with creative suggestions and solve its problems.

The number of children has to be limited to eight if you are interested in obtaining a license, which is issued by. The Department of Children and Family Services. A license would involve a visit by a social worker and inspections by the city’s building, health, and fire departments.

Jobs that need to be done to keep the center running are clean-up, keeping books and paying bills, providing transportation to and from the center, providing food for the children, ordering supplies and equipment, and scheduling staff. Parents who cannot staff the center because of other commitments could take on these tasks.


Though there are only a limited number, funded daycare centers serve children aged three to five. They are either free charge a minimal fee, or charge on a sliding scale depending on the family’s income. Some are excellent, depending on the quality of the director and staff, and most encourage parent involvement and try to meet the needs of the community they serve. For information on where these are located, call the Chicago Area Daycare Crisis Council .

A book called Daycare by E. Belle Evans, Beth Shub, and Marlene Weinstein (published by Beacon Press and selling for $2.95) offers information on what might constitute a quality daycare program in our society.

Mom on a Hook

from Womankind (1973). Society places unfair burdens on mothers and then blames them when their children don't "measure up". from Womankind

(Editors Note: This article is from Womankind of September 1973. A mother points out the unfair burdens moms are forced to carry by a society that gives them little support or respect.)

Ever since I became a mother, I am a sucker for anything written about children. I won't always believe it but I'll read it. And I know I'm influenced -- badly. Articles about other topics which disagree with my better judgment are no problem. I don't read them again and again. But why this undue interest in articles about children?

The answer became clear today when a friend caught me with this issue of Life magazine in my hand with the word CHILDREN written loud and clear on the cover. She's a mother, too, and for ten minutes, she begged me for the issue, wanting to make a special date, asking if I owned or had just borrowed the copy, etc.; I recognized it immediately -- the same syndrome: THE INSECURE MOTHER DISEASE. It is because of THE INSECURE MOTHER DISEASE (TIMD) that we all want to read articles written by anyone. From reading the articles, we get worse cases of TIMD.

I am trying to conquer the disease in myself and other women. The article, called "A Child's Mind Is Shaped Before Age 2", Life, Dec. 17, 1971, is not the worst article I have read, but its points are made within a framework which oppresses me, in particular, and women, in general.

The article says that there is a period in a child's life, between ten and eighteen months of age, which is critical for developing certain social and intellectual skills, like being able to ask for help, being able to get attention, anticipating consequences, planning, understanding and the like. What "critical" means is that starting at eighteen months old; you can divide children (if that's your bag) into the ones that have the skills (called in the article "A children") and the ones that don't (called "C children"). Research shows that the children with the skills at eighteen months still have them at six years, and the ones who don't, don’t at six. The other point the article makes is that guess who is responsible for producing an A child or a C child. You guessed it, Mom.

That mothers are held solely responsible for the outcome of their child’s personality is what causes TIMD. And we will always be the only people responsible for their outcome if we are the only ones responsible for their childcare. It's probably true that the mother has an enormous effect on the child, since she's the only one who's with the child. Being home with our children is the ideal, we're told, for mother. Women who work feel bad about leaving their children "unmothered," but, why SHOULD mothers be with their children so disproportionately to everyone else that we alone are the people influencing, the child's personality?

We shouldn’t. Who wants or should have so much control over some one's life? No one. Really, it’s that awful feeling that WE make so much difference that gets us, worried and uptight in the first place. Besides being uptight, most of my friends find it boring to be with their children all the time. They miss doing other things, and although they love their children, need to have other things in their lives. I enjoy my children more when I have some time away from them. Not being able to get away makes us get into a bad trip with our children: we love the child, but we don't want to be with her 24 hours a day, and we can't help taking it out on her yet we don’t want to and doing it makes us feel even worse, so we do it again and again out of even more frustration, building a not-so-great relationship with the child which makes us feel Awful and Inadequate.

The tremendous influence of Mom is no inborn thing about ideal motherhood. It’s a big mistake and it's due to the lack of any SHARED RESPONSIBILITY. Fathers can and should share childcare with others. Women should be prepared to work in good jobs with possibilities for promotion, so they, too, have the power to be breadwinners, Even in families where women work full time, she both finds and provides the childcare. Families can live in larger groups so there will be a pooling of children and adults, with plenty of love to go around, and less childcare for each adult.

There can and should be free childcare centers in each community, paid for by the state, and staffed by people who really care about children and who are relieved often enough so as not to go crazy at the job themselves. But the article doesn't say any of this. It just tells us how to be better mothers.

In one way, the article makes a pretense of being "liberated". It say says that A mothers turned out to spend less not more, time with their children than did the C mothers. This is undoubtedly accurate and even encouraging, but it is not liberating. For the point is that YOU should be at home with your child most of the time so that at appropriate moments you can give a few words of encouragement, that reassuring smile, etc. What you apparently shouldn't do is hover over “him”. This puts us in the situation of having to master some kind of delicate balance of being with, but not “with” our children, while we're still basically trapped at home without enough time or space to do much of anything else. Also, the article makes it appear that how much we're with our children is up to us, which it's not. How can we spend less time with our children, and do other things, if we can't afford or don't want to hire baby-sitters -- if there's no good alternative for the child. By not addressing itself to anyone but mothers, the article doesn't say that all people should see children as part of their lives. It just says that mothers should be trying to meet the standards of an A mother. "The mother is right on the hook, just where Freud put her," one of the researchers is quoted as saying. This clearly makes us feel MORE responsible not less. Instead of concentrating on our right to insist on shared responsibility, we feel guilty about not being A mothers.

Although Mom may be the major person influencing the child, she is certainly not the only influence. What is really influencing the child is the same as what's influencing Mom. Mom is just as much a victim of the forces as baby is a victim of Mom. Really, the children are the victims of social and economic conditions, not of mothers and mothers are the struggling middle-men (hanging on a hook). Poor people can’t provide the "rich environment of toys" suggested, and rich people can. Stuck right in the centerfold of. this issue of Life was an entire catalogue for Creative Playthings. Creative Playthings is probably the most expensive toy manufacturer in the country. Most people can't afford this. If these toys are necessary for A children, most children will be C. In our country, it seems to be an accepted fact that some people will have money and others won't. Most of us won't. And then we are made to feel like bad mothers because we can't afford toys.

Women who work, on top of having basically lousy jobs, have an almost impossible time making satisfactory childcare arrangements. Private baby-sitters are too expensive for some women, and they are underpaid, anyway. Children (and people) who live in overcrowd conditions, who are hungry, who don't receive adequate medical care who go to overcrowded schools with racist teachers, will never be A. It has nothing to do with mothers. What's "critical", more than how mother behaves, is that if you don't have money, you can't produce a child (or a mother) who has all the advantages the article describes. Mothers have no more control over the most powerful force that influence hers and the child’s life than does the child.

The article says: "The researchers weren't particularly interested in the family's race, income, education or residence -- the kind of information which some social scientists think explains everything -- but in the experiences which actually make up the small child's work ..." (meaning how the mother interacts with the child.) What scapegoating! We, the mothers, are made to shoulder the blame for a social and economic system which makes the lives of most people a real struggle. You can't keep people poor and women in the house and expect A mothers and A children.

The little suggestions given in the article about being positive and enthusiastic with your child are sure difficult to carry out if you're not feeling positive and enthusiastic yourself. And nothing makes a mother less positive and less enthusiastic than feeling that she is to blame for everything that goes wrong with her children. The feeling that you're not doing everything you should be doing, even though you're worrying about it all the time and trying your hardest, is THE INSECURE MOTHER DISEASE, promoted in LIFE by putting Mom on the hook.