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“The Value of Babies”: Mothers, Children, and the State in Wartime, 1914–1918

  • Ann Taylor Allen

Abstract

In 1900, Ellen Key embodied the new century as “a naked child, who comes down to earth, but turns back in terror at the sight of the globe bristling with weapons, which leaves him not even a small patch of ground where he can set foot.” Key hoped that “the new generation, its care, and its rearing,” would become “the central task of society,” and that the infant century might thus be preserved from the looming danger of war.1 But was peace really in the interest of mothers and children? Key’s worst fears were greatly surpassed by the war that broke out in 1914. And it was in wartime, so many observers remarked, that the value of children was truly appreciated. “The war with its terrible toll of young life has taught us the value of babies,” wrote Maude Royden, a British reformer, suffragist, and theologian, in 1918. “They used to be called ‘encumbrances’; now we are beginning to reckon them up as jewels.”2

Keywords

Child Welfare Military Service Venereal Disease Nursery School French Woman 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

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© Ann Taylor Allen 2005

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  • Ann Taylor Allen

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