Posts tagged: Marian C. Putnam

Staff Finds: Pamphlets are a Parent’s Best Friend

By , November 22, 2011

During the processing of the Marian C. Putnam papers, Center staff discovered a trove of 1940s and 1950s child care advice pamphlets among Putnam’s files of reprints. The bulk of the reprints are from professional journals and were authored by Putnam or by her staff at the James Jackson Putnam Children’s Center. However, Putnam also collected pamphlets put out by other agencies in the United States and Britain to do with child care and early childhood development.

Putnam, a child analyst and child development specialist, traveled to Europe with her parents when she was young and met some of the leading figures in the development of psychoanalysis, including Ernest Jones and Sigmund Freud. She went on to study psychoanalysis formally in Vienna during the 1930s. Putnam was one of the founders of the Judge Baker Children’s Center in Boston, later renamed the James Jackson Putnam Children’s Center, which opened in 1943 and offered psychiatric services to troubled children. Putnam’s original plans for the Judge Baker Center included live-in nursery care for children in need of continuous psychological help, though this ultimately proved impractical and Putnam and her staff focused instead on day programs.

Putnam’s work at the Children’s Center was largely with children suffering from a variety of difficulties, from bedwetting or thumb sucking to severe depression and developmental disability. The pamphlets she collected cover myriad topics, such as preparing for the birth of a first child, toilet-training, and living with a three-year-old. While the pamphlets probably reflected top-notch child-rearing advice at the time, they have been superseded by the subsequent popularity of experts like Benjamin Spock (who also features in Putnam’s reprint collection.) Some problems, like thumb sucking, for example, would no longer bring a child to the attention of an expert like Putnam; however, the pamphlets also reflect more serious issues such as preparing a child for the arrival of a new baby or teaching appropriate social behavior.

The pamphlets featured advice like the following from Enjoy Your Child-Ages 1, 2, and 3 (1950):

“If your child is one, two, or three, he has passed his babyhood days. You are dealing with a real person—already reaching out into the world and perhaps into his neighbor’s. You are busy trying to keep up with him. This should not be too hard for you to do. After all, you are now something of an expert on children. You have lived with your child for a year or more. There is a lot you have learned about children…and about him in particular.” (1)

And from For Your Baby’s Mental Health (1950):

“ A Word To Fathers: You are just as important as mother in this job of raising a healthy baby. Plan with her for baby’s arrival and when you have him, get acquainted properly. Even the smallest baby needs a masculine as well as a feminine influence. And be sure to remember that you and mother are still people as well as parents. Get a babysitter now and then, and go out the way you used to do. If you are happy together, you’ll be better able to keep baby happy, too.” (back cover)

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