The Need for Daycare, 1915

This year, the day care problem is a red hot issue. Both state and national senators are

wrestling with the question of how to adequately care for the children of working parents. It

seems like a very modern problem.

But Nebraska women have always worked. Most of this work was invisible, since it wasn’t

done for wages, and it was done in the home or on the farm. Still, some women worked for

wages outside the home. And if these women had children, they had to worry about what we

now call “daycare.”

Immigrant women were among those most likely to work for wages, often as domestic

helpers in “American” homes. Hattie Plum Williams, a sociologist from the University of

Nebraska studied these workers. She recounted the effect of the day labor of “Russian-

German” women in Lincoln on their children around 1910.

“The mother leaves the home at 7 or 7:30 in the morning and the small children have from 1

to 2 hours of undirected time to put in before school. Tasks which have been set for them are

either slovenly done or neglected altogether so that they may join their mates at play on the

streets or school grounds. Especially this is true of the boys both before and after school.

The girls on the other hand put in their time after school at the heavier housework which

must be done “after hours”–the washing, ironing, scrubbing, baking, etc. Although overwork

undoubtedly sometimes results, its effects on the whole are less detrimental than no work or

such carried on unsystematically.

“Not infrequently small children are locked in the house if the weather is bad or out of the

house if the weather is good. Not long since a pastor called upon a parishioner at 2 o’clock in

the afternoon and found three children, aged 2, 4, and 6, locked in the house since their

mother left in the early morning. Sometimes the most careful parents do this to avoid

indiscriminate playmates on the streets or danger from colds because the children are too

small to wrap themselves up carefully, but the fearful danger from fire makes it a hazardous


“In warm or pleasant weather the streets are swarming with children from 2 to 4 years old

whose mothers are gone from home half to three-quarters of the day.

“A small effort has been made by public and private means to meet this situation. A junior

kindergarten for children from 3 to 5 years of age in the North settlement partially meets the

need there; while one of the schools in the south side has accepted into its regular

kindergarten children from 3 to 5, although they are below the legal school age. It looks as if

a couple of day nurseries were urgently needed, but there is a question whether it would not

do more harm than good by encouraging out-of-home work where it was not necessary.

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

Other Publications

The Bachelors’ Protective Union of Kearney

When the Bachelors' Protective Union gave a gala reception for two of its newly married, former members and their brides in March of 1890, the social club for young, ...

U.S. Weather Bureau in 1890s Nebraska

The U.S. Weather Bureau was established by an act of Congress on October 1, 1890. It took over the weather service that had been established in the office of the Chief ...

Canning the Way to Victory

During American participation in World War I the U.S. Food Administration, under the direction of Herbert Hoover, launched a massive campaign to persuade Americans to ...

The Shoemaker’s Ashes

"Edward Kuehl, one of the most peculiar characters that ever lived in Omaha, or anywhere else, was found dead in his bed last night in the back room of his place of ...

Crazy Horse Surrender Ledger Foreward

Red Dog, an Oglala Lakota who lived at the Red Cloud Agency, Nebraska, 1876-77 (Nebraska State Historical Society   In the summer of 1876, following the ...

Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl F. Zanuck Darryl F. Zanuck (1902-1979), a native Nebraskan, produced some of Hollywood's most important and controversial films. He helped found 20th Century Fox ...

The Burlington’s Profitable Pork Special

Nebraska railroads were much concerned with developing an adequate economy in the areas they served. The Burlington, for example, had a long history of caring for the ...

Bungalow Filling Stations

After the giant Standard Oil Company was broken into thirty-four separate companies in 1911, the newly independent Standard Oil of Nebraska dominated the state's market ...

The Bull Fight

This is the perfect time of year for a visit to the old fishin' hole. But a group of fisherfolk from Plainview discovered that this bucolic pastime sometimes has ...

Buffalo Soldiers West

African-American soldiers on the western frontier are the focus of an exhibit at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln. Buffalo Soldiers West, on loan from the Colorado ...

Protection for Buffalo

The extermination of the buffalo on the Plains occurred largely between 1870 and 1885. The Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln on February 1, 1874, editorialized in vain ...

Buffalo Hunting

In late October 1877 young Rolf Johnson and three friends left their homes in Phelps County, Nebraska, for a buffalo hunt in northeastern Colorado. The hunt was not very ...
About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

Education Digital Learning Resources

Find games, lists, and more to enhance your history education curriculum.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast!

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

History Nebraska Services

Digital Resources

Find all of our digital resources, files, videos, and more, all in one easy-to-search page!

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.