Date of Award

Spring 2002

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Deborah J Coon


This study explores what was being done on behalf of dependent children during the Progressive Era, drawing connections between the reform movement and theories and figures from academic psychology. Chapter One is a detailed overview of the 1909 White House Conference on the Care of Dependent Children, with an emphasis on discussions that stress reformers' attitudes toward proper care of dependent children. Chapters Two, Three and Four take up individual themes that emanate from the Conference and correspond with current gaps in the historical literature. Chapter Two explores both the majority position opposing congregate asylums and the minority position supporting congregate asylums in the context of a society that was becoming more focused on individual needs and differences. Chapter Three is about the impetus to move dependent children out of congregate orphan asylums and into rural cottage settings, highlighting three case studies of leading Progressive Era cottage-based institutions. Chapter Four focuses on the cultural context of the placing out movement, emphasizing the role the American eugenics movement played in thwarting the advancement of placing out work. In the Conclusion the findings of the study are summarized and connections to the post-Progressive Era years are drawn.