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History Vault

Records of the Children's Bureau, 1912-1969

Records of the Children's Bureau, 1912-1969  (Module 37)

Though the Children's Bureau is one of the least well-known federal agencies, its records provide a rich source for an understanding of twentieth-century American society. Founded in 1912 as part of the federal government's new commitment to promoting individual and family welfare, the Children's Bureau played an active role in the design and administration of many important social welfare measures including the 1921 Sheppard-Towner Maternity and Infancy Act to reduce infant mortality and the campaign to reduce child labor in the 1930s. The Bureau's voluminous records, including correspondence, research reports, brochures, court hearings and speeches, represent a large and important collection of primary material for the study of the family and the health and well-being of children in the twentieth century. Not only do the documents enable researchers to trace the various stages of Federal involvement in the welfare of children and the development of family law, they also throw a fascinating light on the way welfare policies affected ordinary women.

Records of the Children's Bureau, 1912-1969 consists of reports, speeches, correspondence, and research materials from the Children's Bureau, the first federal agency dedicated entirely to protecting the welfare of children and families. The documents in this collection span the years from its creation in 1912 through 1969 and originate from the administrative files of bureau staff members, including the bureau's chiefs throughout the years: Julia Lathrop, Grace Abbott, Katharine Lenroot, Martha Eliot, and Katherine Oettinger.