Choosing to Care


Choosing to Care

A Century of Childcare and Social Reform in San Diego, 1850-1950

Kyle E. Ciani

342 pages
22 photographs, index


October 2019


$70.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

October 2019


$70.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

October 2019


$70.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

In Choosing to Care, Kyle E. Ciani examines the long history of interactions between parents and social reformers from diverse backgrounds in the development of social welfare programs, particularly childcare, in San Diego, California. Ciani explores how a variety of people—from destitute parents and tired guardians to benevolent advocates and professional social workers—connected over childcare concerns in a city that experienced tremendous demographic changes caused by urbanization, immigration, and the growth of a local U.S. military infrastructure from 1850 to 1950.

Choosing to Care examines four significant areas where San Diego’s programs were distinct from, and contributed to, the national childcare agenda: the importance of the transnational U.S.–Mexico border relationship in creating effective childcare programs; the development of vocational education to curtail juvenile delinquency; the promotion of nursery school education; and the advancement of an emergency daycare program during the Great Depression and World War II. Ciani shows how children from families in unstable situations, especially children from Native American, Asian, Mexican-descent, African American, and impoverished Anglo families, challenged a social reform system that defined care as both social control and behavioral regulation.

Choosing to Care incorporates a broader definition of childcare to include efforts by governmental and organizational bodies and persons to maintain and nurture the physical, mental, and social health and development of minors when parents and guardians cannot do so. It offers a more complex understanding of how multiple avenues and resources established social welfare in San Diego and other West Coast cities.

Author Bio

Kyle E. Ciani is an associate professor of history and core faculty in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Illinois State University.


"This will be an illuminating study for scholars who want to understand discrimination and racism in America, as well as the nation's long-standing reluctance to provide childcare for the benefit of working mothers and fathers."—Moramay Lopez-Alonso, California History

"Thoroughly researched and insightfully written, Choosing to Care uses case records to detail the conditions faced by individual families and brings local specificity to the national history of childcare. By placing that history against the backdrop of women’s and urban history, the book increases our understanding of gender and social policy in the United States. It also points the way for creating forms of childcare that can support, rather than threaten, the parent-child relationship."—Sonya Michel, Journal of Arizona History

“A vividly constructed historical account, Choosing to Care provides a remarkably comprehensive and readable account of a painful but important chapter in California history. The amount and breadth of research are most impressive, enabling the author to place the San Diego story in a broad historical context yet move beyond it.”—David W. Adams, professor emeritus at Cleveland State University

“This is an important contribution to the sociological aspects of history as well as to the practical fields of childcare and child welfare. As a historian of San Diego history myself, I can assure anyone that Dr. Ciani has utilized sources from not only San Diego history but also the Baja California Peninsula and throughout the nation. As a person grounded in women’s studies, she is familiar with all aspects of the literature in the field. Choosing to Care has excellent style—it is very readable.”—Iris Engstrand, professor emerita of history at the University of San Diego

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations    
1. Indentured Care: Anglo Solutions to “Civilizing” American Indian Children    
2. Maternal Care: Childcare for Working-Class Families    
3. Court-Appointed Care: Interventions for Troubled Families    
4. Professional Care: Expert Protocols for Childcare Programs    
5. Neighborhood Care: Localizing the Settlement House Movement    
6. Emergency Care: Collaboration during Economic Recovery    
7. Wartime Care: Navigating the San Diego Home Front    

Also of Interest