Mothers, child care and the creation of good socialist citizens'

Dr. Sarah Marks: Mothers, child care and the creation of good socialist citizens'

In 1963 a documentary film, Children Without Love [Děti bez lásky], was smuggled out of Communist Czechoslovakia to the Venice Biennale film festival – and was screened in cinemas at home, surreptitiously tagged onto the end of a Miloš Forman film. It showed emotionally distressed young children looked after for long hours in infant homes, many from the first weeks of infancy. A collaboration between filmmaker Kurt Goldberger, child psychologists, an infant home headmistress and a reformist journalist, the film eventually contributed to a change in the law, with the Communist Party committing to extend paid maternity leave for women. This reversed the state’s previous ideological preference for collective child-rearing and full female employment. In this session we will look at visual and written sources from the time, and oral history testimony. We will explore how the debates over child care, and particularly the mother's role in the infant's early years, reflected changing ideas about how the state should support the healthy development of the child's mind so they could grow up to be good members of society, both in socialist countries and in the 'West'.

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