Ros Baxandall on Day Care

SHORT TAKES: February 5, 2016

Introducing a new MEETING GROUND feature

We often have links or brief comments that we want to share with our readers that do not really fit an article format. We will try to post at least one item on Short Takes each Friday. 


Ros Baxandall on Day Care

Contrary to many contemporary critiques accusing “Second Wave” feminists of neglecting to tackle the issue of day care, many in the early Women’s Liberation Movement actually demanded and fought for free 24-hour public childcare. Ros Baxandall, who died recently, was right in the middle of organizing that struggle in New York City. In a documented tribute to Ros posted on their blog, Redstockings includes an article written by her in 1971 analyzing her experience in a city-wide organizing attempt. The article, originally published in the WLM newspaper Woman’s World 45 years ago but still relevant, lays out the need for childcare for both women and children. She traces her work from a cooperative group she helped organize for her own child to lobbying and taking disruptive action for city-funded childcare for all. She wrote:

First we began to meet with city officials and talk but we soon realized that talk was getting us nowhere. So with the power of all of our groups (around 25), we began to battle. We blocked traffic and held a nursery in the streets to make our demand for day care publicly known, and we sat in the office of Human Resources with our kids and demanded funds for all groups, not just a few favored ones. After demonstrating together, we began to achieve some success. A new category of funds was suddenly discovered for us—”interim funds.” Interim funds meant that our groups could get money for rent, equipment, renovations and staff, teacher’s assistants, bookkeepers, and a cook without conforming to the former rigid city requirements. There unfortunately turned out to be a hitch…. We are only given the funds on a month-to-month basis, which means every month we have to telephone, beg, make trips to the Commission on Day Care, and demonstrate for every penny to keep going. While we are begging and fighting, the off-track betting people…are getting $800,000 supposedly on “loan” for the asking.

She further warned of “a lot of dangerous trends to watch out for,” like attaching day care to work:

Many companies…having difficulty keeping women at low-paid, dull jobs are starting day care centers on the jobs. Day care centers are much better when they are in the neighborhood rather than on the jobs [since] women aren’t as free to leave the job because if they do they will lose their day care privilege. Most corporations starting day care centers are also charging money off the women’s salaries and these centers are not run or controlled by the women. Lugging young children on the crowded subway or bus in rush hour would not be too appetizing either. Another trend is large corporations setting up day care with the help of government funds just to make money or to sell their products. [They] realize women have a desperate need for day care and the government is going to finally give money and they are going to take advantage of women’s needs and make a profit. Many…are franchised, set up in chains like Chicken Delight. … [Others]…are set up by toy companies to push their products. … Good nurseries will never be “profitable.” … These corporate-run day care centers have to cut corners to make profits, so the care the kids get is worse than poor.”

She proposed day care be funded through the government paid from corporate taxes because “corporations are richest and benefit most from the future labor of our kids” but insisted that the mothers of the children and any “men who will work with us as equals” must control them. Discussing some of the advantages and disadvantages of hiring men to work in the centers, Ros concluded that at the moment, women need the jobs more than they need the men to be hired by the centers, so “we are demanding men help, but as volunteers…as women have been doing for years.” “The day care fight has just begun,” she concluded. “If we want parent-controlled day care for all women, we are going to have to join forces and work together.” Read the full article and the Redstockings’ documented tribute to Ros, complete with many photos. 

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