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The Modernization of Fatherhood

A Social and Political History

The period between World War I and World War II was an important time in the history of gender relations, and of American fatherhood. Revealing the surprising extent to which some of yesterday’s fathers were involved with their children, The Modernization of Fatherhood recounts how fatherhood was reshaped during the Machine Age into the configuration we know today.

LaRossa explains that during the interwar period the image of the father as economic provider, pal, and male role model, all in one, became institutionalized. Using personal letters and popular magazine and newspaper sources, he explores how the social and economic conditions of the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression—a period of technical innovation as well as economic hardship—fused these expectations into a cultural ideal. With chapters on the U.S. Children’s Bureau, the fathercraft movement, the magazine industry and the development of Parent’s Magazine, and the creation of Father’s Day, this book is a major addition to the growing literature on masculinity and fatherhood.

295 pages | 12 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 1997

Gender and Sexuality

History: American History

Sociology: Social History


"LaRossa illuminates the social construction of our modern ideas about fatherhood with a rare combination of precision and charm. A masterful account, elegantly written and thoroughly absorbing, this book deserves to be read by anybody interested in the American family."

James A. Levine, Families and Work Institute

"LaRossa penetrates the mists of our stereotypes about fatherhood and provides, in his characteristically thorough and lucid fashion, a vivid and illuminating portrait of fathers in the 1920s and 1930s."

Richard J. Gelles, University of Pennsylvania

"The most carefully conducted historical study of fatherhood ever written, this book shatters stereotypes and challenges us to rethink the present state of fatherhood along with the past."

William J. Doherty, University of Minnesota

Table of Contents

Prologue: 1932
1: The Modernization of Fatherhood
2: The Historical Roots of Standard North American Fatherhood
3: Fatherhood and the Baby Doctors
4: Men and Infants
5: Fathercraft
6: Fatherhood and the Popular Press
7: "Dear Mr. Patri"
8: "Honor Thy Father"
9: Conclusion


Choice Magazine: CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Awards

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