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Babysitter: An American History Hardcover – July 26, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0814727591 ISBN-10: 081472759X Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 326 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press; First Edition edition (July 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081472759X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814727591
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,417,385 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"In this intriguing social and cultural history, Forman-Brunell (Univ. of Missouri-Kansas City) uses a wide array of sources to argue that the 20th-century creation of the babysitter can tell much about the changing views of girlhood over time, both from the perspective of adults and of girls themselves." "Highly recommended."-CHOICE,

"In this informative and entertaining book, Miriam Forman-Brunell, the author of (1993) and other works on the history of girls, has creatively mined popular culture sources and personal reminiscences to provide the first history of baby-sitting."-The Journal of American History,

"Babysitter is an exemplary work of cultural history, using widely disparate sources to correct popular but misguided myths about teens' labor history, girls' cultural practices, and "the family" as an ideological construct. Written concisely and accessibly with ample illustrations, Babysitter is ideal for undergraduates and professional scholars alike."-Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, a welcome addition to the histories of adolescence and girlhood which have increasingly emerged over the last dozen years. Forman-Brunell is one of those rare academics who easily bridges disciplines, using the methods of the traditional historian, the literary critic, and the popular-culture commentator to present a well-researched and highly readable narrative about babysitters—who are among the most visible, yet invisible, figures in American culture.”

-The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth,

“Miriam Forman-Brunell has written an enjoyable account of a class of employees who, she argues, does an extraordinary amount of cultural working addition to its assigned childcare chores.”

-Oxford Journals,

About the Author

Miriam Forman-Brunell is Professor of History at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. She is the author of Made to Play House and general editor of ABC-CLIO's Girlhood in America. She is also co-director of Children and Youth in History.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Story Circle Book Reviews on September 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
From the beginnings of babysitting to the fall of babysitting, Miriam Forman-Brunell has produced a sweeping history of the practice not chronicled elsewhere. Babysitter: An American History gives us a welcome look at the subculture of babysitting in the United States. When you peruse the extensive notes and bibliography, it's not surprising that the book has taken nearly two decades to complete (Forman-Brunell began her project in the early 1990's). While the book covers the 20th century, with emphasis on the 1950s through the 1980s, we are reminded of previous generations (including Puritans, enslaved African Americans, and urban working-class children) charged with babysitting as their duty without the benefit of payment.

Readers will find the book full of curious bits of observations and facts about American popular culture as it relates to babysitting. For instance, poet, Sylvia Plath, at age fourteen, wrote about her first experience babysitting in a paper for an English class. The two boys demanded she read aloud story after story, jumped on top of her, playing "kill the bear," and the popcorn she was making caught fire. Plath concluded that "little children are bothersome beings...all in all, a nuisance."

The narrative moves from the 1920s through the 1940s as girls begin to challenge older generations with their new conduct and confidence. As the United States marched off to war, births fell, then rose; and mothers took on jobs, then gave them up to be homemakers and move to the suburbs.

The second half of the 20th century brought significant changes as society experienced more war, the sexual revolution, increasing divorce rates and mothers going back to work once again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Todd Bartholomew TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
While it's hard to believe that babysitting would be the subject of scholarly examination by a professor, "Babysitter" is just that. Forman-Brunell's book attempts a socio-cultural examination of the phenomenon that, it turns out, is no longer the province of teenage girls. Forman-Brunell tracks the beginnings of babysitting, which surprisingly began during the depths of the great depression. The word itself first came into use in 1937 to describe the new phenomenon of teenage girls watching children while parents were otherwise engaged in a range of activities. It seems strange to think that the Lindberg Kidnapping prompted a sudden concern about leaving children unattended, but oftentimes events such as that spark a sudden cultural change. As more women were entering the workforce, the use of servants decreased, and the extended family living under one roof became less common there arose a need for someone outside of the family to tend to childrens needs. Enter the babysitter; the trusted neighbor or friend outside of the family to fill that void. The lack of ability to pay adult wages necessitated that teenagers fill that need, and considering they lacked employable skills and needed money supply met demand.

Babysitting by its very nature has been a largely unregulated part of the labor market and the unevenness of the caretakers ability and the high demands of the parents could sometimes result in severe inequities and led to considerable angst with both parties. Forman-Brunell explores the cultural complaints and depictions of teenage babysitters as hormone crazed eating machines wreaking havoc to the more nuanced view of them as budding entrepreneurs.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Well researched and engaging to read. I am writing a babysitting curriculum and found this book very useful. I highly recommend it as the only one of its kind as far as I know.
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