Rockefeller Archive Center

Rockefeller Archive Center Research Reports are created by recipients of research travel stipends and by many others who have conducted research at the RAC. The reports demonstrate the breadth of the RAC's archival holdings, particularly in the study of philanthropy and its effects. Read more about the history of philanthropy at Also, see the RAC Bibliography of Scholarship, a comprehensive online database of publications citing RAC archival collections.
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Psychologizing School Problems: The Science of Personality Adjustment in Interwar U.S.

April 28, 2020

This research report is part of my dissertation project, "Creating the Well-Adjusted Citizen: The Human Sciences and Public Schools in the United States, WWI - 1950," which examines the ideas of psychological adjustment and shifting meanings of the "well-adjusted citizen" in the human sciences and in public schools. The goal of the dissertation is to explore the implications of adjustment thinking upon the scrutiny of emotional fitness among its citizenry in the United States. This report focuses specifically on how human scientists and educators approached the interpretation or measurement of personality in the interwar years. I argue that within scientific constructions of personality, there existed two tendencies: one sought to quantify and standardize personality into separable traits or measurable quotient; the other treated personality as a dynamic and holistic process in the context of individuals' interactions with culture. Both tendencies bore epistemological and political implications in the history of psychology and schooling. Ultimately, the ways in which experts and educators conceptualized personality shaped ideas of human differences and functioned to reinforce hierarchical understandings of human nature.

Rural Pedagogy as a Tool of International Agricultural Development: IEB’s Club Work in Three Nordic Countries, 1923-28

January 8, 2020

On Tuesday February 13 1923, Søren Sørensen, the agricultural attaché of the Danish Legation in Washington, joined Wickliffe Rose and Wallace Buttrick for an evening dinner at the prestigious Cosmos Club in Washington D.C. Founded in 1878 to advance "science, literature, the arts and public service," the private social club was an inspired location for a meeting to discuss the terms for future collaboration between American philanthropists and the Danish government. An earlier conference with Sørensen in December, plus two ad hoc meetings with officials at the United States Department for Agriculture, convinced Rose and the leadership of the International Education Board (IEB) that Denmark offered the "most favorable conditions for first demonstration abroad." Since getting the green light to pursue his agenda on international philanthropy, Rose had been busy contemplating where best to begin implementing his vision of agrarian improvement. Denmark, the Board reasoned, was the "most highly developed in general intelligence, in agriculture, in cooperative activities, in democratic government." If properly conducted, the programme would serve as a symbol of accomplishment, "a training center from which to extend the service to other non-Slavic European countries." It would be, in Rose's phrase, "a bird of passage."

Children of science: The Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial, Arnold Gesell and the making of the normal child

January 1, 2016

Belief in the power of science to solve social as well as individual problems was the driving force of the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial's (LSRM) program. After Beardsley Ruml's appointment as Director of the LRSM in 1922, the work of the Memorial concentrated on the support and development of programs in social sciences and social technology, in child study and parent education, and for studies in the field of race relations. Affiliated with ideas of the progressive movement, its direction was designed to engage science in the management of social and individual welfare and to base political and economic decisions on rational and objective scientific results and methods. The further development of child welfare along these lines was a central part of the Memorial's mission. The LSRM program officer Lawrence K. Frank was assigned this task and was particularly interested in child development. Children were at that time already understood to be key to a prosperous future and a democratic society. A general interest in the child, its development and welfare had already led to certain changes and improvements of living circumstances, such as the prohibition of child labor, implementation of compulsory schooling, juvenile courts, and professional social and hygiene workers. Organizations like the Federation for Child Study, later renamed in Child Study Association on behalf of L. K. Frank, pursued scientifically informed child rearing and education practices. When the LSRM began to support their activities in 1923 the women of the association were "already engaged in putting together a great deal of scattered information and translating technical research reports into popular language."

A Place for the Child: Playground Reform from 1890 to 1930

January 1, 2016

The adjustment of boy life to the city environment has always been a difficult one. Or, at least, that was the opinion of the New York City YMCA in 1927. City boys across the United States, however, might have disagreed. They played, worked, and lived in the city as successfully as boys anywhere in the nation. The city environment afforded many boys the spaces to create particularly strong peer networks as well as the opportunity to earn disposable incomes of which other boys could only dream. Indeed, their familiarity and ease with city spaces shocked middle-class adults. Real boys in the Progressive Era found little difficulty in confronting urban life.

The Programa Interamericano para la Juventud Rural (Inter-American Rural Youth Program) and Rural Modernization in Cold War Latin America

January 1, 2011

This article explores the 4-H agricultural youth clubs that flourished in Latin America between 1960 and 1975. It places those clubs within the broader context of the internationalization of American agricultural extension and economic hegemony in the Global South during the decades following World War II. In the three decades before World War II, fifteen million rural American youth and several hundred thousand adult volunteers participated in 4-H agricultural and homemaking clubs administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Organized by experts from land grant colleges and the USDA and partially funded by agricultural and financial firms, 4-H clubs educated rural youth on a host of topics: the labor and technology of "modern" agricultural and home making, the appropriate divisions of gendered labor in "farm families," the cultivation of healthy bodies, and the meanings of "citizenship" in democratic societies. After World War II, the USDA developed similar clubs around the globe in coordination with the United States military and NGOs like the 4-H Foundation and Nelson A. Rockefeller's American International Association for Economic and Social Development (AIA). T

Shaping the Debate and Setting Standards: Foundation Philanthropy and Reforming Child Welfare, 1909-1940

January 1, 2011

The American approach to children and families in crises is decentralized, disorganized, and difficult to navigate. It involves complex interactions between federal agencies, state governments, which interpret federal mandates, administrative agencies, like state and county departments of Children and Family Services, the juvenile and criminal courts, and numerous nonprofit service providers. All of these actors influence the system in different ways, but from the viewpoint of the child, the system is most commonly represented by the individuals providing direct services to him or her from a contracted child welfare agency.

The Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial: Women Educators and Transnational Knowledge Exchange in Early Childhhood Education

January 1, 2010

In recent years there has been a growing interest in transnational history, which is "the study of the ways in which past lives and events have been shaped by processes and relationships that have transcended the borders of nation states." The process of transnational knowledge exchange in early childhood education began in earnest in the early twentieth century when a growing number of women educators not only traveled overseas but also spent part of their working lives in other English-speaking countries. These women established "webs of influence that linked countries such as Australia and the United States with each other as well as with Great Britain."

Coordinated Care for Crippled Children in New York during the Infantile Paralysis Epidemic of 1916

January 1, 2009

In 1935, the federal government established a new program to meet the social and medical needs of crippled children. Unlike other federal child health programs from the 1920s and 1930s, Services for Crippled Children, Part 2 of Title V of the Social Security Act (SSA), provided federal dollars for medical and preventive care for children with crippling and physically disabling conditions. But organized efforts to treat crippled children in the US began in the late nineteenth century. During the first three decades of the twentieth century, many state and local governments and community agencies developed programs for children with crippling conditions resulting from diseases such as tuberculosis, rickets and polio. Services provided included orthopedic and medical treatments, home services, medical equipment and specialized educational services. Not only would these local and state programs inform the development of an important federal child health program initiated at the height of the Depression, they also represented the role progressive era reformers took in promoting the expansion of medical and social treatments for crippled children.

The Commonwealth Fund, Child Guidance, and Psychiatric Social Work in Britain, 1918-1939

January 1, 2004

During and immediately after World War II considerable concern was being expressed in Great Britain about the future psychological development of the nation's children. Explicit links were drawn between what was seen as emotional and psychological deprivation and the emergence of totalitarian regimes such as Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and, increasingly as the Cold War took hold, the Soviet Union. There was, therefore, a perceived relationship between mentally "healthy" children and political and social stability alongside a related emphasis on children's rights, rights which were to be placed in the broader framework of the post-war "welfare state" and the associated concept of social citizenship. It was in this context that I was working on an official Scottish committee -- the Clyde Committee -- which in 1946 was given the task of investigating the condition of homeless children and coming up with suggestions as to better provision for them. The Committee's findings, along with those of its English equivalent, the Curtis Committee, were crucial in determining the shape of one important constituent of the "welfare state," the 1948 Children Act.

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