The Chicago Juvenile Court Movement in the 1809s

The Chicago Juvenile Court Movement in the 1809s - The...

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The Chicago Juvenile Court Movement in the 1890s Elizabeth J. Clapp University of Leicester The essence of the juvenile court idea, and of the juvenile court movement, is the recognition of the obligation of the great mother state to her neglected and erring children, and her obligation to deal with them as children, and wards, rather than to class them as criminals and drive them by harsh measures into the ranks of vice and crime. [1] In writing this in 1910, Hastings H. Hart, Superintendent of the Children's Home and Aid Society in Chicago, outlined some of the fundamental principles behind the juvenile court. For the Illinois Juvenile Court Law of 1899 represented a departure from earlier methods of dealing with dependent and delinquent children, not just in Chicago but in the whole United States. It not only marked the final recognition by the State of Illinois of its duty towards children, but symbolised a new attitude towards young people in the justice system, seeing them as children in need of help rather than as criminals to be punished. This quotation is important in another respect, for it demonstrates Hart's acknowledgement of the gendered nature of this reform. For women reformers prompted by female concerns played a central role in the juvenile court movement in Chicago. The establishment of juvenile courts in cities across the United States was one of the earliest social welfare reforms of the Progressive Era, and represented a major change in the way in which the law dealt with wayward children. In examining the origins of the juvenile court in Chicago, this study focuses upon the role of women reformers in the movement and the importance of gender consciousness in influencing the particular shape the reform took. Clearly male reformers were also involved, but by placing this examination of the Chicago juvenile court movement within the context of recent scholarship by historians of women, it has become necessary to challenge previously held assumptions that men were the central and dominating force behind it. But this is not to say that all women reformers were identical either in their background or in their aims. This study goes beyond the simple task of writing women back into the history of the Chicago juvenile court movement and seeks to examine the interaction between gender consciousness and the shaping of social welfare reform. It suggests that although gender consciousness was a highly significant element in prompting women to pursue this reform, other factors were also important. The last two decades of the nineteenth century saw the development of new ideas and attitudes about the nature of childhood and adolescence, which played a major part in causing reformers, particularly women, to seek new methods of dealing with dependent and delinquent children. These ideas had their most profound impact upon middle class women who, by the late nineteenth century, were recognised as the primary child-rearers. Economic changes caused many middle class couples to limit the size of their families, and as they did so much more was
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This note was uploaded on 02/01/2011 for the course CRJU 4230 taught by Professor Derekallen during the Spring '10 term at Georgia State.

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The Chicago Juvenile Court Movement in the 1809s - The...

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