In World War II, millions of men went to fight and millions of women joined the workforce. There was just one small problem. Kids. With their parents out of the house, who would take care of the children? The U.S. government faced this challenge during World War II, leading to the first and only universal child care program in American history.
Colloquially known as the Lanham Act, this bill funded "war nurseries" that looked after children whose mothers worked long hours. Professor Chris Herbst studies child care policy. He says despite initial pushback, the program yielded positive outcomes for working moms and provided high-quality care for kids. However, the program did not last long. Except in California.
Professor Natalie Fousekis, author of Demanding Child Care: Women's Activism and the Politics of Welfare, 1940-1971, studies women's history. She says while California extended the program, the federal government eventually changed the funding mechanism and ended the child care program for many employed women.