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July 1976

Jewish Children in Colonial Times

Author Affiliations

From the departments of pediatrics, Kings County Hospital Center and Brookdale Hospital Center, and Downstate Medical School, Brooklyn, NY.

Am J Dis Child. 1976;130(7):711-713. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1976.02120080033004

For the investigator of colonial childhood, original sources have been few and lean. Dr Ernst Caulfield1 crawled on his belly in colonial graveyards to copy inscriptions from crumbling, dust-laden tombstones covering graves of infants and children. Alice Morse Earle2 published her accumulated notes in 1899, after exploring every garret in New England and wading through manuscripts, letters, diaries, accounts, and family bible records. Sister Monica Kiefer3 read 2,000 colonial children's books, and I published a summary of childhood in colonial days.4 Life was hard for the pioneers, and certainly for their children. Indian foods and preparation helped early colonial children survive, but under Puritan rule, there was cruelty to children, schoolhouses were uncomfortable, books few and uninteresting, teachers usually drunken and brutal, and distrust of female education prevailed.4

To probe Jewish childhood in colonial days presents a formidable task. My first conclusion after a brief

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