Letters to the Editor

Childcare at the Annual Meeting

Roger Horowitz, December 2008

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To the Editor:

I want to thank Gabrielle Spiegel for addressing the silent challenges and complex negotiations of so many mothers (and fathers) in the historical profession. Though our trade is more flexible for parenting than most occupations, it still is a great challenge for parents to balance the relentless expectations of a professional career with having a full life with their children.

I do ask, though, for the AHA Council to act on these important concerns and to implement changes in the AHA annual meetings that would make them more child friendly.

Childcare is treated as a private concern for the 2009 meeting, consistent with past practice, as well as the practice of most historical organizations. But it doesn’t have to be this way. For some time the American Sociological Association has organized group childcare as part of the meeting’s registration process. Registrants have to pay for this service, but scholarships are offered for those who need financial assistance. It is entirely feasible for the AHA to adopt the ASA’s approach, and, unlike appointing a task force or commissioning a report on this subject, it is a concrete measure that the association can take directly.

Incorporating group childcare would measurably assist parents who want or need to bring their children to the annual meetings. It also would have a powerful symbolic role by validating the endless negotiations parents engage in to pursue their careers and to serve as good mothers and fathers.

—Roger Horowitz
Hagley Museum and Library