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Bringing Up Baby:

Childhood in the Old Colony, 1620-1920
By Jane L. Port, Curator
Pilgrim Society & Pilgrim Hall Museum

An exhibition sponsored by

June 2003 - May 2004

What was it like to be a child in the Old Colony in 1620, 1800, or 1920?
Each society defines childhood in its own way. In all times, much depends on where you live—countryside or town, and the times in which you live—feast or famine, war or peace.

Extreme differences did exist in the Old Colony. A girl working on a farm in the countryside; the son of wealthy parents living in Plymouth and studying Latin in school; or an enslaved African boy serving in an Old Colony household would not look back on their childhoods in the same way.

In large part, however, parents’ or guardians’ perceptions of how children should be raised determined what life was like for their offspring. Their perceptions varied dramatically from the days of the Pilgrims to the early twentieth century.

By exploring the literature and material culture associated with parenting and children’s lives in the Old Colony from the time of the first settlers to the early twentieth century, we gain a broader perspective of how society developed.

(Right) Mother & baby from Joseph Abbott’s Cousin Lucy’s Conversations. (Auburn, NY.: Derby and Miller, 1850.)

The furniture, clothing, books, games, and toys provided for children of the Old Colony allow us to knit together some of the stories of growing up in that part of America called the "cradle of New England."

Follow the history of American childhood by going to:

Learn about the history of American children's literature by going to:

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