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Learning to Live with Our Children


  • Henrietta Fleck

Sarah E. Abrams, Department of Nursing, College of Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Vermont, 002 Rowell Building, 106 Carrigan Drive, Burlington, VT 05405. E-mail:


ABSTRACT As the title suggests, being perplexed by one's children is not unique to the 21st century. In her paper, published in the original Public Health Nursing, Henrietta Fleck (1949), chair of Home Economics at New York University, addressed this persistent problem by providing advice on parent education methods for public health nurses. The materials—films, newspapers, cartoons, posters—are all within the nurse's arsenal today, supplemented by television, and the Internet. More interesting was Fleck's philosophy about parenting and family life. The excerpt omits the dated description of resources, focusing instead on her point of view. It reflects post-World War II optimism about the meaning and power of democracy in shaping familial behavior. The United States was readjusting to civilian life following World War II, fathers were returning home from military fields of action overseas, women were gradually being displaced from the industrial workplace—the country was expanding into suburbia and baby boomers were making their first appearances in the world. Fleck's assumptions include belief in the value of individualism, the importance of sharing both privilege and obligation, and the nature of maturity evidenced in an ability to make reasoned and reasonable choices and to hold oneself accountable for them. The limitations of her view are left to us to ponder.