Writing in The New York Times, Laurie Johnston reported on a new focus in the Vassar Summer Institute for Family and Community Living.  As many first-time mothers were stepping out of professional positions, they sought ways, said the institute’s director, Dr. Mary Fisher Langmuir ’20, “to help break down the isolation that develops when such a mother stops her other activities and becomes preoccupied with her child.”  Mothers and their very young children enrolled a program designed, in Dr. Langmuir’s words, to shift the focus from “my child and I” to “my child and I, our community and our world.”

Although child-study students were provided so that the mothers could attend discussions, classes and lectures, the mothers were expected to take responsibility for laundry, feeding and baby care as a cooperative exercise.  Through such arrangements, Dr. Langmuir noted, “there is no community where young women could not duplicate this experimental workshop….  Through their clubs, churches or housing developments, they could study child development jointly, call in a pediatrician for group discussion, take turns baby-sitting.  They also could form closer contacts with older women in the community, who have a ‘time bank’ of leisure and experience that cannot be bought.”  While, she added, “the needs of the baby must come first, they can be met without the mother giving up everything else.”

Many of the babies’ fathers were in residence and attended program activities as their schedules permitted.