Journal Archive > 2002 > March

Child care pioneers

Tufts Wives Club paves the way for Eliot-Pearson School

The Tufts Wives Club was established in conjunction with the construction of Stearns Village to provide a social outlet for the wives of the veterans who returned to Tufts on the G.I. Bill after World War II.

Sparked by interest expressed at a welcoming tea, the Wives Club was formally organized on April 25, 1946, by Mrs. Leonard Carmichael, wife of the Tufts president, and Mrs. Jan T. Friis, wife of Tufts' planning engineer. Membership numbered more than 60 women and was limited to the wives of Tufts graduate and undergraduate students. General meetings were held once a month, when it was common practice for the women's husbands to study and watch the children while their wives were meeting.

A cooperative day care system for children who lived in Stearns Village eventually became the Eliot-Pearson Children's School at Tufts. © University Archives

Activities of the club included sewing classes, an evening bridge club, athletic groups, holiday parties, speaker presentations on campus and a cooperative babysitting league. The league was organized as a bartering system among the wives, with the swapping of child care hours allowing the economically strapped couples to have an evening out without incurring greater financial burden.

These types of events were seen as a way to dispel the probable loneliness and isolation experienced by the "bookworm widows" of the veterans.

The club's greatest contribution to Tufts was the establishment of a cooperative day care system for the more than 50 children residing in Stearns Village, a veterans housing project that was located next to Cousens Gym. In 1949, this venture evolved into the Stearns Village Nursery School. In 1951, the licensed establishment was absorbed by the Boston Nursery Training School, which later became the Eliot-Pearson Children's School at Tufts.

Following the demolition of Stearns Village in 1955, the Tufts Wives Club disbanded.

Editor's Note: As the university celebrates its sesquicentennial this year, the Journal will take a look back at some of the history and traditions of Tufts. Thanks to Anne Sauer in University Archives for providing these glimpses into Tufts' past. For information about sesquicentennial events, visit the web site: