Beginning of the Children’s Hour

Children's Hour

On this day in 1868, Harriet Worden recorded the origins of the custom of including the children in the evening meetings in the Oneida Community.

You can read her post from December 19, 1868, by going to Harriet’s Posts – 1868 in the index of the pages, to the right of the main blog post.  We update each day Harriet’s posts from her journal for the day in 1868 corresponding to our own date.

The children were raised communally in the Oneida Community.  They lived  first in a separate house (The Nursery),  and then in 1869, in the entire south wing of the Mansion House, known as the Children’s House.

Children's House

With the initiation of the eugenics program in 1868 (the only large scale attempt at selected breeding of human beings in US history), the Oneida Community expected to produce a large brood of superior children.  In fact, 58 children were born during the eugenics experiment.

As a rule, the children were excluded from the Community’s evening meetings.  But on this day in December 1868, John Humphrey Noyes changed that policy.  Here is what Harriet Worden had to say:

Father Noyes has made some remarks today about making a complete home. And his proposal is to bring all our children over to this house every evening at 7 o’clock, and letting them soak in the family spirit (the great Community heart) for an hour. He says he shall always be present and the whole family can have a chance to see the children. The parents to mix in with the rest, but must not step in between the children and the Community.

Noyes usually did not attend the evening meetings. Due to his chronic throat problems, he preferred to hold court in the Upper Sitting Room during the day and to speak softly to a small gathering about his ideas for revitalizing the Community spirit.  His words were always noted and reported in the evening meetings, which usually prompted a Community discussion.

Upper Sitting Room

As Harriet Worden reported,  he promised to attend the evening meetings when the children were present.  But he  cautioned the parents of the children to delight in the presence of the children, but not to interfere with their relationship with everyone in the Community.

In upcoming days in Harriet’s journal, she will describe many appearances and performances by the children and the delight by all members in the presence of the children of the Community meetings.  Many of these events took place not in the Big Hall where the  7PM meetings took place, but in the Upper Sitting Room where Noyes presided, below his bedroom in the North Tower.

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1 Comment

  1. johnny said,

    January 8, 2011 at 12:18 am

    cool


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