1. What forces came to act on children and youth during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era that had not affected them in the past (or had not affected them as deeply)?
2. What expectations did the adults who appear in this book have for children and youth in terms of behavior, work, and schooling?
3. In the contexts of the lives of children and youth, how was the Progressive Era “Progressive”?
4. Robert Wiebe argued that politicians and reformers were engaged in a “search for order” during this period. What did that mean in the lives of children and youth?
5. The primary documents and a number of the essays featured the voices of young Americans. What concerns and interests can you detect in their words? How did they see the world differently than the adults who were trying to shape their lives?
6. How were the experiences of girls and boys different and/or the same during this period? Did reformers believe that young people had separate needs and possibilities?
7. Historians and social scientists often use the word “agency” to describe situations when normally powerless people exert some kind of control over their own lives. How did children and youth during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era exert “agency”?
8. What would it have meant for the twentieth century to have truly been the “Century of the Child?” What would have been different?
9. In what ways and in what places are the issues and conditions that appear in the book—child labor, infant mortality, and family disruption, to name just a few—still reflected in the discussions among politicians and policy makers in the United States?
10. Is there a “Right to Childhood” in the twenty-first century? What factors encourage or inhibit Americans’ efforts to protect that right?