Protected Children, Regulated Mothers

Gender and the “Gypsy Question” in State Care in Postwar Hungary, 1949–1956
$75.00 / €65.00 / £60.00
Publication date: 
April 2021, 256 pages

Protected Children, Regulated Mothers examines child protection in Stalinist Hungary as a part of twentieth-century (East Central, Eastern, and Southeastern) European history. Across the communist bloc, the increase of residential homes was preferred to the prewar system of foster care. The study challenges the transformation of state care into a tool of totalitarian power. Rather than political repression, educators mostly faced an arsenal of problems related to social and economic transformations following the end of World War II. They continued rather than cut with earlier models of reform and reformatory education. The author’s original research based on hundreds of children’s case files and interviews with institution leaders, teachers, and people formerly in state care demonstrates that child protection was not only to influence the behavior of children but also to regulate especially lone mothers’ entrance to paid work and their sexuality. Children’s homes both reinforced and changed existing patterns of the gendered division of work.

A major finding of the book is that child protection had a centuries-long common history with the “solution to the Gypsy question” rooted in efforts towards the erasure of the perceived work-shyness of “Gypsies.”

List of Figures

List of tables




Chapter 1. Child protection in early state socialist Hungary
A brief introduction to the historical context: Hungary, 1949–1956
Historical and legal background of child protection in Hungary in the late nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century
Child protection as a “solution to the Gypsy question” in nineteenth and twentieth century Hungary

Chapter 2. “The minor would hinder the mother in finding employment”: Child protection regulating women’s labor force participation
A lack of child care services and “delinquent” children
“The minor would hinder the mother in finding employment”: Child protection as a tool to force unemployed mothers to enter paid work
“As they are Gypsies, they are not employed”: The negative evaluation of Romani motherhood
Parents requesting their children’s institutionalization for the purposes of child care

Chapter 3. “She occupied herself with men”: Child protection regulating the sexual morality of lone mothers and single young women
Concern about women’s sexual morality in early state socialist Hungary
The regulation of lone mothers’ sexuality
The representation of lone mothers in the case files of children in state care
The regulation of Romani women’s sexuality
Regulating the sexuality of single young women

Chapter 4. “Make Them Experience the Good Taste of Productive Work”: Residential Care as an Institution of Education
Reformatory and reform pedagogy: The origins of education for work in residential care education
The continuity of education for work in the curricula and educational practice of residential homes under state socialism
Education for work in the socialist context: reform pedagogical and reformatory traditions
“Make them experience the good taste of productive work”: What education for work meant to child protection professionals during and after socialism
Turning work into a habit
Education for work as education for life: Creating gendered habits
Education for work as a means towards the assimilation of Roma

Chapter 5. “He was three years old but could not speak and had no emotional attachment to anybody”: State care as discourse on Stalinist political terror in socialist Hungary
Emmi Pikler and the history of “Lóczy”
The cases of László Rajk Jr. and Mátyás Donáth
Júlia Rajk and Éva Bozóky’s (re)construction of their children’s institutionalization



Biographical information