Is good parenting a natural instinct, or something that is learned? It’s probably a bit of both, and in 1911 the Mothers Congress sought to train mothers in good parenting practices. They wanted to cut rates of infant mortality, and reduce the number of kids who grow up to be criminals.
I had a talk with Mrs. Frederic Schoff, who… is perhaps, best qualified to speak [about parenting] for she is President of the Mothers Congress, a body of industriously thinking women who have turned their industry of thought especially upon this subject of the possibilities of motherhood carried to their utmost.
“Child welfare,” said Mrs. Schoff enthusiastically. “It is man and woman welfare; it is nation welfare, really. Let me tell you what trained motherhood can do.”
“I thought motherhood,” I interrupted, “was instinctive. I thought it alone, of all things, needed no training. I supposed it came quite naturally to the woman, as it comes to animals. Mother love! That certainly does not need training, and the mother who loves her children will take care of them, won’t she?”
“You are like the vast majority of men,” she answered. “You yourselves known nothing thoroughly through instinct. You expect far more of us than of ourselves. You wouldn’t trust your fancy dogs to untrained care, no matter how devotedly your groom loved dogs, et you would trust your children, and have the world intrust its children, to unskilled hands because their touch was loving, to ignorant brains because they were affectionate. That this, since time began, has been the way, is one of the great handicaps beneath which humanity has staggered. That things are bettering now is scarcely to your credit — they should have bettered long ago.
BABIES SACRIFICED TO THE IGNORANCE OF MOTHERS: Mrs. Frederic Scholl, President of the Mothers’ Congress, Laments the Lack of Preparation for Parenthood, and Says Infant Mortality Can Only Be Checked. (PDF)
From April 23, 1911