Days Gone By - stories from the past

We once had government sponsored daycare for children of all ages in Alabama

Childersburg was a small, mainly rural town of around 500 people in Alabama in the late 1930s. At the time, the town lacked a bank, a hotel, or even a movie theater and vacant houses were rare.


Life changed drastically for Childersburg in 1941 with the advent of World War II, when the town was selected by the federal government as the site for the Alabama Ordnance Works which provided high explosives for the war effort.

Workers had young children

The Ordnance Works  was built by the federal government and Du Pont and over 21,000 people, which included families with children, moved to the town for jobs at the new plant. Many of the workers had young children. Since housing was so inadequate, initially some wartime workers rented beds in shifts.

Childersburg, Alabama. Tomato juice is served to the children at 10 a.m. in the WPA day nursey for defense workers children May 1942 John Collier

Childersburg, Alabama. Tomato juice is served to the children at 10 a.m. in the WPA day nursery for defense workers children May 1942 John Collier (Library of Congress)

Women forced into the Work force

In addition to men, many women were forced to into the work force during the war due to their husbands being drafted and day care was practically non-existent. Children were reported to have been left alone or locked in parking lots while their mothers worked.

Following the Great Depression, the federal government got involved with child care centers through the WPA (Works Progress Administration) in many communities.

Childersburg, Alabama. Children washing in WPA  day nursey for defense workers' children May 1942 (John Collier, LOC)

Childersburg, Alabama. Children washing in WPA day nursery for defense workers’ children May 1942 (John Collier, Library of Congress)

Childersburg, Alabama. Lunch period in the WPA  day nursey for defense workers' children, May 1942 (John Collier, LOC)

Childersburg, Alabama. Lunch period in the WPA  day nursery for defense workers’ children, May 1942 (John Collier, Library of Congress)

Childersburg, Alabama. Rest period in WPA (Works Progress Administation) nursey for defense workers' children, May 1942 (John Collier, LOC)

Childersburg, Alabama. Rest period in WPA (Works Progress Administration) nursery for defense workers’ children, May 1942 (John Collier, Library of Congress)

Childersburg, Alabama. Rest period in WPA (Works Progress Administation) nursey for defense workers' children2 May 1942 (John Collier, LOC)

Childersburg, Alabama. Rest period in WPA (Works Progress Administration) nursery for defense workers’ children May 1942 (John Collier, Library of Congress)

Limited to war impact areas

To meet the needs of communities like Childersburg who were suddenly inundated with a mass of people, Congress passed the Lanham Act to assist them in 1940. “The Lanham Act authorized federal grants and/or loans to public or private agencies for the maintenance and operation of public works, later interpreted by administrative decree to mean child care facilities in war-impacted areas In July 1942, Congress authorized the use of $6 million of the waning WPA appropriation for child care facilities for children of working mothers rather than just mothers on home relief. In war production areas, the WPA centers were thus transformed to meet a new need, and their funding was shifted from WPA to Lanham Act dollars.”1

The centers were limited to “war impact areas”. Before the Lanhan Act, private charities or elite women’s giving groups funded child care to help mostly low-income and unemployed parents as a way to help them find work.

Childersburg, Alabama. WPA  sand box at day nursey for defense workers' children May 1942 (John Collier, LOC)

Childersburg, Alabama. WPA  sand box at day nursery for defense workers’ children May 1942 (John Collier, Library of Congress)

Childersburg, Alabama. WPA (Works Progress Administration) day for nursey for defense workers children2 (John Collier, LOC)

Childersburg, Alabama. WPA (Works Progress Administration) day for nursery for defense workers children (John Collier, Library of Congress)

Childersburg, Alabama. WPA (Works Progress Administration) day nursey for defense workers children May 1942 (John Collier, Library of Congress)

Childersburg, Alabama. WPA (Works Progress Administration) day nursery for defense workers children May 1942 (John Collier, Library of Congress)

Gave wartime stimulus funds to communities

When the Lanham Act was passed, it gave wartime stimulus funds to local communities to build and staff their own child care facilities. The services were open to high-income, low-income, high-education, low-education, married mothers, unmarried mothers, the employed and the unemployed. At first, a flat charge was paid, then 50 cents per day. This was later increased to 75 cents a day.

The Act came was passed because all women were being asked to enter the workplace and mothers had no place to leave their children.

Childersburg, Alabama. WPA (Works Progress Administration) day nursey for defense workers children May 1942 (John Collier, LOC)

Childersburg, Alabama. WPA (Works Progress Administration) day nursery for defense workers children May 1942 (John Collier, Library of Congress)

Childersburg, Alabama. WPA (Works Progress Administration) defense workers child ( May 1942, John Collier, LOC)

Childersburg, Alabama. WPA (Works Progress Administration) defense workers child ( May 1942, John Collier, Library of Congress)

Childersburg, Alabama. WPA sand box day nursey for defense workers children May 1942 (John Collier, Library of Congress)

Childersburg, Alabama. WPA sand box day nursery for defense workers children May 1942 (John Collier, Library of Congress)

Discontinued after the World

It is estimated that 130,000 children were enrolled federally sponsored day care centers in all but one state and in D. C. (New Mexico was the only state not to request child care funding via the Lanham Act. The program was discontinued after World War II.

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Immigrants: Lost & Forgotten Stories includes some lost & forgotten stories of their experiences such as:

  • The Birth of Twickenham
  • Captain Slick – Fact or Fiction
  • Vine & Olive Company
  • The Death of Stooka
  • President Monroe’s Surprise Visit To Huntsville

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Immigrants: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 5)


By (author): Donna R Causey
List Price: $11.77 USD
New From: $11.42 USD In Stock

About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

6 comments

  1. Rick Bozeman

    Just north of Childersburg on Plant Rd. are what looks to be the remnants of that WWII plant in the film. One large building and two old large stacks and you can also tell from the air the parking lot locations.

  2. Clayt James

    Ashley Littrell Childress

  3. Kathy Baldwin

    Meagan and Lauren Oubre

  4. Janey Whitten Sabel

    This site is becoming one of my favorites to read. TY for interesting articles!

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