Minnesota's Greatest Generation

Carolyn Johnson Frederick: "I Credit Dr. Spock"

Young mothers of the post-war years found answers to their parenting questions in Dr. Benjamin Spock's groundbreaking book, The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care (1946). Carolyn Johnson Frederick remembered raising her three children "by the book", and made notations in her copy, adding her own experiences and thoughts. She shared her story in a 2008 oral history interview with Linda Cameron.

Oral History Excerpts

LC: When you were raising your kids and starting out as a new mom, did you refer to things like Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care book?

CF: Oh, every page, I knew every page.

LC: Every page? Really?

CF: He always agreed with me – or changed my mind!

LC: Was that pretty common among your friends, too? You used that as kind of a "bible" for raising your kids...?

CF: I think so. If he said so then it was gospel. I'm not sure now if my friends and I gave credit to Dr. Spock. We probably acted as if we knew all the answers. ...I still have that Dr. Spock book. Of course the cover is ill and some of the pages are loose, but I can look at that today and feel like it still applies. ...I think it is full of good suggestions.

LC: Down to earth and common sense?

CF: Absolutely, and I wish today was more like that. I think the world would be better. [I know I was very strict – maybe a little too strict.]

LC: There’s so much talk about the baby boom and how children were sort of pampered and they had lots of toys and they had lots of stuff. Was it true of your kids, too, when they were pretty little?

CF: They did have a lot of stuff because Don had two aunts in Albert Lea who did not have children, and his mother was also very generous. She lived here. We were living in Iowa at the time. They did give our kids lots of things, lots of toys or clothes – they’d see something that they’d think, "Oh boy, look at that. I’ve got to buy that for Linda." They did buy the kids a lot of clothes. I don’t think they looked at it as need, they just thought it was fun because kids clothes were cute.

LC: Something they could do for the kids, too.

CF: So I feel like our kids had more than they needed. We were grateful. I wonder if we realized how lucky we were. Especially financially.

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Carolyn Johnson Frederick Oral History Interview, 2008