Marching Past & Present
What Four Parades Reveal About the Future
by Allan C. Carlson
In 1916, the Children's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor, the National Congress of Mothers, and the General Federation of Women's Clubs sponsored National Baby Week, March 4–11. Ten million women and six-and-a-half million preschool children took part in lectures, baby-care seminars, good-natured "Best Mother" contests, and orations celebrating motherhood as a sacred vocation. Most visually, there were "Baby Parades," occurring in 4,300 cities and towns. As one historian (Molly Ladd-Taylor) remarks, "Like military heroes, mothers with infants in arms paraded down Main Street to the applause of flag waving townspeople."
A century or so later, Americans recognize June as "Pride Month." This is a time, President Joe Biden tells us, "to recall the trials [that the] Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community has endured and to rejoice in the triumphs of trailblazing individuals who have bravely fought . . . for full equality." Again most visibly, there are grand parades, this time featuring floats, exotic dancers, drag queens, amplified music, and contingents from the United Church of Christ, the Episcopalians, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Unitarians. These parades occur in over a hundred American cities, drawing huge crowds. Five million persons attended the 2019 New York City march alone; three million in San Francisco; two million in Chicago. Mothers with babies are not invited.
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Allan C. Carlson is the John Howard Distinguished Senior Fellow at the International Organization for the Family. His most recent book is Family Cycles: Strength, Decline & Renewal in American Domestic Life, 1630-2000 (Transaction, 2016). He and his wife have four grown children and nine grandchildren. A "cradle Lutheran," he worships in a congregation of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. He is a senior editor for Touchstone.
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