Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Education

First Advisor

Rubén Donato

Second Advisor

Fred Anderson

Third Advisor

Ken Howe

Abstract

Between 1900 and 1915, the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company was one of the largest corporations in the United States, employing thousands of miners and steelworkers in southern Colorado and adjoining states. Company workers and their families lived in poverty and worked under dangerous conditions in closed company mining camps, and were dependent on the company for their livelihood. The vast majority of the coal miners and their families living in these company coal camps were either recently-arrived immigrants from southern and eastern Europe or Hispanos, a segment of the Mexican population living in southern Colorado for generations. In 1901, company officials, in response to some of the progressive social ideas of the time as well as periodic labor unrest, sought to improve the living conditions in the camps to insure labor stability while insuring maximum industrial control over their workers. Adapting some of the ideas of progressive reformers and welfare capitalists of the era, the company initiated a number of educational programs through the work of the company's Sociological Department. The Department built schools, provided educational funding, hired and trained teachers, standardized the school curriculum, provided resources and instructional materials, and sponsored kindergarten and domestic science educational programs in the coal camps and communities in southern Colorado. But this came at a cost, since these educational programs were designed in part to assimilate and acculturate immigrant and Hispano children and their parents and to insure social efficiency by preparing children for their stratified roles in an industrial society. Ironically, the educational programs implemented through the Department resulted in an increased measure of access to schooling, without regard to race or ethnicity, as well as social commonality for children and their families. This, in turn, resulted in an increased level of autonomy and class solidarity. Through education, the children and families of the workers forged new social communities and gained new economic and political power.

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