Spanking by the book

Maman Special Report

Books offering advice on raising good, happy children have never exactly been in short supply – but two slim American volumes from the 1920s and 30s stand out starkly, not only for being firm advocates of spanking but also for going into great detail as to just how such discipline should be administered.

The first of these books is Correction That Corrects by Mariam Fredrick, currently being serialised to a whole new audience in our Red Bottom Club. This was published in 1925 by the intriguingly-named Child Interest Co of Los Angeles.

Fredrick’s book draws extensively on her apparent experience as a governess and sometime freelance adviser to young mothers, and perhaps as a mother herself (although the latter is less clear).

The book itself is somewhat didactic, drawing rather finessed distinctions between ‘spanking’ (which she advocates), ‘whipping’, ‘switching’ and ‘beating’ (all of which she does not).

Fredrick also mainly addresses problems concerning ‘babies and young children’. We can take it, I presume, that ‘babies’ in this case means toddlers and pre-schoolers, maybe two and up, rather than babes in arms. She doesn’t appear to advocate spanking much in the case of older children, those who have reached the ‘age of reason’, which is interesting, as many pro-spankers might argue this is exactly the age to start using corporal punishment.

But did anyone ever read Fredrick’s carefully argued treatise? There seems to be good evidence that they did not, and the evidence is within the book which can be viewed as its natural successor, Back To Common Sense by Beatrice Reinhart.

Back To Common Sense saw the light of day in 1937, published by Daniel Ryerson of New York City. Reinhart’s book is obviously heavily influenced by Fredrick’s, which she apparently came across during the preparation of her own manuscript.

Reinhart explains in an introductory note: “Investigation showed that owing to financial reverses the work never circulated beyond the author’s edition, less than one hundred copies.

“A young woman highly interested in child welfare bought the copyright with the intention of revising the volume in question. However, not having had an extensive experience in the field of child training, she felt that it would be unfair to attempt a revision of a work from an author who had a wide experience of a most practical nature.

“Knowing that I was practicing and intended to write on a form of correction advocated in aforesaid work, she who had bought the copyright generously surrendered all legal rights to me.”

There are marked differences between the two authors’ approaches. Reinhart, for example, seems to have little time for differentiating between ‘spanking’ and other terminology. For her, corporal punishment is corporal punishment. And while Fredrick advises the use of mother’s hand only to administer the latter, Reinhart is relaxed enough to suggest that a spanking paddle might reasonably used on occasion. Indeed, at one point she advises that there should be a paddle available in all homes where there are young children.

One striking similarity, however, is the books’ advice on what both authors refer to as ‘the method’; in other words, the manner in which the spanking should be administered.

Correction That Corrects features an illustration of a little girl over her mother’s knee, receiving a spanking. As per Fredrick’s instruction, the girl’s bottom is bare (she is wearing what appears to be a drop-seat onesie), and mother’s hand is raised, ready to strike.

The woman is sitting on what appears to be an L-shaped seat, with her little girl’s body mostly supported by her lap but her head down on a cushion at the bottom of the ‘L’. All this is set out in a note accompanying the illustration, which notes the following ‘important details’:

  • Spanking seat L shaped; part on which woman is seated six or eight inches lower than part on which child’s head and arms are to rest.
  • Woman’s lap presenting a level (not slanting) position.
  • Child’s buttock entirely bare.
  • Position of buttock, slightly slanting across woman’s knee.
  • Child’s head and arms resting on high part of seat.
  • Child’s body held close to woman.
  • Woman’s left hand on child’s back, just below the shoulders.
  • Arm, not wrist movement, in spanking.
  • Face of woman indicates calmness, but determination. Full conviction of duty.

What is intriguing is that more than a decade on, Back To Common Sense features exactly the same information, only the illustration has become a photograph.

A girl (somewhat older than that featured in the Fredrick book, judging by the size of her bottom) lies across her mother’s knee, dress up and knickers down, ready to be spanked, her face in her hands. A note accompanying the illustration explains that the mother is a friend of Reinhart’s who uses her ‘method’ and the child is ‘well accustomed’ to this form of correction.

The picture here is a crop of the original image, the only one I have available. What is remarkable is that the furniture in use (which cannot be seen here) is so similar to that featured in the earlier illustration. It appears to be an adapted ‘telephone table’, with a pillow or cushion. The picture is presumably posed, as it all looks far to calm for mother to be actually administering a spanking at the time.

It’s interesting to note that the mother in the photograph is following Reinhart’s advice to spank with the fingers held loose and apart. In my own spanking experiences (between consenting adults), I have found that this strategy both lessens the sting in the spanker’s own hand but increases the sting on the recipient’s bottom, as the impact of the hand is then closer to a whip than a paddle, say.

So, what became of the Reinhart book? It’s difficult to speculate, as unlike the Fredrick book, we don’t have anyone’s later insight into its fate. However, it’s probably fair to guess that it found a limited market. Both Correction That Corrects and Back To Common Sense are arguably vanity publishing projects, though I’ve not been able to find any information about either publisher to support that supposition.

What we can say is there is no evidence of either book being reprinted at any time, and their shared status with rocking horse shit in terms of rarity would suggest that neither exactly flew off the shelves!

The serialisation of the full text Correction That Corrects continues in the Red Bottom Club, while I shall make available here in the free section the very limited content I have available from Back To Common Sense. If anyone has access to the entire second book, whether physically or just as scanned images, please email me on

Contributor: Warmbotty

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