A Little History

After the more liberal 1960s, the U.S. started becoming more conservative again.  However, many of the social changes that started or were promoted in the 1960s and earlier decades stuck.  People maintained an interest in environmentalism and promoted the idea among their children.  Segregation was illegal, and children in the 1970s attended schools with far more diversity than their parents had.  People were still concerned about career opportunities for women.  Although the U.S. did not have a female president, other countries around the world did have female leaders, including Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom and Isabel Martinez de Peron of Argentina.

The decade was far from peaceful in spite of the persisting anti-war attitudes of many people.  The anti-communist sentiments of the on-going Cold War had led the nation into the Vietnam War with troop already being sent during the 1960s.  Anti-war demonstrations continued into the 1970s along with the fighting.  Many of the soldiers who went overseas did so only because they were drafted.  When the war ended and the last of the surviving soldiers returned home in 1973, many of them met with (undeserved, especially for those who had not gone by choice) scorn from members of the public for taking part in the bloody conflict, leaving the former soldiers with little or no sense of accomplishment or appreciation for the hardships they had endured.  For many, it felt like it had all been a waste.

People also became increasingly distrustful of politicians because of political scandals such as Watergate.  President Nixon resigned in order avoid impeachment.

The voting age in the United States was lowered from 21 to 18 in 1971 because 18 was also the minimum draft age, and people argued that anyone considered old enough to die for their country should also be considered old enough to help choose its leaders.

The United States celebrated its Bicentennial in 1976.

In children’s literature, books for older children were showing an increasing tendency to tackle difficult topics which had been taboo in earlier decades, such as divorce, single parents, puberty, racism, and drug use.  Such books were (and still are) frequently challenged and banned in school libraries, but the number of books on topics like this increased during the following decades.

Fiction Books

General Fiction

The Adventures of the Red Tape Gang

A group of neighborhood friends form a club to right the wrongs of their neighborhood.

The Secret Summer

A brother and sister run away from their harsh baby-sitter to spend the summer secretly at the lake.  By Ruth Chew.

Susan’s Magic

A purchase at a rummage sale starts a series of events that lead Susan to be involved with a stray cat and the owner of an antiques store who needs help.  Susan’s involvement helps make things better for everyone, although Susan has to make some sacrifices in the process.  In return, she makes new friends, earns their respect, develops a new sense of identity, and makes peace with her parents’ divorce.  By Nan Agle.

Series

Betsy and Eddie Books

The everyday adventures of a group of neighborhood children. By Carolyn Haywood. 1939-1986.

Ginnie and Geneva Series

When shy Ginnie moves to town, she makes friends with the more outgoing Geneva, and the two girls have adventures together.  By Catherine Woolley.  1948-1973.

Humor

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Herdmans are the worst kids in town!  They’re bullies and thieves, and chaos follows them wherever they go.  What will happen when they decide that they want to be in this year’s Christmas pageant?  By Barbara Robinson.

Series

MacDonald Hall Series

Also called the Bruno and Boots series.  Bruno and Boots are a pair of pranksters at a boarding school in Canada.  By Gordon Korman. 1978-1995.

Wayside School Series

Short funny stories about a school that was accidentally built sideways.  Nothing normal ever happens at Wayside School!  By Louis Sachar. 1978-1995.

Mystery

Basil and the Pygmy Cats

Basil’s arch enemy, Professor Ratigan, has taken over the Asian country of Bengistan, near India.  Basil journeys there to rescue the rightful ruler and also undertakes a mission to locate a mythical species of mouse-sized cats.

The Ghost that Came Alive

Siblings who are making a car trip home without their parents become trapped by a storm at an old house full of sinister people and a possible ghost.  By Vic Crume.

The Mystery at Fire Island

A girl and her brother investigate a mysterious man near their family’s summer home.

The Mystery Hideout

Two boys solve the mystery of a gang of thieves and save one boy’s home from destruction.  By Ken Follett.

The Mystery in Dracula’s Castle

A boy who idolizes Sherlock Holmes agrees to help his brother with his Dracula movie over the summer and ends up finding a mystery to solve.  This is the novelization of a Disney movie.

The Talking Table Mystery

A pair of friends discover a strange table in the basement of an aunt that once belonged to a medium who gave seances at the house.  Now, someone is trying to get the diaries that were left with the table.

The Treasure of Kilvarra

A couple of American children visiting Ireland seek a hidden treasure with the help of a gypsy boy and learn a little about Irish history and legend.  By Elizabeth Baldwin Hazelton.

The Westing Game

A group of strangers who have recently moved into a new apartment building discover that they are the heirs of a reclusive millionaire but have to solve a puzzle in order to claim the inheritance.  By Ellen Raskin.

Series

Hardy Boys Mysteries

Two brothers, Frank and Joe Hardy, solve mysteries in their East Coast town of Bayport and around the world. By Franklin W. Dixon, A Stratemeyer Syndicate series. 1927-Present.

Liza, Bill, and Jed Mysteries

About three siblings who solve mysteries together.  Many of them are treasure hunts, and many of them are set by family members.  By Peggy Parish. 1966-1986.

Mary Rose and Jo-Beth Mysteries

About a pair of sisters who live in Indiana and have adventures on road trips with their father. Written by Eth Clifford. 1979-1993.

Meg Duncan Mysteries

Meg and her best friend Kerry solve mysteries in their small Virginia town and other places along the east coast.  By Holly Beth Walker. 1967-1972, Reprinted 1978.

Nancy Drew Mysteries

Nancy Drew encounters and solves mysteries with her friends in her hometown of River Heights and around the world. By Carolyn Keene, A Stratemeyer Syndicate series. 1930-Present.

Something Queer Mysteries

“Queer” as in strange, weird, mysterious.  No other sense of the word!  Two friends, Gwen and Jill, solve mysteries with the help of Jill’s dog, Fletcher, who loves salami.   By Elizabeth Levy. 1973-2003.

Stanley Family Mysteries

The Stanleys are a blended family, and the children solve mysteries, sometimes with a spooky theme.  By Zilpha Keatley Snyder. 1971-1989.

Trixie Belden

A classic mystery series featuring a girl and her group of friends who solve mysteries and support good causes.  Created by Julie Campbell and continued by other authors. 1948-1986.

Fantasy

Historical Fiction

All The Children Were Sent Away

An English girl whose parents are sending her to stay with relatives in Canada during World War II has to make the journey by boat with a stern guardian. By Sheila Garrigue.

The Great and Terrible Quest

This story takes place in a fictional kingdom during the Middle Ages.  10-year-old Trad is an orphan who lives with his wicked grandfather who is part of a gang of bandits.  He helps a mysterious stranger with amnesia, a victim of his grandfather and his friends, who only remembers that he is on a great and terrible quest.

Journey to America

A Jewish girl and her family flee Germany during World War II.

The Master Puppeteer

A boy in feudal Japan joins a puppet theater and makes startling discoveries about a local folk hero. By Katherine Paterson.

Mystery of the Roman Ransom

The sequel to Detectives in Togas. A group of boys in Ancient Rome attempt to stop an assassination plot that threatens one of their fathers.  By Henry Winterfeld.

The Secret of the Strawbridge Place

The story takes place in during the Great Depression when Kate learns a secret about her family’s home that dates back to the Civil War.  By Helen Pierce Jacob.

Series

Grandma’s Attic Series

A granddaughter passes on stories that her grandmother told her about growing up on a farm in Michigan during the 1800s.  The stories often have a Christian moral.  By Arleta Richardson. 1974-1991.

Picture Books

Ginger’s Upstairs Pet

A little girl claims that she has a strange new pet, but her mother doesn’t believe her until she sees it for herself.

Jenny, the Halloween Spy

One Halloween, Jenny goes to visit Nancy, a woman who local people say is a witch, and discovers that she has a way to see fairies.  When the fairies discover that Jenny can now see them too, they decide to give her the biggest Halloween scare of her life.

Series

Cranberry Books

Maggie, her grandmother, and Mr. Whiskers the sailor have adventures in the small town of Cranberryport.  By Wende and Harry Devlin. 1971-1995.

Gus the Ghost Series

Gus is a friendly ghost who lives in an old house that has been turned into a museum along with his friends, a mouse, a cat, and Mr. Frizzle, who manages the museum.  By Jane Thayer. 1962-1989.

Old Black Witch Series

A witch who haunts an old house is horrified when someone buys it to turn it into a tearoom, but they end up becoming friends.  By Wende and Harry Devlin. 1963-1972.

Strega Nona Series

Strega Nona is a witch in a small town. Big Anthony is an assistant that she hired to help her with chores but sometimes messes up because he doesn’t know what he’s doing or doesn’t listen to what Strega Nona says. 1975-2013.

Non-Fiction

Going to School in 1776

This book was about schools and subjects that children would study around the beginning of the American Revolution.  It also talks about apprenticeships and other types of education and what it was like to grow up in Colonial America. By John J. Loeper.

Interesting Facts

Children born in this decade in the United States:

None of them would remember a time before space flight or before human beings had walked on the moon.  They would be old enough to have memories of the Challenger disaster of 1986, although some of the youngest ones may not have fully understood what was happening at the time.

Would be old enough to understand and remember the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s.  Everyone born from 1972 and onward were legally children at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall in late 1989, age 17 and younger.  Those born in 1979 would only have been about 10 years old.

In their early years, especially for those born later in the decade, they would be taught in school to beware of strangers and made aware of the existence of dangerous individuals around them.  There were stories of Halloween sadism during both the 1970s and 1980s, and their teachers and parents carefully taught them never to accept unwrapped Halloween treats or any food from anyone they didn’t know.

They were among the first to start using the Internet and e-mail while still in school, although Internet use was getting popular around the time that many of them were finishing their education, and there were not yet many sources of information available online that they could use when writing their school reports.

They were among the first to have video games that they could play at home as well as ones in public video arcades.

Home tv was pretty much a given when they were kids, and almost all of it was in color. VCRs also came into vogue when they were young. Some of their parents rented their first VCRs from video stores rather than owning them themselves.  Those who didn’t have VCRs of their own just watched their favorite shows when they were on tv, at the time they aired, and if they missed them, they simply missed them.  This was a simple fact of life that would change significantly later, almost unknown by their children.

Throughout their lives, they would become comfortable with a variety of new technologies, seeing rapid technological changes such as:

  • from cassette tapes to cds to music purchased electronically with no physical copies
  • from vhs tapes to dvds to movies and television streamed online
  • from floppy disks of various sizes to cds of computer games and software to downloads and updates for computer programs managed entirely through the Internet
  • from corded phones to cordless phones to cell phones to smart phones that do far more than just make phone calls

Their children would be even more comfortable with technology than they are, having grown up with forms that their parents wouldn’t have had during their earliest years.  They would also be among the first to post pictures of their children online, starting when those children were babies.

All of them would have been old enough to understand and remember the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.  Most them would have finished their education by that point, and those who were still in school would have been in college.

Those were already adults around the turn of the new millennium.  The youngest among them were college age.  Many of the older ones had young children of their own at the time.

As adults, everyone born in this decade would be old enough to understand the events of September 11, 2001 at the time it happened and remember them forever after.

None of them would have lived during a time when schools were segregated.  Racial makeup of churches and other religious institutions would vary by religion and region.  None of them would live during a time when there were separate bathrooms or drinking fountains for different races in the United States or when people of different races weren’t allowed into certain restaurants or other public places.  Almost all (with a few odd exceptions) 1970s children would find such concepts repulsive later in life.

Other Resources

For more about 1970s culture:

16 Things Only People Who Grew Up in the ’70s Will Remember

About 1970s fashions and fads.

The 1970s

General information about events of the decade.

The 1970s: American Pop Culture History

Stats, major events, and culture.

1970s – Wikipedia

Major events around the world.

The People History — 1970s

Major events, timeline, stats, fashion, and trends.

Retrowaste — 1970s

Entertainment, fashion, trends, and statistics.

Lists of 1970s children’s books on other sites:

1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up: 1970s

1970s children’s books

Classic Children’s Books By The Decade: 1970s

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