Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Vincent J. Cannato

Second Advisor

Roberta Wollons

Third Advisor

Timothy Hasci


The Right to Play is focused on the development of playgrounds in America at the end of the 19th century. This overall development is shown through a focus on Boston, the city that instituted the first playground in the country and mirrors the similar rise of playgrounds in other cities. Throughout the 1800s children in cities played in the streets or any abandoned lot they could find. However, parents wanted what they believed to be a safer and healthier environment for their children to play. Along with this, reformers believed that these mostly immigrant and poor children were in need of saving, both physically and morally. Because of this, they began philanthropic efforts to establish play spaces were children could exercise freely, and also be taught the “proper” way of play. Beginning in 1885 with a small sand garden, these efforts led to the establishment of playgrounds and play advocacy groups across the country. In Boston, the playground movement grew so popular as to necessitate its abortion and financial support by local governments with the passing of the 1907 Playground Act.