In the latter part of the 1800's a national reform movement began which was dedicated to women's suffrage. An offshoot of this crusade was the Mothers' and Children's Movement. This movement flourished until the end of the 1920's and was responsible for the passage, mostly at the state level, of a series of policies designed to protect children in the labor force and to support schools, playgrounds, and kindergartens. The backbone of the reform movement was the many social groups and voluntary organizations patronized largely by married women. By creating a moral imperative and a sense of common cause at the state and local level, the women's organizations set the agenda and pressed through a whole series of social policies for children and families in the early 20th century. This was an amazing feat considering that women did not even have the right to vote!
Many people who attended the first annual meeting of the National Playground Association of America, will never forget the long summer day in the large playing field filled during the morning with hundreds of little children romping through the kindergarten games, in the afternoon with the young men and girls contending in athletic sports; and the evening light made gay by the bright colored garments of Italians, Lithuanians, Norwegians, and a dozen other nationalities, reproducing their old dances and festivals for the pleasure of the more stolid Americans. Was this a forecast of what we may yet see accomplished through a dozen agencies promoting public recreation which are springing up in every city of America, as they already are found in the large towns of Scotland and England?
During this same period states began to sponsor recreation legislation. In 1907, New Jersey enacted the first comprehensive piece of legislation creating a playground commission. The commission was to select, purchase and conduct the state's playground sites. Three years later, the Commonwealth of Virginia followed suit becoming one of only fifteen states to enact recreation legislation.