Alice Miel, a nationally prominent curriculum development scholar-practitioner at Teachers College of Columbia University for some three decades (1942-1971), frequently has been overlooked in research on the nature and evolution of the curriculum field and the progressive education movement. Furthermore, her contributions have been overlooked even as attention to women in the curriculum field and in educational history has risen. This study addresses this oversight.

Miel became a leading figure in the curriculum field largely on the basis of her progressive-era advocacy and practice of democratic social learning as a primary goal of schooling in the United States. This study explores major influences on her ideas, her understandings of democratic concepts and principles, and her application of these concepts and principles both in her own college classroom and in her research on childhood education. It also explores Miel's notions of the elementary school social studies :urriculum and situates those notions within the context of the "conventional wisdom" of her day regarding a discipline-centered curriculum.

In a broader context, this study contributes to the body of curriculum history scholarship. According to Kliebard (1992), for example, curriculum history often deals with the relationship between social change and changing ideas and contains significant social and cultural artifacts of knowledge that have become embodied in the curriculum of schools. Davis (1976, 1977) characterizes curriculum history as a reflective enterprise for curriculum workers that contributes to their understanding of present courses of study and of the professional field by lending a framework for thoughtful deliberation of what the schools should teach. With these observations in mind, Miel's work may be understood as both "artifact" of curriculum history and as mindful reflection, situated within a particular social and historical context, on democratic meanings and processes. Biographies of Caswell, Taba, Tyler, Schwab, Kilpatrick, Rugg, Bobbitt, Zirbes, Stratemeyer, and others have yielded significant insights. In addition, Seguel's study of early curriculum leaders (1966) constitutes an important theoretical contribution to the field. The study of Miel's life and work adds to this body of knowledge.