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Women, the State, and Welfare

Edited by Linda Gordon

Publication Year: 2012

Women, the State, and Welfare is the first collection of essays specifically about women and welfare in the United States.  As an introduction to the effects of welfare programs, it is intended for general readers as well as specialists in sociology, history, political science, social work, and women’s studies.  The book begins with a review essay by Linda Gordon that outlines current scholarship about women and welfare.  The chapters that follow explore discrimination against women inherent in many welfare programs; the ways in which welfare programs reinforce basic gender programs in society; the contribution of organized, activist women to the development of welfare programs; and differences of race and class in the welfare system.  By giving readers access to a number of perspectives about women and welfare, this book helps position gender at the center of welfare scholarship and policy making and places welfare issues at the forefront of feminist thinking and action.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

This anthology began as a joint project with Rosalind Pollack Petchesky. At a very early stage, when we had only just begun to discuss what might be included, she had to leave me alone with the project because of her new and very demanding job. I am keenly aware that the benefit of her intellectual rigor and knowledge, combined with the mutual...


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xiv

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Introduction: How to Read This Book

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pp. 3-8

This book collects, for the first time under one cover, a group of the best essays about women and the United States welfare state, chosen to offer different disciplinary and theoretical perspectives. It aims also to encourage scholarship on this topic through an interdisciplinary...

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1. The New Feminist Scholarship on the Welfare State

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pp. 9-35

If the state were a family, it would be assumed that welfare is a woman's affair. Even in families with shared domestic responsibilities, women are in charge of the welfare of family members. In fact, in the actual, nonfamily state, women constitute most of the recipients and providers...

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2. The Gender Basis of American Social Policy

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pp. 36-54

During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, women- thousands of them -became increasingly organized and active in the attempt to promote the general welfare, especially by helping the most vulnerable members of society. As individual leaders and as group participants...

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3. The Domestication of Politics: Women and American Political Society, 1780- 1920

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pp. 55-91

On one subject all of the nineteenth-century antisuffragists and many suffragists agreed: a woman belonged in the home. From this domain, as wife, as daughter, and especially as mother, she exercised moral influence and insured national virtue and social order. Woman was selfless and sentimental...

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4. The Lady and the Tramp: Gender, Race, and the Origins of the American Welfare State

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pp. 92-122

Classic theories of the rise of welfare states take European experience as the model and class dynamics as the mainspring for social provision. Different theories weigh differently the causal role of capital, labor, and the state in bringing political attention to the social welfare...

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5. The Origins of the Two-Channel Welfare State: Workmen's Compensation and Mothers' Aid

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pp. 123-151

The last decade has seen an outpouring of research on state formation 1 and more recently on the connection between state formation generally and the specifics of the creation of the welfare state in industrial democracies. The recent work on welfare state formation...

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6. Representations of Gender: Policies to "Protect" Women Workers and Infants in France and the United States before 1914

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pp. 152-177

At the end of the nineteenth century both France and the United States experienced a fundamental restructuring of economic relations. France was finally industrializing, at the same time as the long depression of 1873-95. The United States was beginning to overtake Britain...

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7. Family Violence, Feminism, and Social Control

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pp. 178-198

In studying the history of family violence, I found myself also confronting the issue of social control, incarnated in the charitable "friendly visitors" and later professional child protection workers who composed the case records I was reading...

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8. Struggle Over Needs: Outline of a Socialist-Feminist Critical Theory of Late-Capitalist Political Culture

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pp. 199-225

In late-capitalist, welfare state societies, talk about people's needs is an important species of political discourse. We argue, in the United States, for example, about whether the government should provide for citizens' needs. Thus, feminists claim that there should...

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9. The Dialectic of Rights and Politics: Perspectives from the Women's Movement

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pp. 226-249

The nature of legal rights has long been a subject of interest to legal scholars and activists .1 Recently, dialogue on the issue has intensified, provoked by numerous critiques of liberal rights, particularly by Critical Legal Studies (CLS) scholars...

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10. Ideology and the State: Women, Power, and the Welfare State

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pp. 250-264

Much of the feminist literature of the last few years evinces an almost categorical antipathy to the state. Among socialist feminists, the antipathy is signaled by the use of such terms...

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11. Welfare Is Not/or Women: Why the War on Poverty Cannot Conquer the Feminization of Poverty

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pp. 265-279

The "other America" described two decades ago by Michael Harrington I is a changing neighborhood: men are moving out, while women, many with children, are moving in. As a result, the War on Poverty that grew out of the concern aroused by Harrington and others was built on images and assumptions about the poor that were then, and are even more...

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12. Black Women and AFDC: Making Entitlement Out of Necessity

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pp. 280-300

During the 1980s, a broad public consensus developed around the idea that "welfare dependency" was a social problem, that this social problem was concentrated among blacks, and that the "disintegration of the black family" was a matter for urgent public concern...


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pp. 301-311

E-ISBN-13: 9780299126636
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299126643

Page Count: 311
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Public welfare -- United States -- History.
  • Poor women -- United States -- History.
  • United States -- Social policy.
  • Feminism -- United States.
  • Women -- Political activity -- United States.
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