For Crying out Loud: Women's Poverty in the United States

By Diane Dujon; Ann Withorn | Go to book overview

attention to their children when they so choose. For, just as AfricanAmerican women leaders understood then, women suffer if they are forced to endure the workplace without a back-up system tailored to their needs as parents. But, they also must, as the feminist reformers argued, always be able to claim the primacy of their mothering role, to declare their rights to support for their children when they deem that to be best. No matter how the opponents of women might see this dual demand as "having our cake and eating it too," the welfare rights movement of today has taken up the argument, insisting that caring for one's children is legitimate work, which must be valued by society for itself.

Sandy Felder and Nancy Rose explore different dimensions of the work/welfare question. Mmi Abramovitz, Frances Fox Piven, Nancy Fraser and Linda Gordon stretch us to understand the deeper reasons why "dependence" on the state is such a complicated issue in welfare reform debates. Ann Withorn reminds us that the women who work in the welfare state have a role to play also in helping to make the state something that can provide real relief. Noemy Vides and Victoria Steinitz show the critical role that education has come to play as a path out of poverty while women rely on the income welfare affords. All the chapters suggest that single mothers will always be in great jeopardy unless women across many levels can stop fearing dependence and instead come to claim the existence of a "dependable" state as their right.

Finally, the point of this section is to help us remember what welfare is not. Most important, welfare is not and should not be the absolutely worst thing that can happen to a poor woman. Living with a batterer is worse; a job that leaves a woman paralyzed with fear because childcare arrangements are not secure or it does not provide adequate health benefits is worse; being so destabilized from lack of income and bureaucratic harassment that you lose yourself in drugs or prostitution is worse. Indeed, all the authors here assume that welfare has to be seen as a precious right that has been neglected and mismanaged, but is an essential building block for a democratic and secure society.


Notes
1.
Mimi Abramovitz and Ann Withorn once wrote an article together for an anthology that was never published. This summary of welfare history emerged from that article. Who knows what words belong to whom.

-161-

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