Demanding Child Care: Women's Activism and the Politics of Welfare, 1940-1971

Article excerpt

DEMANDING CHILD CARE: WOMEN'S ACTIVISM AND THE POLITICS OF WELFARE, 1940-1971 By Natalie M. Fousekis (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2011, 264 pp., $50.00 cloth)


NATALIE M. FOUSEKIS'S Demanding Child Care: Women's Activism and the Politics of Welfare, 1940-1971 examines the grassroots activism of a racially diverse group of working mothers and early-childhood educators in California. These women uniquely sustained the World War II-initiated, publicly funded child care centers in California, unlike the program terminations in the other forty-eight states.

This political history lays out a fascinating trajectory of child care politics, from its late New Deal establishment to its survival during the Cold War years under the leadership of the California Parents' Association for Child Care (CPACC) and its eventual demise as an unintended consequence of the liberal policies of the War on Poverty.

Fousekis provides more than an institutional history of CPACC. She delineates the shifting child care coalitions of the Council of Industrial Organizations, the Communist Party, the Congress of American Women, and the California League of Women Voters in the early years to the single mothers, early-childhood educators, and powerful male political leaders in the 1950S and 1960s. She highlights the strategies of the activist mothers, who, along with educators, deployed the child care centers as their base of operation. There they furnished potluck dinners and child care services to organize mothers and some fathers for letter-writing campaigns, media blitzes, and voter registration drives.

Fousekis details the activist mothers' most successful strategies of writing letters to newspapers and politicians and testifying before state hearings to tell their personal stories, claim their solidarity with other working women, and define themselves as good mothers for economically supporting their children without taking handouts. …