Women in the American Welfare Trap

By Catherine Pélissier Kingfisher | Go to book overview

Chapter 8
Further Productions: Attitudes and Policy

All of the workers in the Kenyon County welfare office had difficulties with management, work loads, and clients. They all participated in constructing deserving and (mostly) undeserving clients. There were, however, two distinct worker cultures in the office which workers distinguished as "Pollyannas" and "Blues Boulevard." These two cultures represented opposing approaches to what all workers saw, for one reason or another, as an unsatisfactory and disempowered situation. From the perspective of upper management, the Pollyannas and Blues Boulevard reflected "positive" and "negative" attitudes, the one being productive, the other unproductive and self-defeating. The key difference between the groups was that, while the Pollyannas tried to look on the bright side of things, the members of Blues Boulevard were more inclined to voice discontent rather than acquiescence or resignation. Each group looked with scorn on their opposite, the members of which, it was felt, suffered, on the one hand, from a delusional cheerfulness, and, on the other, from pessimism and irresponsibility. Only two workers, Gilda White and Debbie Brown, remained unaligned.


The Pollyannas

The Pollyanna culture had eight members: Harriet Eaton, Karrie Holmes, Sherry Nelson, Valerie Wood, Nora Ryan, Edith Saunders, Emma Nichols, and Colleen O'Connell. Unlike the members of Blues Boulevard, the Pollyannas did not consider themselves a group; indeed, the label "Pollyanna" was not self-chosen but rather was externally imposed by the Blues Boulevard workers. The Pollyannas did claim, however, that they were individuals with "positive" attitudes, who did their best to keep up with what everybody recognized as a "formidable" work-

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Women in the American Welfare Trap
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Chapter 1 - Producing the World in Everyday Talk 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Welfare Trap I: Recipients 16
  • Chapter 3 - A Tenuous Advocacy 43
  • Chapter 4 - Us 56
  • Chapter 5 - Them 72
  • Chapter 6 - The Welfare Trap II: Workers 82
  • Chapter 7 - Good and (Mostly) Bad Clients 98
  • Chapter 8 - Further Productions: Attitudes and Policy 117
  • Chapter 9 - Trapped as They Are 131
  • Chapter 10 - Conclusions 157
  • Appendix A: Transcripts 163
  • Appendix B 189
  • Bibliography 195
  • Index 203
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