The Child and the State
The really first-rate attention paid to the health of all children in less free societies makes you wonder whether one of our cherished democratic freedoms is the right to maim our own children. When I brought this question to the attention of one of our judges, he said, "That may be the price we have to pay."
-- C. Henry Kempe, 1975584
The study of the origins of mothers' pensions, the early forerunners of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), reveals a welfare program that arose in a manner very different from that presumed by most political theories of the welfare state. We see little evidence, for example, that mothers' pensions arose in reaction to the impersonal advancement of sociological and economic forces, or even out of the bitter battle between the rich and the poor. Instead, we have seen that mothers' pensions arose in an almost haphazard fashion as the last in a series of experiments designed to respond to the dependency created by an earlier public policy decision, the decision to enforce child labor laws.
It appears that the United States' first and later most controversial welfare program flourished in a climate that was hostile to welfare because its motivations lay in the historically prior and more important efforts to raise the family standards of the poor. Ironically we have seen that the middle-class reformers who despised child labor actually caused our first child welfare programs, often in spite of themselves and sometimes in opposition to their own antagonism to public support for widowed mothers.
Appreciating the role of middle-class child labor reformers in the making of the welfare state allows us to create a new vision of what "caused" at least some welfare programs and to rethink our view of the long-term social forces behind this development. In this chapter we will review how