Regulating the Lives of Women: Social Welfare Policy from Colonial Times to the Present

By Mimi Abramovitz | Go to book overview

10
Aid to Families With Dependent Children

Single Mothers in the Twentieth Century

The 1935 Social Security Act, best known for bringing the idea of social insurance into the American welfare system, also included income-based or "means-tested" public assistance programs for aged and blind adults without means and poor children with absent fathers. The most controversial of these programs--Aid to Dependent Children (ADO)--known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children since 1962, provides financial assistance to indigent women raising children without a male breadwinner. Given the challenges husbandless mothers pose to the rules of both capitalism and patriarchy, the role of the family ethic in ADC was even stricter than in the other Social Security Act programs. To make this "deviant" family approximate the "normal" one, ADC substituted itself for the male breadwinner, judged female-headed households harshly, and subjected them to strict control. Johnnie Tillmon, a welfare mother and a leader of the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO) in the 1960s and early 1970s, described AFDC as

...a supersexist marriage. You trade in "a" man for "die" man. But you can't divorce him if he treats you bad. He can divorce you of course, cut you off anytime he wants. But in that case "he" keeps

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