SJ Logo
A Journal of Crime, Conflict & World Order
Social Justice Vol. 25, No. 1 (1998)

Introduction to Disdained Mothers and Despised Others:
The Politics and Impact of Welfare Reform

Gwendolyn Mink

Over 95% of adult welfare recipients are women. This is not surprising, since women are usually the caregivers in their families. What is surprising is that during two years of formal legislative debate about ending welfare, the adverse consequences of such a decision for poor women were scarcely mentioned. Even in liberal circles, where tears flowed prodigiously for poor children, few rued the effects of punitive welfare provisions on poor women.

To be sure, the leaders of many women's and feminist organizations (ranging from the American Association for University Women to the National Organization for Women) did oppose punitive welfare reform -- calling press conferences, holding vigils, and even engaging in dramatic acts of civil disobedience. Yet the millions of women who have made feminism a movement did not rally around their leaders' cause. The Personal Responsibility Act is the most aggressive invasion of women's rights in this century, and most feminists did little to resist it. Many feminists actually endorsed the new law's core principles -- namely, that poor single mothers should move from welfare to work and into financial relationships with their children's fathers.

Such feminists collaborated with welfare reformers -- either by their silence or in their deeds. Mainly middle class and white, many with ties to the organized women's movement, and some with high electoral positions, these feminists often speak for all of feminism. When mobilized, they can wield impressive political clout -- enough to inspire an otherwise wishy-washy President Clinton to hang tough on such knotty issues as late-term abortion, for example. Resilient and resourceful, these feminists have campaigned vigorously over the years -- for women candidates, against the Hyde Amendment, and for the Violence Against Women Act. They have worked aggressively for women's rights and gender justice, even when the odds for success have been poor. When it came to welfare, however, they sat on their hands. Ignoring appeals from sister feminists and welfare rights activists to defend "welfare as a women's issue" and to oppose "the war against poor women" as if it were "a war against all women," many even entered the war on the anti-welfare side.2

Some examples are: on Capitol Hill, all white women in the U.S. Senate -- including four Democratic women who call themselves feminists -- voted for the new welfare law when it first came to the Senate floor in the summer of 1995. In the House of Representatives in 1996, 26 of 31 Democratic women, all of whom call themselves feminists, voted for a Democratic welfare bill that would have stripped recipients of their entitlement to welfare.3 Meanwhile, across the country, a NOW-Legal Defense and Education Fund appeal for contributions to support an economic justice litigator aroused so much hate mail that NOW-LDEF stopped doing direct mail on the welfare issue (Kornbluh, 1996: 25).

Feminist members of Congress did not write the Personal Responsibility Act, of course. Neither did members of the National Organization for Women or contributors to Emily's List comprise the driving force behind the most brutal provisions of the new welfare law. My claim is not that feminists were uniquely responsible for how welfare has been reformed. My point is that they were uniquely positioned to make a difference. They have made a difference in many arenas across the years, even during inauspicious Republican presidencies -- overturning judicial evisceration of Title IX (in the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988), for example, and winning damage rights for women in discrimination claims under Title VII (in the Civil Rights Act of 1991). They certainly could have made a difference when a friendly Democratic president began casting about for ways to reform welfare in 1993; although they could not have changed Republican intentions in the 104th Congress, they surely could have pressured the Democrat they helped elect to the White House to veto the Republican bill.

Welfare reform did not directly bear on the lives of most feminists, though, and did not directly implicate their rights. The new welfare law did not threaten middle-class feminists' reproductive choices, their sexual privacy, their right to raise their own children, or their occupational freedom. So they did not raise their voices as they would have if, say, abortion rights had been at stake. Solipsism induced silence among many feminists, giving permission to policymakers to treat punitive welfare reform as a no-lose situation.

Silence among feminists was not the only problem, however. Even while feminists remained silent about the effects of new welfare provisions on poor women's rights, they were quite vocal about the need to reform welfare so as to improve the personal and family choices poor single mothers make. Many feminists did, indeed, see that welfare is a women's issue -- because almost all adult recipients are mothers. Yet they also viewed welfare as an issue for feminism: as a social policy that has promoted the dependency of single mothers on government rather than independence in the labor market; that has discouraged poor women from practicing fertility control, which in turn has compensated for the sexual and paternal irresponsibility of individual men.

Without a doubt, welfare never has been a feminist policy. Its goal never has been to enhance women's independence or to honor women's choices. Benefits always have been conditional and stigmatized, forcing poor mothers to conform to government rules and to suffer suspicion that they cheat on those rules. Though critiques of state patriarchy are common among academic feminists, I don't think they are what lay behind most feminists' reservations about defending poor women's entitlement to welfare.

During the welfare debate, most feminists focused on the deficiencies of welfare mothers, rather than on the deficiencies of the welfare system. They trafficked in the tropes of "illegitimacy," "pathology," "dependency," and "irresponsibility," much as did conservative male politicians in both parties. Kinder and gentler than the men who repealed welfare, however, they viewed mothers who need welfare as mothers who need feminism, not punishment. They saw welfare mothers as victims -- of patriarchy, maybe of racism, or possibly of false consciousness. However, they didn't see welfare mothers as agents of their own lives -- as women who are entitled to and capable of making independent and honorable choices about what kind of work they will do and how many children they will have and whether they will marry. If anything, many feminists agreed with conservatives that welfare mothers do not make good choices.

Feminist reservations about welfare mothers' choices strengthened the bipartisan consensus that there is something wrong with mothers who need welfare and that cash assistance should require their reform. The two pillars of the new welfare law -- work and marriage -- were born from this consensus. The harshness of the law's work requirements and the brutality of its sanctions against nonmarital childrearing may be Republican and patriarchal in execution. But the law's emphasis on women's labor market participation and on men's participation in families were Democratic and feminist in inspiration.

With feminist complicity, the new welfare law -- the Personal Responsibility Act of 1996 -- hardens legal differences among women based on their marital, maternal, class, and racial statuses. It segregates poor single mothers into a separate caste, subject to a separate system of law. While middle-class women may choose to participate in the labor market, poor single mothers are forced by law to do so (work requirements and time limits). While middle-class women may choose to bear children, poor single mothers may be punished by government for making that choice (the family cap and illegitimacy ratios). While middle-class women enjoy still-strong rights to sexual and reproductive privacy, poor single mothers are compelled by government to reveal the details of intimate relationships in exchange for survival (mandatory maternal cooperation in establishing paternity). And while middle-class mothers may choose their children's fathers by marrying them or permitting them to develop relationships with children -- or not -- poor single mothers are required by law to make room for biological fathers in their families (mandatory maternal cooperation in establishing and enforcing child support orders).

Feminist Themes in the Personal Responsibility Act

Feminists contributed to this new welfare regime in two major ways: first, in their emphasis on work outside the home, and second, in their insistence on "making fathers pay." Although there is plenty of evidence that women in general and feminists in particular don't like the draconian aspects of the new welfare law, they do not necessarily eschew the law's basic assumptions. One assumption is that poor single mothers should move from welfare to work.

Feminists did not invent the "work" solution to welfare.4 Yet their emphasis on women's right to work outside the home -- in tandem with women's increased presence in the labor force -- gave cover to conservatives eager to require wage-work of single mothers even as they championed the traditional family. Moreover, it legitimated a view popular among many feminists -- that wage earning is "good for" mothers who need welfare.

Most of the policy claims made by second-wave feminists have emphasized women's right to be equal to men in a men's world -- to be leaders and breadwinners, too. The white and middle-class women who rekindled feminism in the 1960s responded to their particular historical experiences, experiences drawn by an ethos of domesticity that had confined middle-class white women to the home and that had used such women's domesticity to justify their inequality. Middle-class feminists understandably spurned the domesticity they had been assigned and keyed on work outside the home as a defining element of women's full and equal citizenship.

As they entered the labor market, these women did not spurn family work; rather, they found their energy doubly taxed by the dual responsibility of earning and caring. Accordingly, many feminists called for labor market policies to address the family needs that fall disproportionately on women -- parental leave and childcare policies, for example. Their concern has been to ease the contradictions between wage-work and family life. They have focused on how family needs impede opportunities and achievements in the labor market and their goals have been labor policies that relieve women's family responsibilities (e.g., childcare) and strengthen women's rights in the workplace (e.g., wage equity). They have not been so interested in winning social policies to support women where we meet our family responsibilities: in the home.

The popular feminist claim that women earn independence, autonomy, and equality through wages historically has divided feminists along class and race lines, as women of color and poor white women have not usually earned equality from sweated labor. To the contrary. Especially for women of color, wage work has been a mark of inequality: expected by the white society for whom they work, necessary because their male kin cannot find jobs or cannot earn family-supporting wages, and exploitative because their earnings keep them poor. Thus, the right to care for their own children -- to work inside the home -- has been a touchstone goal of their struggles for equality. The fact that women are positioned divergently in the nexus among caregiving, wage-earning, and inequality separated feminists one from another on the welfare issue. It separated many white feminists from many feminists of color and separated employed middle-class feminists from mothers who need welfare.

Out of second-wave feminism's emphasis on winning rights in the workplace emerged, sotto voce, a feminist expectation that women ought to work outside the home and an assumption that any job outside the home -- including caring for other people's children -- is more socially productive than caring for one's own. Although feminism is fundamentally about winning women choices, our labor market bias has put much of feminism not on the side of vocational choice -- the choice to work inside or outside the home -- but on the side of wage-earning for all women. Thus, most congressional feminists, along with many feminists across the country, have conflated their right to work outside the home with poor single mothers' obligation to do so. Thus, many feminists agreed with Bill Clinton and the Republicans that poor single mothers should "move from welfare to work."

The labor market focus of second-wave feminism has accomplished much for women -- most importantly establishing equality claims for women as wage-earners. Contemporary feminist calls for further labor market reforms -- for an increased minimum wage, gender-sensitive unemployment insurance, comparable worth, and childcare -- rightly point out the persisting impediments to women's equality as labor market citizens. The problem is not with the specific content of feminist agendas, but with their one-sidedness and prescriptivity.

Many feminists have worked ardently to attenuate the new welfare law's harshest provisions. For example, NOW-LDEF, working especially with Lucille Roybal-Allard in the U.S. House and Patti Murray in the U.S. Senate, has fought hard to exempt battered women from some of the new welfare rules. This initiative, along with Patsy Mink's efforts in the U.S. House to secure vocational education funds for single mothers and grass-roots struggles to enforce fair labor standards in welfare mothers' jobs, could improve some women's fate in the new welfare system. However, feminists' attempts to mitigate disaster do not disturb the principles behind the new welfare law: they do not refute the idea that poor single mothers should seek work outside the home. Except among welfare rights activists and a handful of feminists, no one has defended the right of poor mothers to raise their children, and no one has questioned the proposition that poor single mothers should have to -- should be compelled by law to -- work outside the home.

The enlistment of feminists in work-ethical welfare reform reflected their gender goals and biases. In the welfare context, these goals and biases have racial effects. Although work requirements aim indiscriminately at all poor single mothers, it is mothers of color who bear their heaviest weight. African American and Latina mothers are disproportionately poor, and, accordingly, are disproportionately enrolled on welfare: in 1994, adult recipients in AFDC families were 37.4% white, 36.4% Black, 19.9% Latina, 2.9% Asian, and 1.3% Native American.5 So when welfare rules indenture poor mothers as unpaid servants of local governments (in workfare programs), it is mothers of color who are disproportionately harmed. Moreover, when time limits require poor mothers to forsake their children for the labor market, it is mothers of color who are disproportionately deprived of their right to manage their family's lives and it is children of color who are disproportionately deprived of their mothers' care.

• • •

The view of feminists that labor market participation is good for women skewed discussions of single mothers' poverty and raised the costs of caregiving, especially for mothers who are poor and of color. At the same time, the feminists' view that tough child support enforcement is good for mothers and children raised the costs of childbearing and childraising for mothers who are poor and never married.

Feminists in Congress have been particularly emphatic about "making fathers pay" for children through increased federal involvement in the establishment and enforcement of child support orders.6 In fact, without white, middle-class feminist interventions, especially in the House of Representatives, paternity-based child support would not be the major pillar of the new welfare policy that it has become. The only reason the Personal Responsibility Act contains child support provisions is because feminists in Congress embarrassed Republicans into adopting them.

The child support provisions impose stringent national conditions on nonmarital childrearing by poor women. The first condition is the mandatory establishment of paternity. Welfare law stipulates that a mother's eligibility for welfare depends upon her willingness to reveal the identity of her child's father. Since the purpose of paternity establishment is to assign child support obligations to biological fathers, the second condition is that mothers who need welfare must cooperate in establishing, modifying, and enforcing the support orders for their children. The law requires states to reduce a family's welfare grant by at least 25% when a mother fails to comply with these rules and permits states to deny the family's grant altogether.7

The view that the dereliction of fathers creates or feeds mothers' need for welfare is quite popular among middle-class feminists. Finding the costs of childbearing that fall disproportionately on women a wellspring of gender inequality, many feminists want men to provide for their biological children, even if they have no relationship with them. Incautious pursuit of this objective aligned middle-class feminists behind a policy that endangers the rights of poor single mothers.

Paternity establishment rules compel nonmarital mothers to disclose private matters in exchange for cash and medical assistance -- to answer questions like: Whom did you sleep with? How often? When? Where? How? Meanwhile, child support rules require nonmarital mothers to associate with biological fathers, and in so doing to stoke such fathers' claims to parental rights. In these and other ways, paternity establishment and child support provisions set poor single mothers apart from other mothers, subjecting them to stringent legal requirements because of their class and marital status. While they beef up services that deserted middle-class mothers may choose to enlist, they impose such services on -- and compel intimate revelations from -- poor mothers who have chosen to parent alone.

Middle-class feminist energy behind vigorous paternity establishment and child support enforcement is no doubt animated in part by exasperation with some men's cost-free exploitation of the sexual revolution. From this perspective, men ought to be held responsible for the procreative consequences of their heightened access to women's bodies. The quest for fairness in procreative relations drives the increasingly punitive proposals designed to force fathers to meet their obligations to children. Yet it doesn't explain why middle-class feminists believe maternal coercion is an acceptable means to paternal responsibility.

A reading of congressional debates suggests that the main impetus behind middle-class feminists' advocacy of punitive paternity establishment and child support enforcement rules is their own class and marital experiences. When middle-class women think of the circumstances that might lead them to welfare, they think of divorce -- from middle-class men who then refuse to chip in for the care and maintenance of children. California Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey is a case in point. Something of a Beltway icon during the welfare debate, she described herself and was described by others as "a typical welfare mother." Thirty years earlier, she had had to turn to welfare following her divorce from a man she describes as "very successful."8 Though she had a support order, she "never received a penny in child support."9 Woolsey's story provided a useful strategic intervention into the welfare debate, countering the stereotypic image of welfare mothers as Black and unmarried. Yet marking one mother's story, however uplifting, as representative of a whole population invites the kind of solipsism that produces one-size-fits-all policy prescriptions. Such prescriptions are not only unworkable, they also neglect the needs of people who must and do live their lives differently.

The compulsory features of paternity establishment and child support enforcement may be unremarkable to a divorced mother with a support order: she escapes compulsion by choosing to pursue child support, and what matters to her is that the support order be enforced. However, some mothers do not have support orders because they do not want them. A mother may not want to identify her child's father because she may fear abuse for herself or her child. She may not want to seek child support because she has chosen to parent alone -- or with someone else. She may know her child's father is poor and may fear exposing him to harsh penalties when he cannot pay what a court tells him he owes.10 She may consider his emotional support for his child to be worth more than the $100 the state might collect and that she will never see.11

"Making fathers pay" may promote the economic and justice interests of many custodial mothers. Yet making mothers make fathers pay means making mothers pay for subsistence with their own rights -- and safety. The issue is not whether government should assist mothers in collecting payments from fathers. Of course it should. Neither is the issue whether child support enforcement provisions in welfare policy help mothers who have or desire child support awards. Of course they do. Nor is the issue whether it is a good thing for children to have active fathers -- of course it can be. The issue is coercion, coercion directed toward the mother who has eschewed patriarchal conventions -- whether by choice or from necessity. It is also coercion directed toward the mother whose deviation from patriarchal norms has been linked to her racial and cultural standing.

Paternity establishment and child support became strategies for welfare reform not because of the unjust effects of divorce on mothers, but because of the allegedly unsavory behavior of mothers of nonmarital children. It is nonmarital childbearing, not divorce, that has been blamed for social pathologies like crime and dependency. The preamble to the new welfare law legislates precisely this point of view. Such patriarchal reasoning leaches into racial argument, as welfare discourse specifically correlates nonmarital childbearing rates among African Americans with social and moral decay.12

Like work requirements, the coercive aspects of paternity establishment and child support policy are aimed against single mothers in general. However, like work requirements, they have decidedly racial effects. The mandatory maternal cooperation rule targets mothers who are not and have not been married, as well as mothers who do not have and do not want child support. Nonmarital mothers are the bull's-eye, and among nonmarital mothers receiving welfare, only 28.4% are white.13 This means that the new welfare law's invasions of associational and privacy rights will disproportionately harm mothers of color. Inspired by white feminist outrage against middle-class "deadbeat dads," the paternity establishment and child support provisions both reflect and entrench inequalities among women.

Should Feminists Defend Welfare?

How might feminists have intervened differently in the welfare debate? We could have begun with the feminist method -- with listening to welfare mothers' stories rather than inferring from our own. We could have begun by defending poor mothers' rights as we would defend our own -- by resisting reforms that coerce poor mothers to surrender rights in exchange for cash assistance and that make poor mothers' choices for them.

We did, indeed, need to end welfare -- but as poor single mothers knew it, not as middle-class moralizers imagined it. Why we end welfare dictates how we end it -- whether we end it by subordinating poor single mothers or by improving their prospects for equality.

What kind of social policy would enable poor single mothers' equality? During the welfare debate, feminists who did mobilize against punitive reforms found common ground in opposition to the initiatives proposed by the Republicans, as well as to some proposed by President Clinton. Yet we were far from united behind a common vision of welfare justice. Although we could all agree on the urgency of childcare and health care and jobs, we were less certain about what social policy should say to single mothers who want to or need to care for their own children in their own homes. That we were collectively ambivalent about social policy toward caregiving didn't matter during the welfare debate, for the terms of debate were so narrow. No one was asking: "What should welfare be for?" or "How might welfare work for women?" Although it doesn't look like these questions will soon be ripe, feminists must push and prepare for the day when they will be.

Toward that end, I offer my own assessment, one based on 10 years of welfare research and welfare activism. In my view, welfare is not only a survival issue for poor families, it is also an equality issue for poor mothers. It is an equality issue because the assumptions and prescriptions embedded in welfare law and rife in the welfare debate disable poor mothers' independent citizenship. Equality requires us to repudiate the existing basis of welfare, which we can do most effectively by establishing a new one -- namely, that poor single women who give care to their children are mothers whose caregiving is work.

We all know that family work -- household management and parenting -- takes skill, energy, time, and responsibility. We know this because people who can afford it pay other people to do this work. Many wage-earning mothers pay for childcare; upper-class mothers who work outside the home pay for nannies; very wealthy mothers who don't even work outside the home pay household workers to assist them with their various tasks. Moreover, even when we are not paying surrogates to do our family caregiving, we pay people to perform activities in the labor market that caregivers also do in the home. We pay drivers to take us places; we pay nurses to make us feel better and help us get well; we pay psychologists to help us with our troubles; we pay teachers to explain our lessons; we pay cooks and waitresses to prepare and serve our food.

If economists can measure the value of this work when it is performed for other people's families, why can't we impute value to it when it is performed for one's own? In 1972, economists at the Chase Manhattan Bank did just that, translating family caregiving work into its labor market components -- nursemaid, dietitian, cook, laundress, maintenance man, chauffeur, food buyer, cook, dishwasher, seamstress, practical nurse, and gardener. The economists concluded that the weekly value of family caregivers' work was at least $257.53, or $13,391.56 a year (in 1972 dollars) (Scott, 1972: 56-59). Had poor single mothers received welfare benefits in 1996 at even 1972 values for caregiving work, they would have had incomes above the poverty line! Moreover, had their benefits explicitly compensated them for the work that they do, poor single mothers would not have had to live under the stigma of "welfare dependency."

Once we establish that all caregiving is work -- whatever the racial, marital, or class status of the caregiver and whether or not it is performed in the labor market -- we can build a case for economic arrangements that enable poor single mothers to do their jobs. In place of stingy benefits doled out begrudgingly to needy mothers, welfare would become an income owed to nonmarket, caregiving workers -- owed to anyone who bears sole responsibility for children (or for other dependent family members).

We could model this income on survivors' insurance, which since 1939 has supported widowed mothers who work inside the home raising their children. More generous than welfare, survivors' insurance is free from stigma and social controls. It is nationally uniform and paid automatically to widows (or caregiving widowers) and minor children of deceased workers covered by the Social Security Act. Mothers who are eligible for survivors' insurance do not have to submit to governmental scrutiny to receive benefits and do not have to live by the government's moral and cultural rules. Survivors' insurance gives widowed mothers the means to make their own choices about caregiving and wage-earning. It designates caregiving as a socially necessary and valuable activity, deserving of social assistance.

All family caregivers are owed an income in theory, for all caregiving is work. However, a caregiver's income should redistribute resources to mothers without means, for their capacity to sustain families and to make independent choices hangs on their ability to provide. The cardinal purpose of such an income should be to redress the unique inequality of solo caregivers -- usually mothers -- who shoulder the dual responsibilities of providing care for children and financing it. Although some single mothers may be able to afford both responsibilities, most cannot, because they are time-poor, cash-poor, or both. A caregiver's income would relieve the disproportionate burdens that fall on single mothers and in so doing would lessen inequalities among women based on class and marital status, and between male and female parents based on default social roles. Though paid to single caregivers only, this income support should be universally guaranteed, assuring a safety net to all caregivers if ever they need or choose to parent -- or to care for other family members -- alone. The extension of the safety net to caregivers as independent citizens would promote equality, as it would enable adults to exit untenable -- and often violent -- relationships of economic dependency and to retain reproductive and vocational choices when they do.

We need to end welfare in this way to enable equality -- in the safety net, between the genders, among women, and under the Constitution. Income support for all caregivers who are going it alone would permit solo parents to decide how best to manage their responsibilities to children. It might even undermine the sexual division of labor, for some men will be enticed to do family caregiving work once they understand it to have economic value. Offering an income to all solo caregivers in a unitary system -- to nonmarital mothers as well as to widowed ones -- would erase invidious moral distinctions among mothers and eliminate their racial effects. Further, universal income support for single parents would restore mothers' constitutional rights -- to not marry, to bear children, and to parent them, even if they are poor. It would promote occupational freedom, by rewarding work even when work cannot be exchanged for wages. So redefined, welfare would become a sign not of dependency, but of independence, a means not to moral regulation, but to social and political equality.

Ending welfare this way will remedy inequality where it is most gendered -- in the caregiving relations of social reproduction. Yet, it will not be enough to end welfare by replacing it with a caregiver's income. The end of welfare -- the goal of feminist social policy -- must be to enhance women's choices across their full spectrum. We need to improve women's opportunities as both nonmarket and market workers, so that the choice of caregivers to work inside the home is backed up by the possibility of choosing not to. Middle-class feminists were correct to reject ascribed domesticity, and they have taught us well that fully independent and equal citizenship for women entails having the right not to care. So we must also win labor market reforms to make outside work feasible even for mothers who are parenting alone. Unless we make outside work affordable for solo caregivers, a caregiver's income would constrain choice by favoring caregiving over wage-earning.

The end of welfare, then, includes "making work pay," not only by remunerating caregiving work, but also by making participation in the labor market equitable and rewarding for women, especially mothers. To make work pay, we must improve women's position in the labor market through the following measures: a minimum wage that provides an income at least at the poverty threshold, comparable worth policies that correct the low economic value assigned to women's jobs, unemployment insurance reforms covering women's gendered reasons for losing or leaving jobs, paid family leave, guaranteed childcare, universal health care, a full employment policy, massive investment in education and vocational training, and aggressive enforcement of anti-discrimination laws.

This end to welfare will take us down many paths, in recognition of women's diverse experiences of gender and diverse hopes for equality.


1. This essay was originally delivered to the Dean's Symposium, University of Chicago, November 7, 1997.

2. This was the rallying cry of the Women's Committee of One Hundred, a feminist mobilization against punitive welfare reform co-chaired by the author. See the full-page ad by Women's Committee of One Hundred, "Why Every Woman in America Should Beware of Welfare Cuts" (New York Times, August 8, 1995).

3. Castle-Tanner substitute amendment to H.R. 3734, "The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996," Congressional Record (July 18, 1996: H7907-7974).

4. One example of the labor market focus of feminist thinking about women's poverty can be found in Bergmann and Hartmann (1995: 85-91).

5. U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Ways and Means, 1996 Green Book, Table 8-32.

6. Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly (D-Connecticut) played a crucial role in winning strengthened child support enforcement provisions in welfare law in the mid-1980s. She and other feminist congressmembers also have sponsored standalone child support enforcement bills, especially to improve collections across state lines and to toughen penalties on delinquent fathers.

7. P.L. 104-193, The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996, Title I, Section 408 (a) (2).

8. Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-California), "Remarks," in Mink (1993).

9. "Remarks of Mrs. Woolsey," Congressional Record (February 1, 1995: H1031).

10. In 1989, the average annual child support award for poor mothers was only $1,889 (Bassuk, Browne, and Buckner, 1996: 62).

11. The Personal Responsibility Act ended the $50 "pass-through," the amount of collected child support state governments were required to share with mothers enrolled in the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program.

12. On the "implicit stories of race and gender" in welfare politics, see Dowd (1995: 19, 26, 45-46), Austin (1993: 575-594), Fineman (1995: Chapter 5), and the works of Dorothy Roberts.

13. U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Ways and Means, 1996 Green Book, Table 8-2.


Austin, Regina

1993 "Sapphire! Bound." Patricia Smith (ed.), Feminist Jurisprudence. New York, Oxford University Press: 575-594.

Bassuk, Ellen L., Angela Browne, and John C. Buckner

1996 "Single Mothers and Welfare." Scientific American (October): 62.

Bergmann, Barbara and Heidi Hartmann

1995 "A Welfare Reform Based on Help for Working Parents." Feminist Economics 1 (Summer): 85-91.

Dowd, Nancy E.

1995 "StigmatizingSingle Parents." Harvard Women's Law Journal 18.

Fineman, Martha

1995 The Neutered Mother: The Sexual Family and Other Twentieth Century Tragedies. New York: Routledge.

Kornbluh, Felicia

1996 "Feminists and the Welfare Debate: Too Little? TooLate?" Dollars and Sense (November-December): 25.

Mink, Gwendolyn (ed.)

1993 Women and Welfare Reform: Women's Poverty, Women's Opportunities, and Women's Welfare. Conference Proceedings, Institute for Women's Policy Research (October 23).

Scott, Ann Crittenden

1972 "The Value of Housework: For Love or Money?" Ms. (July): 56-59.

Citation: Editors, (1998). "Introduction to Disdained Mothers and Despised Others: The Politics and Impact of Welfare Reform," Social Justice Vol. 25, No. 1 (1998). Copyright © 1998 by Social Justice. ISSN 1043-1578. Social Justice, P.O. Box 40601, San Francisco, CA 94140.