1st Edition

Welfare in the United States A History with Documents, 1935–1996

    256 Pages
    by Routledge

    256 Pages
    by Routledge

    Welfare has been central to a number of significant political debates in modern America:

    • What role should the government play in alleviating poverty?
    • What does a government owe its citizens, and who is entitled to help?
    • How have race and gender shaped economic opportunities and outcomes?
    • How should Americans respond to increasing rates of single parenthood?
    • How have poor women sought to shape their own lives and influence government policies?

    With a comprehensive introduction and a well-chosen collection of primary documents, Welfare in the United States chronicles the major turning points in the seventy-year history of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). Illuminating policy debates, shifting demographics, institutional change, and the impact of social movements, this book serves as an essential guide to the history of the nation's most controversial welfare program.

    Table of Contents

    List of Documents



    Chapter 1: AFDC in the early years: 1930s and 1940s

    Chapter 2: New Debates about Welfare, Motherhood, and Work: 1950s and Early 1960s

    Chapter 3: Welfare Rights and Welfare Reform in the 1960s and 1970s

    Chapter 4: The End of Welfare as We Knew It: 1980s and 1990s

    Introduction to Documents



    Permissions Acknowledgments



    1 Mother’s Aid, 1931

    2 The Social Security Act

    3 Bonita Golda Harrison, "Social Security: What Does it Mean for the Negro?"

    4 ADC Keeps Families Together

    5 Social Security Board, "To Aid Dependent Children"

    6 Charles Stevenson, "When it Pays to Play Pauper"

    7 Alice Mertz, "Working Mothers in the ADC Program"

    8 Frank Higgins, "Maid to Order"

    9 Winifred Bell, "Casework with Chronically Dependent Families"

    10 Memorandum to National Agencies, American Leaders, Local Urban Leagues, from the National Urban League

    11 Minutes of the City Council of Newburgh, New York, June 19, 1961

    12 Young Americans for Freedom Marches in Support of Joseph Mitchell’s Hard Line on Welfare

    13 Cartoon, "But I’m Just Trying to Clean Up the Mess!"

    14 Frank H. Weir, "ABC's of Relief: Image of Recipients Wrong"

    15 U. S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, "Regional and Field Letter" 453

    16 Elizabeth Wickenden, "Poverty and the Law"

    17 The Negro Family: The Case for National Action

    18 Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward, "A Strategy to End Poverty"

    19 Congress, Senate, Committee on Finance, Hearings on H.R. 12080: Social Security Amendments of 1967

    20 Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, "Your Welfare Rights"

    21 Congress, Subcommittee on Fiscal Policy of the Joint Economic Committee, Hearing on Income Maintenance

    22 NWRO’S Guaranteed Adequate Income Plan

    23 Richard M. Nixon, "Special Message to the Congress on Reform of the Nation’s Welfare System"

    24 "Welfare Cadillac" written and performed by Guy Drake

    25 "Welfare Out of Control – Story of Financial Crisis Cities Face"

    26 Archie K. Davis, "Welfare Reform: Time to Do It Right"

    27 Johnnie Tillmon, "Welfare is a Woman’s Issue"

    28 Merrillee Dolan, "Moynihan, Poverty Programs, and Women – A Female Viewpoint"

    29 A cartoonist describes AFDC as unfair to wage-earning mothers (1973)

    30 Congress, House of Representatives, Welfare Reform Subcommittee of the Committee on Agriculture, Hearings on HR 9030: The Administration’s Welfare Reform Proposal

    31 "Welfare Queen" Becomes Issue in Reagan Campaign

    32 DWAC, "Narrative Report, 1982,"

    33 RAM Flyer, "Budget Cuts: Stop the Real Welfare Cheats"

    34 Charles Murray, Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980

    35 Barbara Omolade, "It’s a Family Affair: The Real Lives of Black Single Mothers"

    36 Women’s Committee of One Hundred, "Women’s Pledge on Welfare Reform: Eliminating Poverty for Women and Their Children"

    37 "Wisconsin Works (W-2): A Brief Description"

    38 U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, 104th Congress, 1st session, "Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996"

    39 Mission Statement and Vision Statement, Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign

    40 The White House, "Working Toward Independence"


    Premilla Nadasen is Visiting Associate Professor and Endowed Chair in Women’s Studies at Brooklyn College. She is the author of Welfare Warriors: The Welfare Rights Movement in the United States (Routledge).

    Jennifer Mittelstadt is Assistant Professor of History and Women’s Studies at Penn State University. She is the author of From Welfare to Workfare: The Unintended Consequences of Liberal Reform, 1945-1965.

    Marisa Chappell is Assistant Professor of History at Oregon State University. She is the author of The War on Welfare: Family, Poverty, and Politics in Modern America.

    "With wide ranging perspectives, nearly century-long coverage, and choice documents, this short but powerful collection shows why welfare remains one of the most contentious issues in public policy. Three cheers for Nadasen, Mittelstadt, and Chappell for this stimulating- and provocative - introduction that highlights the significance of race and gender in women's lives."

    Eileen Boris, author or The New Women’s Labor History

    "The story of contemporary welfare policy in the United States is complicated and deeply troubled by poisonous conflicts over race, class and gender.  Here, however, we have a telling of the story that is admirably clear and concise, and enlivened by the inclusion of the documents that mark and illuminate the turning points in the story.  This will be an excellent teaching resource."

    Frances Fox Piven, author of Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America