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Humanities 2017, 6(2), 14; doi:10.3390/h6020014

Identity, Power, and the California Welfare-Rights Struggle, 1963–1975

Program in American Studies, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
Academic Editor: Annabel Martín
Received: 14 February 2017 / Revised: 15 March 2017 / Accepted: 29 March 2017 / Published: 2 April 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gender in Times of Crisis: A Multidisciplinary Conversation)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [218 KB, uploaded 7 April 2017]

Abstract

This article explores the work of welfare-rights activists in 1960s and 70s California. These activists were mostly working-class black and some white mothers, and the majority of them were themselves welfare recipients. As welfare recipients, women of color, and working-class people, they faced a wave of policies and ideologies that stigmatized them, policed their behavior, and made receiving benefits increasingly difficult. These policies were but one element of a larger political crisis, wherein the California government stoked racialized and gendered fears in order to shrink the welfare state. Rather than simply acquiesce to this reality, welfare-rights groups in California refused to accept it. Though scholars have studied welfare-rights groups in Washington, D.C., Nevada, New York, and other US states, almost no attention has been given to groups in California. In this article I use state legislation, newspaper articles, organizational records, and archived interviews to illustrate how California’s welfare-rights movement challenged anti-welfare policy and ideology. I argue that they did more than simply reject punitive legislation. They emphasized childcare, rebuked middle-class complacency, questioned the primacy of the nuclear family, and dismissed gender roles. In the process, they raised crucial, enduring questions about the nature of economic-justice organizing. View Full-Text
Keywords: race; feminism; welfare reform; Reaganism; organizing race; feminism; welfare reform; Reaganism; organizing
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Puglisi, A. Identity, Power, and the California Welfare-Rights Struggle, 1963–1975. Humanities 2017, 6, 14.

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