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The Wages of Motherhood: Inequality in the Welfare State, 1917-1942

Gwendolyn Mink

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ISBN 10: 0801495342 / ISBN 13: 9780801495342
Published by Cornell University Press, 1996
New Condition: New Soft cover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Wages of Motherhood: Inequality in the ...

Publisher: Cornell University Press

Publication Date: 1996

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition: New

About this title


Entering the vigorous debate about the nature of the American welfare state, The Wages of Motherhood illuminates ways in which a "maternalist" social policy emerged from the crucible of gender and racial politics between the world wars. Gwendolyn Mink here examines the cultural dynamics of maternalist social policy, which have often been overlooked by institutional and class analyses of the welfare state.

Mink maintains that the movement for welfare provisions, while resulting in important gains, reinforced existing patterns of gender and racial inequality. She explores how AngloAmerican women reformers, as they gained increasing political recognition, promoted an ideology of domesticity that became the core of maternalist social policy. Focusing on reformers such as Jane Addams, Grace Abbott, Katherine Lenroot, and Frances Perkins, Mink shows how they helped shape a social policy premised on moral character and cultural conformity rather than universal entitlement.

According to Mink, commitments to a gendered and racialized ideology of virtuous citizenship led women's reform organizations in the United States to support welfare policies that were designed to uplift and regulate motherhood and thus to reform the cultural character of citizens. The upshot was a welfare agenda that linked maternity with dependency, poverty with cultural weakness, and need with moral failing. Relegating poor women and racial minorities to dependent status, maternalist policy had the effect of stengthening ideological and institutional forms of subordination. In Mink's view, the legacy of this benevolent―and invidious―policy contimies to inflect thinking about welfare reform today.

About the Author:

Gwendolyn Mink is Associate Professor of Politics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of The Wages of Motherhood: Inequality in the Welfare State, 1917-1942, and Old Labor and New Immigrants in American Political Development: Union, Party, and State, 1875-1920, both from Cornell.

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