Megan's Reviews > Mothers of a New World: Maternalist Politics and the Origins of Welfare States

Mothers of a New World by Seth Koven
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's review
Jun 07, 2008

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bookshelves: gender, history, politics, non-fiction
Read in June, 2008

Collection of essays that provide a decent look at the gendered origins of welfare states. I mostly did a quick look-through of the ones focusing on the U.S., which reinforce what seems to be the consensus opinion among many historians of welfare and woman - namely, that focus on a 'family wage,' and changing connotations of welfare (to the often negative, dependency connotation of today) greatly undermined women's ability to make claims about labor or economic rights for themselves, and led to policies that tended to benefit men. (So, Social Security rather than broader social welfare programs, whether that be provision of health care/health insurance, mother's pensions, etc.)
The final essay, "Feminist Strategies and Gendered Discourses in Welfare States: Married Women's Right to Work in the United States and Sweden" is a good look at the discursive strategies that women's groups moved through in order to repeal the 1932 Economy Act's restrictions on married women's ability to work. Basic claims of economic rights and economic needs fail to move New Deal policy makers to address women's labor rights; an eventual appeal to a broader human rights-based discourse eventually helps to overturn the Act.

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