In 1996, Democratic president Bill Clinton and the
Republican-controlled Congress "ended welfare as we know it" and
trumpeted "workfare" as a dramatic break from the past. But, in
fact, workfare was not new. Jennifer Mittelstadt locates the roots
of the 1996 welfare reform many decades in the past, arguing that
women, work, and welfare were intertwined concerns of the liberal
welfare state beginning just after World War II.
Mittelstadt examines the dramatic reform of Aid to Dependent
Children (ADC) from the 1940s through the 1960s, demonstrating that
in this often misunderstood period, national policy makers did not
overlook issues of poverty, race, and women's role in society.
Liberals' public debates and disagreements over welfare, however,
caused unintended consequences, she argues, including a shift
toward conservatism. Rather than leaving ADC as an income support
program for needy mothers, reformers recast it as a social services
program aimed at "rehabilitating" women from "dependence" on
welfare to "independence," largely by encouraging them to work.
Mittelstadt reconstructs the ideology, implementation, and
consequences of rehabilitation, probing beneath its surface to
reveal gendered and racialized assumptions about the welfare poor
and broader societal concerns about poverty, race, family
structure, and women's employment.