Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Solinger, The First Welfare Case

Here's one we missed from the Fall 2010 issue of the Journal of Women's History: Rickie Solinger, "The First Welfare Case: Money, Sex, Marriage, and White Supremacy in Selma, 1966, A Reproductive Justice Analysis."

Solinger, an independent scholar, is the author of a number of books on women, welfare, reproduction, and the law, including Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade (Routledge, 1992) and Beggars and Choosers: How the Politics of Choice Shapes Adoption, Abortion, and Welfare in the United States (Hill & Wang, 2002).

Here's the abstract:
King v. Smith, the first welfare case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, overturned the Alabama substitute father law. Such laws directed or allowed welfare officials to use the sexual behavior and reproductive capacity of poor African American women to alienate this population from “cash-money”; to reassert political and bureaucratic control over the intimate relationships of African Americans, demonstrating that this population was unprepared for civil rights and full citizenship; and to shore up white supremacy in the civil rights era. The context for this case which originated in Selma, Alabama in 1966 illustrates that even if poor African American women had had access to contraception and legal abortion at that time, they would still have lacked reproductive autonomy and dignity as the state surveilled their sexual behavior and enforced laws making sex, itself, as well as reproduction, and the right to define their own intimate relationships and families, a race and class privilege.
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