X
TEXT

Welfare is a Women's Issue

″Welfare is a Women's Issue″ is an essay written by Johnnie Tillmon for Ms. Magazine, a prominent feminist publication, in 1972. 
Author
Johnnie Tillmon
Grade Level

Source
Reprinted by Permission of Ms. Magazine. © 1972
Text Dependent Questions
Question
Why, according to Tillmon, is welfare a women’s issue? Cite evidence from the text in your response.
Answer
Students should draw on details from the essay regarding the disproportionate number of women on welfare and the sexist nature of the welfare program.
Question
What sorts of restrictions does welfare place on women’s freedom, according to Tillmon? Cite evidence from the text in your response.
Answer
Students should draw on details from the essay regarding how welfare requirements and restrictions affect women’s family and marital situation, reproductive rights and spending habits.
Question
What was Ronald Reagan’s view of welfare recipients? In your opinion, does Tillmon’s essay effectively challenge that point of view? Cite evidence from the text to support your response.
Answer
Reagan shared the view of many conservatives that people are poor because they don’t work hard enough. Students may or may not agree or think that Tillmon adequately challenges that view.
Question
Standard Identity 3 in the Anti-bias Framework says, “Students will recognize that people’s multiple identities interact and create unique and complex individuals.” How does Tillmon’s essay address this standard? Cite evidence from the text in your response.
Answer
Students should include the intersections of Tillmon’s identities in their response and explain that these multiple identities affect her social position. Her essay addresses this standard when she writes: “I’m a woman. I’m a black woman. I’m a poor woman. I’m a fat woman. I’m a middle-aged woman. And I’m on welfare. In this country, if you’re any one of those things you count less as a human being. If you’re all those things, you don’t count at all.”
Question
Explain the distinction Tillmon is making when she writes that, “For a lot of middle-class women in this country, Women’s Liberation is a matter of concern. For women on welfare it’s a matter of survival.”
Answer
Student responses should reflect an understanding that the greater a woman’s privilege and means are, the less necessary women’s liberation is to her everyday needs and survival. It becomes more of a matter of principle or conscience, whereas a woman on welfare will materially benefit from women’s liberation by improving her economic well-being.
Question
According to Tillmon, how does welfare discourage women from fighting for better wages and economic justice?
Answer
She writes that working class and poor women are faced with impossible choices and dilemmas, where if they stand up and protest unfair wages and labor practices, they risk losing their jobs and ending up on welfare. And because welfare is such an unappealing option, most women will rationally choose not to challenge the status quo and risk unemployment. Thus, welfare serves to undermine women’s self advocacy and political action.
TEACH THIS
Add to an Existing Learning Plan