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Sociologist to Sign New Book

UC Riverside Faculty Member to Sign New Book about Welfare Moms

Sociologist Looks Back 50 years for Actions, Policies that Burden Families

(October 3, 2005)

Ellen Reese

Ellen Reese

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( -- Ellen Reese, an assistant professor of sociology at UC Riverside, will be signing her new book, “Backlash Against Welfare Mothers: Past and Present,” at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 13 at University Village Bookstore, 1299 University Ave., suite 101.

Published in July by the University of California Press, Reese’s book explores forces that she says turned state-level revolts against welfare in the late 1940s and 1950s into a purposeful unraveling of the nation’s “safety net” by the late 1990s. That trend remains active today, she said, as local, state and national officials find new reasons to deny help to those in need.

“Legislators today have proposals for cuts to benefits and services in front of them all of the time, even as poverty is rising and it has become increasingly difficult for poor and working families to make ends meet,” Reese said. “My book examines the reasons for this and how we might rebuild the nation’s safety net on firmer ground. The current struggle of families displaced by Hurricane Katrina to find work and to make ends meet is simply the tip of the iceberg of a far broader and deeper problem within our nation.”

Reese said she wrote this book, her first, for both a general audience and scholarly circles. She looks forward to seeing colleagues and students -- current and former -- among visitors at the signing, as well as people outside the university who are interested in the politics of welfare and poverty in the United States.

“'Backlash Against Welfare Mothers'" is a book on a vitally important topic of great public interest,” said UC Irvine sociology Professor David A. Smith. He said Reese “breathes humanity into both the political players and the victimized welfare mothers.”

Reese’s archival research for the book took her to Georgia, Kentucky and New York, where she reports finding evidence of decades of discrimination against poor, black women with children. Research in California yielded similar results, she said.

Reese studies welfare state development, urban politics and social movements. Her current projects focus on struggles to promote the rights of low-income and working people, especially mothers, in the United States.

One project examines the challenges and prospects confronting contemporary welfare rights activists in this era of funding cuts. Another involves campaigns to defend and improve low-income residents’ rights to residential and public space in downtown Los Angeles, where they are threatened by redevelopment policies, anti-homeless ordinances and efforts to “clean up” the city.

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