California State University, Long Beach

Welfare Mothers, Welfare Rights

 
 

The welfare mothers movement in Los Angeles can be traced to 1963 and the founding of the ANC Mothers Anonymous of Watts. Initially it had little connection with the larger women's movement, and its members did not view themselves as part of that movement. Later, after the formation of the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO), and especially after Johnnie Tillmon took the helm of the national organization, this changed. The turning point might well have been the publication of her 1972 Ms Magazine article, "Welfare is a Woman's Issue." By 1979 and the International Women's Conference in Houston, women of color and poor women had become a visible presence in the larger women's movement (which ranged from reformist groups like NOW to radical feminists) and were making their voices heard and their issues public. At the present time, there is only one interview included in the "Welfare Mothers" series: the oral history of Johnnie Tillmon, one of the founders and leaders of the ANC Mothers Anonymous of Watts. Hopefully, an oral history of Ardelphia Hickey, another key person in the ANC mothers group, might be conducted eventually. It should also be noted that Alicia Escalante, the founder of the ELA Welfare Rights group (later named Chicana Welfare Rights Organization) was interviewed for a Ph.D. dissertation at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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