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Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States / Edition 1

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Overview

It is a commonplace that the United States lagged behind the countries of Western Europe in developing modern social policies. But, as Theda Skocpol shows in this startlingly new historical analysis, the United States actually pioneered generous social spending for many of its elderly, disabled, and dependent citizens. During the late nineteenth century, competitive party politics in American democracy led to the rapid expansion of benefits for Union Civil War veterans and their families.

Some Americans hoped to expand veterans' benefits into pensions for all of the needy elderly and social insurance for workingmen and their families. But such hopes went against the logic of political reform in the Progressive Era. Generous social spending faded along with the Civil War generation.

Instead, the nation nearly became a unique maternalist welfare state as the federal government and more than forty states enacted social spending, labor regulations, and health education programs to assist American mothers and children. Remarkably, as Skocpol shows, many of these policies were enacted even before American women were granted the right to vote. Banned from electoral politics, they turned their energies to creating huge, nation-spanning federations of local women's clubs, which collaborated with reform-minded professional women to spur legislative action across the country.

Blending original historical research with political analysis, Skocpol shows how governmental institutions, electoral rules, political parties, and earlier public policies combined to determine both the opportunities and the limits within which social policies were devised and changed by reformers and politically active social groups over the course of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

By examining afresh the institutional, cultural, and organizational forces that have shaped U.S. social policies in the past, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers challenges us to think in new ways about what might be possible in the American future.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review

A monumental study that will likely become a classic in the history of the modern welfare state.
— Rosalind Rosenberg

Nation

Complex, richly detailed...and grounded in extensive archival research...[Skocpol] has demonstrated that the polity and political institutions do matter...[A] powerful book that will surely generate a great deal of new research and writing about the history of social provision in the United States.
— Alex Keyssar

Women's Review of Books

Invites readers to remember a halcyon period in women's politics when—both in spite and because of women's formal political exclusion—extensively organized, politically active women united around motherhood and claimed a place for women in social policy.
— Gwendolyn Mink

Journal of Economic History

Recognition that a kind of welfare state emerged even in America has hardly stilled the need to ask, once again, why the American variant came out so differently from those in western Europe. Skocpol's newest book... brings to these issues as powerful and iconoclastic an intellect as the historical sciences possess. Protecting Soldiers and Mothers belongs on a shelf of social policy history classics.
— Daniel T. Rodgers

Journal of Policy History

Protecting Soldiers and Mothers is doubly important because it gives us new facts to think about and new perspectives within which to think about them…Skocpol's research is so original and thorough and her critical intelligence is so strong...that her book will become the necessary starting point for all who study the evolution of social welfare policies in the United States.
— Aaron Wildavsky

New York Times Book Review - Rosalind Rosenberg
A monumental study that will likely become a classic in the history of the modern welfare state.
Nation - Alex Keyssar
Complex, richly detailed...and grounded in extensive archival research...[Skocpol] has demonstrated that the polity and political institutions do matter...[A] powerful book that will surely generate a great deal of new research and writing about the history of social provision in the United States.
Women's Review of Books - Gwendolyn Mink
Invites readers to remember a halcyon period in women's politics when--both in spite and because of women's formal political exclusion--extensively organized, politically active women united around motherhood and claimed a place for women in social policy.
Journal of Economic History - Daniel T. Rodgers
Recognition that a kind of welfare state emerged even in America has hardly stilled the need to ask, once again, why the American variant came out so differently from those in western Europe. Skocpol's newest book... brings to these issues as powerful and iconoclastic an intellect as the historical sciences possess. Protecting Soldiers and Mothers belongs on a shelf of social policy history classics.
Journal of Policy History - Aaron Wildavsky
Protecting Soldiers and Mothers is doubly important because it gives us new facts to think about and new perspectives within which to think about them…Skocpol's research is so original and thorough and her critical intelligence is so strong...that her book will become the necessary starting point for all who study the evolution of social welfare policies in the United States.
Viviana Zelizer
By demonstrating the pivotal role of women's voluntary organizations as well as individual women leaders in constructing early twentieth century social welfare policy, Skocpol not only rewrites the history of social welfare but gender history as well.
Nancy Cott
Protecting Soldiers and Mothers is a landmark book. Its unified argument and wealth of detail will be of compelling interest for political scientists and historians, theorists of the welfare state, social policy-makers, and feminists...By means of searching, consistent, grounded investigation of the ways that policies are made (or are not made) in the United States--along with lively, well-informed use of comparative national data--the book ruptures the 'inevitability' model of welfare state development and opens the door to new and different policy making in America's future.
Martin Shefter
Theda Skocpol's Protecting Soldiers and Mothers will be regarded as one of the most significant books-perhaps the single most significant book-on the development of the American welfare state.
Hugh Heclo
Skocpol's book is a landmark contribution to the history and politics of American social policy. She has reclaimed a major and forgotten period that does much to explain why the American welfare state took the shape it did.
Library Journal
Despite having instituted one of the world's earliest broad-based social welfare programs (Civil War pensions for veterans and their families), the United States did not develop into a full welfare state like other Western democracies. In a detailed historical case study of social policy from the 1880s to the 1920s, Skocpol (sociology, Harvard) examines how government, political parties, cultural values, unions, women's organizations, and other groups all played a part in this process. Of particular interest is the role of mass organizations for women, which won ``maternalist'' welfare policies for women and children in the years before women's suffrage. Skocpol's analysis, which includes frequent comparisons with European countries, is replete with well-documented primary source material. Although academic language and style may make this daunting reading, scholars and students of social history will find it fascinating background for current debates on U.S. social policies. An important acquisition for all academic libraries.-- Mary Jane Brustman, SUNY at Albany Libs.
Booknews
Distinguished sociologist Skocpol (Harvard U.) draws a bead on the prevailing wisdom regarding the development of modern social policy in the US. Blending original historical research with political analysis, she shows that, contrary to the common view that the US lagged behind the countries of Western Europe, the US actually pioneered generous social spending, first during the late 19th century for Union Civil War veterans and their families, then during the early 20th century (before suffrage) to assist American mothers and children. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674717664
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1995
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 736
  • Sales rank: 1,213,321
  • Product dimensions: 6.48 (w) x 9.36 (h) x 1.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Theda Skocpol is Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University. Her previous works include the prize-winning States and Social Revolutions.
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Table of Contents

  • Introduction: Understanding the Origins of Modern Social Provision in the United States
  • Part I: A Precocious Social Spending Regime
    • 1. Patronage Democracy and Distributive Public Policies in the Nineteenth Century
    • 2. Public Aid for the Worthy Many: The Expansion of Benefits for Veterans of the Civil War


  • Part II: The Failure of a Paternalist Welfare State
    • 3. Reformist Professionals as Advocates of Workingmen’s Insurance
    • 4. Help for the “Army of Labor”? Trade Unions and Social Legislation
    • 5. Progressive Era Politics and the Defeat of Social Policies for Workingmen and the Elderly


  • Part III: Foundations for a Maternalist Welfare State?
    • 6. Expanding the Separate Sphere: Women’s Civic Action and Political Reforms in the Early Twentieth Century
    • 7. Safeguarding the “Mothers of the Race”: Protective Legislation for Women Workers
    • 8. An Unusual Victory for Public Benefits: The “Wildfire Spread” of Mothers’ Pensions
    • 9. Statebuilding for Mothers and Babies: The Children’s Bureau and the Sheppard-Towner Act


  • Conclusion: America’s First Modern Social Policies and Their Legacies
  • Appendix 1: Percentages of the Elderly in the States and the District of Columbia Receiving Civil War Pensions in 1910
  • Appendix 2: Endorsements of Mothers’ Pensions by Women’s Groups: Sources for Table 9 and Figure 27
  • Notes
  • Index

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