Unsung Heroines: Single Mothers and the American Dream / Edition 1

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This compelling book destroys the derogatory images of single mothers that too often prevail in the media and in politics by creating a rich, moving, multidimensional picture of who these women really are. Ruth Sidel interviewed mothers from diverse races, ethnicities, religions, and social classes who became single through divorce, separation, widowhood, or who never married; none had planned to raise children on their own. Weaving together these women’s voices with an accessible, cutting-edge sociological and political analysis of single motherhood today, Unsung Heroines introduces a resilient, resourceful, and courageous population of women committed to their families, holding fast to quintessential American values, and creating positive new lives for themselves and their children. What emerges from this penetrating study is a clear message about what all families—two-parent as well as single parent—must have to succeed: decent jobs at a living wage, comprehensive health care, and preschool and after-school care. In a final chapter, Sidel gives a broad political-economic analysis that provides historical background on the way American social policy has evolved and compares the situation in the U.S. to the social policies and ideologies of other countries.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Observing that single mothers embody the best American values-"courage, determination, commitment to others, and independence of spirit"-sociologist Sidel contends that "rather than being stigmatized, they should be celebrated and indeed applauded." Sidel's 50 subjects are diverse in age, class, race, ethnicity and marital status (including unmarried by departure, divorce or death). They recount the different paths that led them to single motherhood, their struggles to provide for their children, and their own feelings of loss (of income, self-esteem, emotional and social support, youth, etc.). They describe the steps they took to turn their lives around and recall the forces (people, institutions and faith) that aided and sometimes thwarted them. Sidel looks back at the different male and female responses "to intimate heterosexual relationships and to the enormous responsibility of caring for children" and forward to an agenda that would recognize that "the well-being of children and their families is the responsibility not only of the families themselves but of government at all levels and of civil society as well." Sidel's mothers tell individual tales, but the effect is cumulative, allowing the author to sound an alarm about the real needs of American families in all their varieties. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
By sharing the stories of 50 single mothers from all walks of life, this groundbreaking study shatters the negative stereotypes of and misconceptions about these "unsung heroines." Giving voice to the people President Reagan dubbed "welfare queens," Sidel (sociology, Hunter Coll., Keeping Women and Children Last) shows that "rather than being a negative force in American society, millions of single mothers actually embody the finest American values: determination, commitment to others, and independence of spirit." She picks up where Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed leaves off and writes of the many women who never intended to raise children alone and are struggling to make ends meet in a society that devalues the contribution of mothers and allows America's fathers to escape accountability and responsibility for their children. This work becomes a call for what all families need in order to succeed: decent jobs at a living wage, comprehensive healthcare, and adequate child care. It is an eye-opening education that should be required reading for every elected official and policymaker prior to enacting any welfare-reform legislation or reduction in social services. Highly recommended.-Wendy Wendt, Marshall-Lyon Cty. Lib, MN Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520247727
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 265
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Ruth Sidel, Professor of Sociology at Hunter College, is author of many books including Keeping Women and Children Last: America’s War on the Poor (revised edition, 1998) and On Her Own: Growing Up in the Shadow of the American Dream (1990).
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Table of Contents

1 Moving beyond stigma 19
2 Genuine family values 39
3 Loss 60
4 Resilience, strength, and perseverance 80
5 "Everybody knows my grandma" : extended families and other support networks 107
6 "I have to do something with my life" : derailed dreams 135
7 "I really, really believed he would stick around" : conflicting conceptions of commitment 161
8 An agenda for the twenty-first century : caring for all our families 184
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