Ellen R. Reese – USA

Ellen R. Reese had a BA in Sociology 1991, Reed College; MA Sociology 1993, University of California, Los Angeles; PhD Sociology 1998, University of California, Los Angeles; Today Ellen Reese is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Riverside.

Ellen R. Reese – USA

Awards: Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Grant in Women’s Studies, 1997; Jean Stone Dissertation Fellowship Award, sponsored by UCLA’s Center for the Study of Women.

Research Areas: Sociology of gender, political sociology (especially social movements and welfare state development), urban sociology, social inequalitites, and comparative and historical methods.


Her latest book: Backlash against Welfare Mothers: Past and Present, by Ellen Reese, Berkeley and Los Angeles, Hardcover 0-520-24461-3, Paperback 0-520-24462-1.;

DESCRIPTION: Backlash against Welfare Mothers is a forceful examination of how and why a state-level revolt against welfare, begun in the late 1940s, was transformed into a national-level assault that destroyed a critical part of the nation’s safety net, with tragic consequences for American society. With a wealth of original research, Ellen Reese puts recent debates about the contemporary welfare backlash into historical perspective. She provides a closer look at these early antiwelfare campaigns, showing why they were more successful in some states than others and how opponents of welfare sometimes targeted Puerto Ricans and Chicanos as well as blacks for cutbacks. Her research reveals both the continuities and changes in American welfare opposition from the late 1940s to the present.

Reese brings new evidence to light that reveals how large farmers and racist politicians, concerned about the supply of cheap labor, appealed to white voters’ racial resentments and stereotypes about unwed mothers, blacks, and immigrants in the 1950s. She then examines congressional failure to replace the current welfare system with a more popular alternative in the 1960s and 1970s, which paved the way for national assaults on welfare. Taking a fresh look at recent debates on welfare reform, she explores how and why politicians competing for the white vote and right-wing think tanks promoting business interests appeased the Christian right and manufactured consent for cutbacks through a powerful, racially coded discourse. Finally, through firsthand testimonies, Reese vividly portrays the tragic consequences of current welfare policies and calls for a bold new agenda for working families.

Other Publications:

Reese, Ellen. 2005. “Policy Threats and Social Movement Coalitions: California’s Campaign to Restore Legal Immigrants’ Rights to Welfare.” PP. 259-287 in Routing the Opposition: Social Movements, Public Policy, and Democracy, edited by Helen Ingram, Valerie Jenness, and David Meyer. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press;

Aguirre, Adalberto and Ellen Reese. 2004. “The Challenges of Globalization for Workers: Transnational and Transborder Issues.” Special Issue: Justice for Workers in the Global Economy, edited by Adalberto Aguirre and Ellen Reese. Social Justice: A Journal of Crime, Conflict, and World Order. 31(2): 1-20;

Reese, Ellen and Garnett Newcombe. 2003. “Income Rights, Mothers’ Rights, or Workers’ Rights? Collective Action Frames, Organizational Ideologies, and the American Welfare Rights Movement.” Social Problems. 50(2): 294-318;

Reese, Ellen and Elvia Ramirez. Forthcoming, 2002. “The New Ethnic Politics of Welfare: Political Struggles over Immigrants’ Rights to Welfare in California.” Journal of Poverty;

Reese, Ellen. 2002. “Resisting the Workfare State: ACORN’s Campaign to Improve General Relief in Los Angeles.” Race, Gender, and Class. 9(1): 72-95;

Reese, Ellen. 2001. “The Politics of Motherhood: The Restriction of Poor Mothers’ Welfare Rights in the United States, 1949-1960.” Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State, and Society. 8(1): 65-112;

Milkman, Ruth, Ellen Reese, and Benita Roth. 1998. “The Macro-Sociology of Paid Domestic Service.” Work & Occupations. 25(4): 483-510;

Reese, Ellen. 1996. “Maternalism and Political Mobilization: How California’s Postwar Child Care Campaign Was Won.” Gender & Society. 10 (5): 566-589;

Former Institution = California State University, San Bernardino

Biography: Ellen Reese studies welfare state development, urban politics, and social movements. Her book, Backlash Against Welfare Mothers: Past and Present (forthcoming, University of California Press), examines how and why a state-level revolt against welfare that began in the late 1940s became transformed into a national-level assault that shredded a critical part of our nation’s safety net in the late 1990s. Her analysis highlights how U.S. welfare retrenchment is shaped by the complex interaction of race, class, and gender politics. Her current research projects focus on struggles to promote the social rights of low-income and working people, especially low-income and working mothers, in the United States. One project examines the challenges and prospects confronting contemporary welfare rights activists in this era of retrenchment. Another project focuses on campaigns to defend and improve low-income residents’ rights to residential and public space in downtown Los Angeles, which are threatened by the city’s redevelopment policies and anti-homeless ordinances as well as the business improvement district’s private efforts to “clean up” the city.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.