Negotiating "the Welfare Queen" and "the Strong Black Woman": African American Middle-Class Mothers' Work and Family Perspectives

Dawn Marie Dow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

This research analyzes how African American middle- and upper-middle-class mothers understand their work and family decision making in relation to two controlling images - the Strong Black Woman (SBW) and the Welfare Queen - that they describe regularly confronting in their lives. In-depth interviews with 60 African American middle- and upper-middle-class mothers reveal the strategies these mothers use to overcome assumptions that they are poor, single mothers on welfare or, alternatively, are self-reliant and resilient caregivers who do not need help. Although most interviewees distanced themselves from the image of the Welfare Queen, they had a range of responses to the SBW: Some invested in it, some resisted it, and some rejected it. This study shows how the controlling images of the SBW and the Welfare Queen influence the meanings African American middle- and upper-middle-class mothers attach to their decisions related to work and family and create a sense of exclusion from white middle-class mothering communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-55
Number of pages20
JournalSociological Perspectives
Volume58
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 8 2015

Keywords

  • African American mothers
  • class and gender
  • culture
  • family and work
  • middle-class mothers
  • race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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