Mittelstadt, Jennifer 1970–

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Mittelstadt, Jennifer 1970–


Born August 30, 1970. Education: Wesleyan University, B.A., 1992; University of Michigan, M.A., 1996, Ph.D., 2000. Also attended Institute for American Universities/Macalester College, Avignon, France, 1991.


Office—Pennsylvania State University, 133 Willard Bldg., University Park, PA 16802. E-mail—[email protected]


Pennsylvania State University, University Park, assistant professor of history and women's studies. Associate producer, A Panther in Africa, 2004, and The Paper, 2007.


American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, Social Science History Association Coordinating Council on Women's History.


Pew Foundation Fellow, Wesleyan University, 1991; Clarke Chambers Research Fellow, Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota, 1997; Mellon Candidacy Fellow, University of Michigan, 1997-98; Institute for Research on Women and Gender/Center for European Studies Fellow, University of Michigan, 1998; Institute for Research on Women and Gender Fellow, University of Michigan, 1998; Rockefeller Archive Center Research Fellow, Rockefeller Archive Center, Pocantico Hills, NY, 1998; Rackham Dissertation Fellow, University of Michigan, 1998; Mellon Dissertation Fellow, University of Michigan, 1998-99; Rackham Predoctoral Fellow, Rackham Graduate School, University of Michigan, 1999-2000; Joseph Evans Prize, University of Michigan, 2000; Allan Nevins Prize nomination, Society of American Historians, 2001; Children, Youth, and Families Consortium grant, Pennsylvania State University, 2004-05; Kent Forster Award, Department of History, Pennsylvania State University, 2006-07; Rock Ethics Institute Faculty Fellow, Pennsylvania State University, 2007; Institute for Arts and Humanities, Individual Faculty Award for Research, Penn State, 2007; Penn State Laboratory for Public Scholarship and Democracy Award, Penn State, 2007.


From Welfare to Workfare: The Unintended Consequences of Liberal Reform, 1945-1965, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 2005.

Contributor of articles and reviews to journals, including Journal of Women's History, Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State, and Society, Journal of Family History, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Reviews in American History, Law and History Review, and Social History. Contributor to Poverty and Social Welfare in America: An Encyclopedia, edited by Gwendolyn Mink and Alice O'Connor, ABC-Clio (Santa Barbara, CA), 2005.


Pennsylvania State University history professor Jennifer Mittelstadt's work focuses on race, gender, and the ways these issues are realized through the history of welfare and employment. Her seminal work, From Welfare to Workfare: The Unintended Consequences of Liberal Reform, 1945-1965, focuses on the ways in which liberal policy, when transformed into action, gave results that were far from what the original policymakers had intended. "With the passage of the 1996 reform act," explained Michael S. Green in the Law and History Review, "politicians proclaimed a revolution in ‘welfare as we know it.’ Now, they said, recipients would have to get off of welfare and join the work force." But the concepts and ideas of welfare reform had been part of the debate surrounding the program almost since it was launched in the 1940s. Mittelstadt "demonstrates that reformers sought to change both welfare policy and how Americans viewed it," Green concluded. "She also shows that what liberal reformers intended and what resulted proved far different, and why."

Welfare had its origins in the great explosion of social programs that tried to address the problems of the Great Depression. The program was conceived as an adjunct to the American Public Welfare Association, which was a broad-based government support system designed to alleviate poverty. "The architects of Social Security had hoped to integrate Aid to Dependent Children (ADC), an income support program for needy mothers, into a non-categorical welfare program in the 1940s," declared W. Andrew Achenbaum, writing in the Journal of Social History. "Wartime exigencies, opposition from liberals and conservatives in Congress as well as the National Association of Manufacturers forced ADC policy advocates to scale back their plans." By the 1950s, policymakers were recognizing that many of the mothers on welfare were from racial minorities, and were also demanding that these women be put to work in order to share in the expense of supporting them and their children. "In one of the most critical passages, the author argues that, although reformers understood the impact of discrimination, they chose to focus on expanding family services rather than civil rights," stated Margaret Sherrard Sherraden, writing in the Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare. "This approach, she argues, left a legacy that is being played out in contemporary welfare policy reform. The 1961 Unemployed Parent law and the 1962 Public Welfare Amendments expanded coverage, further embedding the rehabilitation approach, and adding ‘families’ to the title (making it Aid to Families with Dependent Children or AFDC)."

By 1965, almost all policymakers accepted some form of "rehabilitation" (meaning encouragement of welfare recipients to return to the workforce) as necessary and proper. They differed, however, on how that rehabilitation ought to be interpreted. "Though liberals defined rehabilitation as self-care and self-support," stated Barbara McGowan in the Historian, "they were benignly vague about whether improvement meant better family life or maternal employment. At the same time that liberals were attempting to define and implement meaningful services to welfare recipients, conservatives were beginning to focus negatively on their racial and marital characteristics." By the 1980s, critics of the program were spreading stories of "welfare queens" who exploited the system to receive multiple government checks, growing rich without working. The reform movement gained power and momentum until it climaxed with the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, signed into law by President Clinton. "From Welfare to Workfare is a valuable study," concluded Rhonda Y. Williams in the Business History Review. "By delineating the uncharted historical roots of punitive welfare policies in liberal reform agendas, Mittelstadt gives voice to an overlooked generation of middle-class political actors with a dubious legacy." "By tracing the ‘unfinished’ work of welfare reformers, the dire ramifications of their legislative ‘successes,’ the internal contradictions of their rehabilitative visions, and their diminishing power in federal circles," Williams concluded, "Mittelstadt helps us to understand the complexities and limits of liberalism."



American Historical Review, December, 2006, Kriste Lindenmeyer, review of From Welfare to Workfare: The Unintended Consequences of Liberal Reform, 1945-1965, p. 1555.

Business History Review, summer, 2006, Rhonda Y. Williams, review of From Welfare to Workfare.

Historian, fall, 2006, Barbara McGowan, review of From Welfare to Workfare.

Journal of American History, March, 2006, Felicia Ann Kornbluh, review of From Welfare to Workfare, p. 1517.

Journal of Economic Literature, June, 2005, review of From Welfare to Workfare, p. 570.

Journal of Social History, fall, 2006, W. Andrew Achenbaum, review of From Welfare to Workfare.

Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, June, 2006, Margaret Sherrard Sherraden, review of From Welfare to Workfare, p. 153.

Law and History Review, spring, 2007, Michael S. Green, review of From Welfare to Workfare.

Reviews in American History, September, 2005, "Rethinking Women, Work, and Welfare in Postwar America: The Liberal Origins of Contemporary Welfare Reform," p. 439.


Panther in Africa Web site, (May 1, 2008), author profile.

Penn State University, Department of History & Religious Study Program Web site, (May 1, 2008), author profile.

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Mittelstadt, Jennifer 1970–

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