Rebecca White’s article examines the origins of a new state-funded welfare system in Maine through the prism of the 1917 “Act to Provide for Mothers with Dependent Children,” also known as mothers’ aid or mothers’ allowance legislation. This law established a centralized Mothers’ Allowance Board in Augusta to oversee applications and administer state funding to eligible Maine families. This represented a shift from traditional town-based poor services to a state-funded system of aid for those considered to be worthy. This article details the sparse landscape of public and private charity available to families in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Maine, in particular the town-based pauper-relief and poorfarm systems common across the state. It then presents the ideological and practical processes that led to Maine’s adoption of this new centralized approach to public welfare. Rebecca White earned her PhD in Canadian-American History from the University of Maine in 2015 and her MA in European History from the University of Pittsburgh in 2002. Her research agenda focuses broadly on women, gender, and the impacts of the modernizing state in United States and Canada. Her current project looks at the gendered and class-based ideologies and practices of anti-tuberculosis efforts in the Province of New Brunswick, with a particular focus on the interplay of public welfare and public-health officials in casework and case-finding efforts. White’s dissertation examined the social history of mothers’ allowances in Maine and New Brunswick. The study explained the power structures and ideological basis of these state welfare programs and highlighted ways that women, families, and communities worked within these rigid systems to assert some level of independence. These same themes of gender, authority, and power infuse her teaching in the Women, Gender, and Sexualities Studies and History Department at the University of Maine.
White, Rebecca. "Better Than The Poorhouse?: The Origins Of Mothers’ Aid In Maine." Maine History 51, 1 (2017): 29-61. https://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu/mainehistoryjournal/vol51/iss1/3