A Chicagoan Catholic Perspective on Welfare Programs in the Late 1970s


Photo Source: Slate

Above is a picture of Linda Taylor, a Chicago woman who also became known as the “Welfare Queen” in the mid to late 1970s. “Welfare Queen” was a term coined by Ronald Reagan in his blatant demonization of Taylor and others taking advantage of the welfare system to survive. Indeed, Linda Taylor did commit extensive welfare fraud, I am not arguing for or against it, but her story is especially significant in providing a window into the state of the welfare system at the time. This incident ultimately further solidified the notion that those who live off welfare or take advantage of it have “no will to work.” While the story of Linda Taylor is quite interesting and more extensive, as well as Reagan’s sentiments on the issue, this is not to be the focus of this blog post. The focus of this blog is to show a more holistic view of the welfare system in the United States that was in use in the late 1970s from the perspective of Catholics in Chicago through primary documentation.

Below is a direct link to a PDF

Welfare: Changing Systems and Attitudes

The above article is one that I have found in the Loyola University Chicago Women and Leadership Archives and was originally published by “8th Day Center for Justice.” The article does not include a date, nor does the archive list the exact year; however, it mentions “Carter’s Plan” which means it could have been written or published between 1977 and 1981, when Jimmy Carter was president (assuming the mention of Carter is alluding to President Carter).

The article was also published by Chicago’s 8th Day Center for Justice which, according to their website is a “progressive Catholic social justice organization.” It is interesting because that information is actually from the description underneath the link to their website after Googling “8th Day Chicago.” When I clicked on the website, my web browser said “Your connection is not private, attackers might be trying to steal your information from 8thdaycenter.org” as well as “The site you’re looking for is not here.” I know I am supposed to refrain from using Google in this class, but I think it was warranted in this case because I was looking for how the organization describes itself currently rather than a drawn-out history or some other study. I still do not know why I could not access their website, but this is incredibly interesting.

While reading the information in the article, it is important to note that while the article itself is not taking an undeniably and direct stance related to its Catholic affiliation, that it was indeed written by a progressive Catholic institution.

I am not going to go into detail on the article, because most of it is just comparing “myths to fact” and outlining the state of the welfare system of the time. The article does a great job of outlining the differing cultural views of welfare at the time as well as eventually towards the end, providing conclusive guidelines on how to create a “more just welfare system.”

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