ABSTRACT

Once the a venues for pr otest in local w elfare depar tments nar rowed, organizers searched the political landscap e for alternate routes to address welfare recipients’ inadequate standard of living and political disempowerment. Between 1967 and 1969 var ious local w elfare r ights g roups campaigned t o boost r ecipients’ purchasing po wer by for ming bu ying cooperatives and credit unions, protesting high credit charges, or seeking credit at local stores. In 1969 the national office advocated two tactics that grew out of these local efforts: one attempted to obtain credit cards for welfare recipients from major department stores and the other was a li ve-ona-welfare-budget campaign, which organized middle-class people t o feed their families on the amount of money al lotted in the a verage w elfare budget. Both strategies sought to rectify the consumer problems of welfare recipients. In addition, the credit campaign redirected the locus of political activity fr om w elfare depar tments t o pr ivate institutions. Recipients protested the pr actices of corporations, which, they c ontended, contributed to their poverty-or at the v ery least did little t o alle viate their hardship. Families on AFD C routinely fac ed unfair c onsumer pr actices such as inflat ed pr ices, high int erest c harges, and an inabilit y t o obtain credit. By addressing these problems, welfare rights activists attempted to gain some economic control over their lives and find ways to better provide for their c hildren. They wanted their w elfare benefits t o be r ecognized as income and foug ht for the same cr edit and pur chasing oppor tunities as other Americans. In these campaig ns, welfare r ecipients spok e of their rights as consumers, mothers, and citizens.