In this study we have compared the structure and outcomes of the policy environment around paid work and care-giving for lone mothers across twenty countries. In doing so, our purpose has been two-fold. In the first place, we have been concerned to expand knowledge of how the configuration of women's social rights of citizenship varies across welfare states. This has become an important area of enquiry within the field of comparative social policy research over the last decade. We have argued, however, that progress has been inhibited somewhat by a dilemma in specifying precisely what should constitute women's social rights of citizenship. The problem revolves around the question of which of two strategies has the greater potential to reduce gender inequalities: providing social rights which guarantee women equality in the labour market with men; or providing social rights which treat care-giving as an equally valid base for citizenship as paid work. A central contention of this study has been that if we define social rights for women qua women, as those which are directed (intentionally or not) towards altering the balance of gendered power within individual and societal relations, a focus on the social rights attached to paid work and care-giving, provides a way through the dilemma. We have also contended that both for conceptual and empirical reasons, lone mothers represent an interesting analytical category when examining the manner in which welfare states structure women's relationship to paid work and care.