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Queens of Welfare/ Pawns of Capital: Reframing welfare debates through archives, public discussions and brunch.
April 27 – May 17, 2015


A collection of documents from the National Welfare Rights Organization and Wages for Housework movements.

Saturday, May 9: Public discussion and brunch 10:30am-2:00pm
Reception from 2:00pm-4:00pm.

PARMER at Abrons Arts Center
466 Grand Street
New York, NY 10002

From its inception in the New Deal, American welfare policy was designed as a mechanism for regulating the poor, exerting its harshest discipline in the lives of low-income women. At the same time, welfare was the first money offered directly to women and poor families for their reproductive labors. Though allocated in a divisive and often punitive fashion, welfare could provide low-income women an exit from relations of economic dependency on men; complicatedly, it opened up an arena of struggle in which to contest directly with the state the value of reproductive work. This exhibition presents documents from two movements to emerge in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which combated the implicit racism, misogyny and class condescension of the capitalist allocation of welfare, seeking to appropriate the mechanisms of the welfare state for transformative ends.

The archive exhibition includes enlargements of original documents from the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO) and Wages for Housework movements.* By aligning class, gay liberation, antiwar, decolonial and race-based politics, these movements posed polyvalent challenges to the brutality of the emerging neoliberal capitalist order.


Public discussion and brunch

May 9th 10:30am - 2:00pm, followed by a reception from 2:00pm - 4:00pm.

On the morning of May 9th, we will host a brunch and public discussion with women whose theoretical work, historical research and activism have transformed thinking around welfare rights. Speakers will include Silvia Federici Premilla Nadasen and others TBA. Moderated by Arlen Austin and Aliza Shvarts, this brunch discussion will address the history of welfare rights struggle, the neoliberal assault on welfare and ongoing campaigns.


From its inception in the New Deal, American welfare policy was designed as a mechanism for regulating the poor, exerting its harshest discipline in the lives of low-income women. At the same time, welfare was the first money offered directly to women and poor families for their reproductive labors. Though allocated in a divisive and often punitive fashion, welfare could provide low-income women an exit from relations of economic dependency on men; complicatedly, it opened up an arena of struggle in which to contest directly with the state the value of reproductive work. This exhibition presents documents from two movements to emerge in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which combated the implicit racism, misogyny and class condescension of the capitalist allocation of welfare, seeking to appropriate the mechanisms of the welfare state for transformative ends.

The archive exhibition includes enlargements of original documents from the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO) and Wages for Housework movements.* By aligning class, gay liberation, antiwar, decolonial and race-based politics, these movements posed polyvalent challenges to the brutality of the emerging neoliberal capitalist order.

*Documents for this exhibition are reproduced from the collections of the Lesbian Herstory Archive, the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College and the personal collection of Silvia Federici. The exhibition has been arranged and installed by Arlen Austin in collaboration with Elaine Angelopoulos, Jason Boughton, Silvia Federici and Cassandra Guan. The archive installation and discussion have been produced as part of the Abrons Arts Center's year-long collaboration with PARMER.