"So Much Honest Poverty": Gender, Work, and Welfare Liability in England, 1870-1930


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project examines men's "welfare liability," the assumption that men were responsible for the welfare of their families. It analyzes how poor people in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century England grappled with policies that expected men to support their families when men refused or were unable to do so. Poverty restricted men’s abilities to act out dominant models of masculinity, even while men were acutely aware of cultural expectations. Other men, however, did not want to wear the mantle of breadwinner, especially when it came to supporting elderly parents or estranged wives in a bad economy. This analysis expands upon studies of welfare which have concentrated on the implications of gender assumptions for women.