The “Welfare Queen” Goes to the Polls: Race-Based Fractures in Gender Politics and Opportunities for Intersectional Coalitions

This paper argues that the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, enshrining women’s suffrage, has been used to fracture women's understanding of their rights and shared political interests. Women of color are prosecuted for a surprising “crime” – exercising their right to vote. In some cases, formerly incarcerated women are barred from voting, e.g., when they are on parole or owe court fines (a modern day version of a poll tax). Like the “welfare cheat”– whom a generation ago, Ronald Reagan claimed received welfare checks from the state due to her presumed laziness, incompetence, and fraudulence, the new “Welfare Queen” is a narrative about anyone who places a claim on the state, including the right to vote. Trump's attacks on “voter fraud” underwrite his voter suppression efforts, which often turn on both race and gender. Therefore, we can view women of color as canaries in the coalmine of democracy.