Reclaiming Class

Women, Poverty, and the Promise of Higher Education in America

Edited by Vivyan C. Adair and Sandra L. Dahlberg
Book Cover

PB: $33.95
EAN: 978-1-59213-022-1
Publication: Apr 03

HC: $86.50
EAN: 978-1-59213-021-4
Publication: Apr 03

Ebook: $33.95
EAN: 978-1-59213-841-8

280 pages
6 x 9
5 tables, 1 figs.

The double-edged impact of policy and education in the lives of poor women

Read the Introduction (pdf).


Reclaiming Class offers essays written by women who changed their lives through the pathway of higher education. Collected, they offer a powerful testimony of the importance of higher learning, as well as a critique of the programs designed to alleviate poverty and educational disparity. The contributors explore the ideologies of welfare and American meritocracy that promise hope and autonomy on the one hand, while also perpetuating economic obstacles and indebtedness on the other.

Divided into the three sections, Reclaiming Class assesses the psychological, familial, and economic intersections of poverty and the educational process. In the first section, women who left poverty through higher education recall their negotiating the paths of college life to show how their experiences reveal the hidden paradoxes of education. Section two presents first person narratives of students whose lives are shaped by their roles as poor mothers, guardian siblings, and daughters, as well as the ways that race interacts with their poverty. Chapters exploring financial aid and welfare policy, battery and abuse, and the social constructions of the poor woman finish the book.

Offering a comprehensive picture of how poor women access all levels of private and public institutions to achieve against great odds, Reclaiming Class shows the workings of higher learning from the vantage point of those most subject to the vicissitudes of policy and reform agendas.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Reclaiming Class: Women, Poverty, and the Promise of Higher Education in America – Vivyan C. Adair and Sandra L. Dahlberg
Speech Pathology: The Deflowering of an Accent – Laura Sullivan-Hackley

Part I: Educators Remember
1. Disciplined and Punished Poor Women, Bodily Inscription, and Resistance through Education – Vivyan C. Adair
2. Academic Constructions of "White Trash," or How to Insult Poor People without Really Trying – Nell Sullivan
3. Survival in a Not So Brave New World – Sandra L. Dahlberg
4. To Be Young, Pregnant, and Black: My Life as a Welfare Coed – Joycelyn K. Moody
5. If You Want Me to Pull Myself Up, Give Me Bootstraps – Lisa K. Waldner

Part II: On The Front Lines
6. If I Survive, It Will Be Despite Welfare Reform: Reflections of a Former Welfare Student – Tonya Mitchell
7. Not By Myself Alone: Upward Bound with Family and Friends – Deborah Megivern
8. Choosing the Lesser Evil: The Violence of the Welfare Stereotype – Andrea S. Harris
9. From Welfare to Academe: Welfare Reform as College-Educated Welfare Mothers Know It – Sandy Smith Madsen
10. Seven Years in Exile – Leticia Almanza

Part III: Policy, Research, And Poor Women
11. Families First-but Not in Higher Education: Poor, Independent Students and the Impact of Financial Aid – Sandra L. Dahlberg
12. The Leper Keepers: Front-Line Workers and the Key to Education for Poor Women – Judith Owens-Manley
13. "That's Why I'm on Prozac": Battered Women, Traumatic Stress, and Education in the Context of Welfare Reform – Lisa D. Brush
14. Fulfilling the Promise of Higher Education – Vivyan C. Adair

About the Contributors

About the Author(s)

Vivyan C. Adair is Assistant Professor in the Women's Studies Department at Hamilton College, and Director of The ACCESS Project, which supports low-income parents in their efforts to exit inter-generational poverty through higher education and pre-career employment.

Sandra L. Dahlberg is Associate Professor of English at the University of Houston-Downtown.


In the Series

  • Teaching/Learning Social Justice edited by Lee Anne Bell

    The series Teaching/Learning Social Justice, edited by Lee Anne Bell, is concerned with educational practices that promote democracy and equality in a diverse society. "Social Justice" is used as an umbrella term for the many topics and concerns connoted by the terms democracy, equality, and diversity, while the term "Teaching/Learning" emphasizes the essential connections between theory and practice that this series examines. Books in the series will look at a broad range of educational arenas to examine the many ways people engage diversity, democracy, and social change in classrooms and communities. The series will draw on the lived experiences of people who struggle to critically analyze and challenge oppressive relationships and institutions, and to imagine and create more just and inclusive alternatives. The series' focus will be on both popular education and education in formal institutions, and its audience is educators and activists who believe in the possibility of social change through education.