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[Extract] In this chapter, I pursue several arguments which emerge from the discussion about the widows’ pension and charity during the inter-war years. The first is that in the relationship between the family and the state it was the survival of the family that preoccupied the state and the lawmakers, and not the plight of widows per se. The ideology that informed these discussions reflected, in Ellen Ross’ words, the “fantasies of finding the perfect mother.”9 The introduction of the pension was a means to prevent further fragmentation within the family unit by allowing women to remain in the home and not become breadwinners. Its aim was to restore the stability between public and private life and reinforce the boundaries between these two spheres. But as Tamara Hareven points out, families did not always conform to such prescriptions, and they exercised considerable agency in the ways in which they “planned, initiated, or resisted change; [they] did not just respond blindly.”


Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences

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