The roots of Women’s eNews are embedded in the media’s coverage of the 1996 welfare law. The ferocious campaign led by Newt Gingrich and joined by President Bill Clinton promised to end "welfare as we know it." And it certainly did. The results are apparent and clearly predictable: Recent Census data indicate single mothers’ poverty dramatically increased during the current recession and is expected to continue to rise–with the corollary that 1-in-5 U.S. children are living below the poverty line. Those numbers are also expected to continue to go up.

The 1996 law ended the federal program that assured single mothers willing to endure the humiliation and bureaucratic meddling that they could pay rent, obtain medical care for themselves and their children and provide food through the Food Stamp Program.

As a welfare mother in the 1970s, I managed to go to Ohio State and Columbia Graduate School of Journalism while I raised my two daughters. My first job paid so little–a reporter at the Paterson News in New Jersey–that girls and I remained eligible for food stamps and stayed living on the financial edge. I was only able to obtain and keep the job because an ex-boyfriend fixed up an abandoned car for me to use to get back and forth to the newspaper and to assignments. But I made it and eventually had a job that sustained the three of us.

Fast forward to the intense media coverage of welfare in the 1990s, which I regarded as poorly informed, racist and sexist. Because I had not only relied on welfare but also studied the economics of women’s poverty in college, I decided I had to act and create journalism that told women’s stories. I knew from personal experience and academic research that job discrimination, occupational segregation, lack of adequate reproductive health care, violence, lower educational expectations, minimal participation in athletics and lack of child support all played a role in the creating the feminization of poverty.

Women’s eNews has covered all these issues and more since it was launched in 2000. With the generous assistance of the Ford Foundation, Women’s eNews was able to this year begin to systematically and regularly dig into the realities of women’s poverty and institutional factors that stack the deck against them. Below are the results–journalism about women’s poverty that breaks out of the mold and tells their stories.

We have just begun and will continue doing this job as long as we are able.


Rita Henley Jensen

Editor in chief