The first major family policies, at the start of the 20th century, were aimed at protecting mothers, at least some of them. States provided pensions for mothers, primarily for white women whose husbands had succumbed to one of the four Ds: death, disability, drunkenness, or divorce. Black and Hispanic women were excluded. The first federal welfare benefits in the United States arrived in 1935 and included assistance for dependent children, “to enable the mother to stay at home and devote herself to the household and the care of her children.” , according to social security documents at the time. .
For the most part, however, US policy has followed the approach of treating male and female caregivers alike, if only by not offering much support to either. other.
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“In Europe, being a feminist meant talking about women’s caregiving responsibilities, and in the US we didn’t want to talk about it,” Professor Waldfogel said. “We went a lot further than other countries in terms of equal rights, but less with things like paid vacation.”
During the World Wars, many European countries had family policies such as paid maternity leave and public childcare services to support women who held men’s old jobs while deployed. These countries made them permanent in part in an attempt to increase fertility after losses suffered during wars.
American women participated in the International Maternity Protection Convention in 1919, which provided 12 weeks of paid leave for biological mothers, but while other countries followed it, the United States did not. not done. And although the United States offered public child care during WWII, it ended after the war.
By the time the United States began offering unpaid leave to some workers in 1993, and California became the first state to pass a law to pay them, by 2002, gender roles had changed dramatically. Most mothers were already working for pay, and men were more involved in the family. From the outset, the policies included both men and women, as well as the management of family illnesses.
Making policies gender neutral, however, does not necessarily mean that both men and women will use them. The backlash from Mr Buttigieg’s leave shows how deep the resistance can be: “Paternity leave, they call it, trying to figure out how to breastfeed,” Tucker Carlson said on his Fox News show.