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University of Iowa News Release


March 8, 2007

Scholar Presents 'Nine Ways Of Looking At A Poor Woman' March 21

Americans generally believe that poor women are poor because of their own bad choices and bad behavior.

Also, many people have opinions about what constitutes "legitimate motherhood" in the United States, depending on a woman's race and class.

Independent scholar Rickie Solinger will visit the University of Iowa this month to discuss how assumptions about poor women shape ideas about poverty policy in the United States.

Solinger, a historian and curator who is well known in the field of reproductive and welfare politics, will present "Nine Ways of Looking at a Poor Woman" at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 21, at the Old Capitol Museum. Her talk is free and open to the public.

"If we believe poor women are poor because of their own bad choices, then a very important aim of poverty policy is to constrain the choices poor women can make," she said. "If we believe poor women are living in poverty largely because of powerful social structures, like racism, lack of health insurance or inadequate and unequal access to quality education, then our policy approach will focus on institutional change -- not merely individual change."

At 4 p.m., Lissa Skitolsky, assistant professor of philosophy at Luther College in Decorah, will present, "The Bio-Political Origin of Feminist Movement: The Indistinction of Life and Politics, Biology and Policy."

The lectures will be followed by a discussion.

Solinger will be on campus for three days as an Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor. The program was established in 1978-79 as a bequest from the late Ida Beam of Vinton, who willed her farm to the UI Foundation. Proceeds from the farm's sale went into a fund that helps bring top scholars in a variety of fields to the university for lectures and discussions. This lecture is sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Education.

At 7:30 p.m., Monday, March 19, Solinger will discuss her newest exhibition, "Interrupted Life: Incarcerated Mothers in the United States," in Room 116 of Art Building West. A reception will follow the talk.

The "Interrupted Life" exhibition is coming to the UI Museum of Art in fall 2008. It features eight linked installation pieces, including a piece illustrating the efforts of an incarcerated mother and her daughter to maintain a relationship during the mother's sentence, an 8-foot compendium of rules governing prison visitation and a centerpiece of hundreds of cards made by women in 38 institutions nationwide, including the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 20, Solinger will read from her newest book, "Pregnancy and Power: A Short History of Reproductive Politics in America." in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Listen live on the Internet at

The free reading will be recorded for broadcast on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series originating on University of Iowa radio station WSUI-AM 910. Hour-long "Live from Prairie Lights" productions, hosted by Julie Englander, air at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturdays, and 7 p.m. Sundays on WSUI-AM 910 in Iowa City, WOI-AM 640 in Ames and KRNI-AM 1010 in Cedar Falls. A program is also broadcast at 5 p.m. Sundays on KSUI-FM 91.7 in Iowa City.

Solinger is the author of six books, including "Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade" and "Beggars and Choosers: How the Politics of Choice Shapes Adoption, Abortion, and Welfare in the U.S.," along with many publications. She has lectured at more than 50 universities.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Nicole Riehl, 319-384-0070,; Program: Rachel Williams, 319-335-3012,