The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993

Book Reviews

readers interested in prostitution in Fort Worth will find Selcer's article in the
July 1992 issue of the Southwestern Hzstorical Quarterly more rewarding. All in
all, however, this is an informative and enjoyable work that will appeal to schol-
ars and general readers alike.
Lyndon B. Johnson Lzbrary DAVID C. HUMPHREY
Social Housekeepers: Women Shaping Public Polzcy in New Mexico, z920-194o. By
Sandra Schackel. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1992.
Pp. ix + 213. Acknowledgments, introduction, conclusion, bibliography,
index, photographs. $29.95-)
Asserting that her focus is "the impact of gender on the nature and direction
of welfare reform" (p. 1), Sandra Schackel sketches the attempt to institute
basic health and welfare services in a poor rural state with a Hispanic majority
and substantial Native American communities. Women's voluntary associations
offered assistance where the state lacked the will or the resources to act. Since
voluntarism in Hispanic and Native American cultures tended to operate in-
formally through family, community, and church, the more formal associa-
tions, such as women's clubs, of the middle-class Anglo minority dominated.
Schackel contends that while the multicultural population forced these female
reformers to bend gender and racial prescriptions in order to be effective, their
organizations provided women with a base from which to exercise political and
social power.
Social Housekeepers promises more than it delivers on this familiar theme in
recent scholarship on women. It is most successful in describing the work of
local groups, clearly showing how women initiated and funded civic and social
welfare projects such as the Maternal Health Center in Santa Fe. But among
the state-level institutions and programs described, only the Bureau of Child
Welfare is clearly revealed as women's creation. The New Mexico Association
on Indian Affairs, which established a public nursing service for the Pueblo
and Navajo tribes, was made up of both men and women and operated under
the sufferance of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs; the agricultural home
demonstration program was administered by the U.S. Department of Agricul-
ture; the emergency relief programs of the Depression were generated by the
Federal Emergency Relief Administration. Schackel does not demonstrate any
interconnectedness between the professional women who found career oppor-
tunities as nurses, social workers, and administrators in these programs and a
voluntarist power base, as Kathryn Kish Sklar has shown for the reformers of
Hull House and Susan Ware has illuminated for the New Deal's Mary Dewson.
Curiously for a book that covers the 192os, there is almost no discussion of
women as legislative lobbyists-women's legislative councils formed in numer-
ous states-and none at all of women as voters in the post-suffrage era. Did
the women succeed in their demand for a Bureau of Child Welfare in 1919
because politicians feared a women's bloc at the polls as a consequence of the
Nineteenth Amendment? In many states the unequal distribution of federal

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101215/. Accessed November 21, 2014.