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Through My Own Eyes

Through My Own Eyes

Single Mothers and the Cultures of Poverty

Susan D. Holloway, Bruce Fuller, Marylee F. Rambaud, Costanza Eggers-Piérola

ISBN 9780674001800

Publication date: 12/21/2001

Shirl is a single mother who urges her son's baby-sitter to swat him when he misbehaves. Helena went back to work to get off welfare, then quit to be with her small daughter. Kathy was making good money but got into cocaine and had to give up her two-year-old son during her rehabilitation. Pundits, politicians, and social critics have plenty to say about such women and their behavior. But in this book, for the first time, we hear what these women have to say for themselves. An eye-opening--and heart-rending--account from the front lines of poverty, Through My Own Eyes offers a firsthand look at how single mothers with the slimmest of resources manage from day to day. We witness their struggles to balance work and motherhood and watch as they negotiate a bewildering maze of child-care and social agencies.

For three years the authors followed the lives of fourteen women from poor Boston neighborhoods, all of whom had young children and had been receiving welfare intermittently. We learn how these women keep their families on firm footing and try--frequently in vain--to gain ground. We hear how they find child-care and what they expect from it, as well as what the childcare providers have to say about serving low-income families. Holloway and Fuller view these lives in the context of family policy issues touching on the disintegration of inner cities, welfare reform, early childhood and "pro-choice" poverty programs.


  • Over a three-year period, [the authors] interviewed 14 poor, single-parent women of Anglo, Latina, African American background in the Boston area to learn about their attitudes and beliefs toward parenting, employment, and welfare. This in-depth study reveals similarities and variations in these womens' approaches to (mostly) common goals of attaining self-reliance, education, and respect for themselves and their children. The authors strongly suggest that policymakers, educators, professionals, and community members (to all of whom this book is addressed) understand the underlying ambitions and key influences of these families' differing cultural milieus, resource availability, and attitudes when planning what should be a mix of programs to help them escape the poverty that precludes their independence and hurts our society as a whole. Recommended.

    —Suzanne W. Wood, Library Journal


  • Susan D. Holloway is Adjunct Professor of Education at the University of California, Berkeley.
  • Bruce Fuller is Associate Professor of Public Policy and Education at the University of California, Berkeley.
  • Marylee F. Rambaud is an independent scholar currently serving as a private consultant in girls' and women's development.
  • Costanza Eggers-Piérola is an independent scholar currently serving as a private consultant in girls’ and women’s development.

Book Details

  • 256 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press