Historian to discuss exhibit about poverty

Beloit, Wis.—Historian Rickie Solinger, co-creator of Beggars and Choosers: Motherhood is Not a Class Privilege in America, will discuss the exhibit when it opens at the Wright Museum of Art Thursday, Feb. 10. The artist’s discussion starts at 4 p.m., in the Logan Room of the museum, and a reception will follow in the courtyard gallery.

Beggars and Choosers: Motherhood is Not a Class Privilege in America offers a poignant look at a subject all too often at the heart of public scorn: poor mothers and their children. Solinger, the author of four books about reproductive politics, asserts society frequently condemns poor women as sexually irresponsible, bad mothers and con artists bent on using the welfare system to their advantage.

Young mothers, poor mothers, and mothers of color were marked early on … as bad choice-makers and poor prospects for becoming or raising good citizens, she writes in her book, Beggars and Choosers: How the Politics of Choice Shapes Adoption, Abortion, and Welfare in the United States. She believes rapid shifts in socioeconomic and political arenas in the mid- and late-20th century exacerbated and legitimized this view.

With more than 50 images supplied by 43 photographers, the exhibit highlights the humanity of its subjects while asking viewers to seriously consider the dismissive ways in which they are characterized by society. From the images of an immigrant Somali woman with her arms wrapped protectively around her son, to the embattled homeless mother who takes refuge in a car with her daughter, these women put faces on people who are too often regarded with smug pity or cold disdain.

Solinger has written several books on reproductive politics, including Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race before Roe V. Wade (1992). This book earned her the first Lerner-Scott Award given by the Organization of American Historians. She is a founding member of Women United for Justice, Community, and Family, based in Boulder, Colo. She has also produced art installations, working with sculptors, photographers and other activists to provide visual commentary to her important work.

Beggars and Choosers, co-created with artist/photographer Kay Obering, has toured across the United States since 2002 and continues through 2007. It will be on display at the Wright Museum of Art through Thursday, March 10.

The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and admission is free. The discussion is part of the 2004-2005 Beloit College Series “Year of World Citizenship, Science and Technology.”

For more information about the exhibit or artist’s discussion, contact Marcus Eckhardt at (608) 363-2347.

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