Reclaiming Class: Women, Poverty and the Promise of Higher Education in America

Divided into the three sections, Reclaiming Class assesses the psychological, familial, and economic intersections of poverty and the educational process. In the first section, women who left poverty through higher education recall their negotiating the paths of college life to show how their experiences reveal the hidden paradoxes of education. Section two presents first person narratives of students whose lives are shaped by their roles as poor mothers, guardian siblings, and daughters, as well as the ways that race interacts with their poverty. Chapters exploring financial aid and welfare policy, battery and abuse, and the social constructions of the poor woman finish the book.

Offering a comprehensive picture of how poor women access all levels of private and public institutions to achieve against great odds, Reclaiming Class shows the workings of higher learning from the vantage point of those most subject to the vicissitudes of policy and reform agendas.


Reclaiming Class is part of the series Teaching/Learning Social Justice, edited by Lee Anne Bell, which is concerned with educational practices that promote democracy and equality in a diverse society. "Social Justice" is used as an umbrella term for the many topics and concerns connoted by the terms democracy, equality, and diversity, while the term "Teaching/Learning" emphasizes the essential connections between theory and practice that this series examines. Books in the series will look at a broad range of educational arenas to examine the many ways people engage diversity, democracy, and social change in classrooms and communities. The series will draw on the lived experiences of people who struggle to critically analyze and challenge oppressive relationships and institutions, and to imagine and create more just and inclusive alternatives. The series' focus will be on both popular education and education in formal institutions, and its audience is educators and activists who believe in the possibility of social change through education.


"Reclaiming Class is truly first-rate. An extremely thoughtful, illuminating analysis of the role class plays in American society, particularly the perception of poverty, the stigma of poverty on those who are or who have ever been poor and the role of higher education in the survival of poor women. What is perhaps most valuable about the book is the combination of the personal with the theoretical and the analytic. The writing is vivid, immediate and compelling; the volume has an intensity that I believe will capture readers' attention and involve them in the debates and dilemmas poor women face."
—Ruth Sidel, PhD, Professor of Sociology, Hunter College and author of Keeping Women and Children Last

"Adair and Dahlberg have compiled a daring collection that challenges both the core values of punitive welfare reform policies and the myth of meritocracy in American higher education. It is a moving demonstration of the best kind of social justice scholarship."
—Carolyn Law, Dissertation Adviser in the Graduate School at Northern Illinois University and co-editor of This Fine Place So Far from Home: Voices of Academics from the Working Class and Out in the South (both Temple)

"Every college professor no matter what discipline should read this gripping and compelling collection of narratives and analysis about poor women and higher education. This sometimes brilliant book deconstructs and subverts the conventional wisdom about poor women and women on welfare offering instead a sociological imagining of their lives that sloughs off stereotypes to open up voices within. It portrays higher education as both problematic and opportunity, and offers compelling policy analysis."
—Sari Knopp Biklen, Cultural Foundations of Education, Syracuse University

Contact Information

Media Relations Office

198 College Hill Road 
Clinton, NY 13323
315-859-4680 pr@hamilton.edu
Back to Top