Joanne Meyerowitz is the Arthur Unobskey Professor of History and American Studies at Yale University. A past president of the OAH and a former editor of the Journal of American History, she is the author of How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality (2002) and the editor of Not June Cleaver: Women and Gender in Postwar America, 1945–1960 (2004) and History and September 11th (2003). Her most recent book, A War on Global Poverty: The Lost Promise of Redistribution and the Rise of Microcredit (2021), that examines U.S. involvement in campaigns to end global poverty in the 1970s and 1980s. It begins with the decline of modernization programs and ends with the rise of microcredit, and it shows how and why anti-poverty efforts increasingly focused on women.
This lecture looks at the origins of the late 20th-century campaigns to empower impoverished women overseas. At the very moment that conservatives vilified poor women in the U.S. as welfare cheats, anti-poverty advocates positioned poor women overseas as selfless and hardworking.