The Social Security Act of 1935 is widely considered to have established an
American welfare state that is “two-tiered” or “two-track” in character, and which divided American social citizenship by gender.This depiction is commonplace; for a recent example of its use, see Dia
ne Sainsbury, Gender Equality and Welfare States (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 28–29. It seems to have originated in Nancy Fraser, Unruly Practices: Power, Discourse, and Gender in Contemporary Social Theory (Minne
apolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989), 144–60 and Barbara J. Nelson, “The Origins of the Two-Channel Welfare State: Workmen's Compensation and Mothers' Aid,” in Women, the State, and Welfare, ed. Linda Gordon (M
adison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990), 123–51. Scholars have generally assumed that to the extent such “gender bias” emerged in public policy, it must have been manifest in the law from the outset, inscribed in the differ
ences between the work-related, contributory plans in the legislation versus the need-based, grant-in-aid public assistance programs.For example, see Linda Gordon, Pitied But Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History
of Welfare, 1890–1935 (New York: Free Press, 1994), 253–85; also Fraser, Unruly Practices, 149–53. Yet, although the two major social programs for non-elderly American in the Social Security Act differed in such re
gards, they emerged from the policymaking process in 1935 on fairly equal ground, with seemingly similar prospects for success or failure.