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As children we held our breath, our senses filled with the musty smells of elephants, the staccato flashes of twirling plastic flashlights, the terrors of trapeze. With mystery, moustache, and elegance, the magician waved a wand, invited a woman, usually White, seemingly working class, into a box. She disappeared or was cut in half. Applause. Our early introduction to the notion of the sponsored disappearing act. So, too, at the end of the twentieth century, we witness poor and working-class women shoved into spaces too small for human form, no elegance, no wand. And they too disappear. Disappearing from welfare rolls, from universities, being swept off the streets. Dumped out of mental institutions and poured into prisons. We write to map the State-sponsored disappearing acts of the late twentieth century, the loss of welfare rights, higher education, and public spaces for women, as a conscience point for us to re-imagine what could be, what must be, for girls and women — poor and working class — in the twenty-first century.


This article was originally published in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, available at DOI: 10.1086/495534



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