8 episodes

Linda Taylor was a con artist, a kidnapper, maybe even a murderer. She was also America’s original “welfare queen,” the villain Ronald Reagan needed to create a vision of a country being taken advantage of by its poorest citizens. Josh Levin reveals the never-before-told story of a woman whose singular life was forgotten in the rush to create a vicious American stereotype.

The Queen Slate Magazine

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.1, 527 Ratings

Linda Taylor was a con artist, a kidnapper, maybe even a murderer. She was also America’s original “welfare queen,” the villain Ronald Reagan needed to create a vision of a country being taken advantage of by its poorest citizens. Josh Levin reveals the never-before-told story of a woman whose singular life was forgotten in the rush to create a vicious American stereotype.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5
527 Ratings

527 Ratings

andetherunner ,

Book is awesome too!!!

Thank you, Josh Levin! What amazing research about an amazing woman!

LydianalaMode ,

Outstanding history of original “Welfare Queen”

This podcast is extremely well-researched and well-told, and the case it studies in depth, the case of the enigmatic and flamboyant Linda Taylor (who became Reagan’s infamous “Welfare Queen”), is culturally important. As the host suggests, we would never have heard about the “Welfare Queen” if it weren’t for a series of provocative news articles published as a “diversion” by one of Chicago’s most popular journalists and the opportunistic political use of her case.

Ignore the few bitter reviews that claim that the point of this podcast is to criticize Reagan (ffs). When Reagan is mentioned, the podcaster quotes Reagan directly and plays audio of his speeches. All the words are Reagan’s — and these are used primarily to show how the welfare queen term was based on one person whose life was very unusual to say the least.

The reason this series is important is because it presents the real-life story of the woman who served as the source for the vicious “Welfare Queen” stereotype, which has been used by so many politicians to vilify welfare recipients and to slash benefits to the poor and needy. Family benefits in particular were hit hard in the decades following Linda’s trial for fraud in the 1970s.

The real-life Linda Taylor was a fascinating and provocative woman who was a convicted felon, and she had a knack for crashing into the lives of others in tragic ways. She was a con artist who was forced to grow up on the streets (as a young teenager) with a very complicated personal history as a “mixed” woman from the south who sought a new life and a (quite literally) new identity in the north — specifically in Chicago. The way she becomes the infamous “Welfare Queen” archetype that Reagan used prominently in two major political campaigns is worth every minute this podcast spends tracing the strange turns of her life and legend. It also shows how Linda Taylor was *by no means* a “typical” welfare recipient but served as the symbol of this notion.

Tammy.G ,

Vice & slow content

I was exited to find the story. However; the voice narrating the podcast is very slow and boring and her life story not complete told. All in all I did not go through all the episodes as I lost interest.

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