Recession With a Difference: Women Face Special Burden

Only during World War II, when women were urgently needed in factories and offices to replace men who were in the military, did the government establish a far-reaching federally subsidized network of nurseries and child care centers in nearly every state. Once the war ended, so did the support.

“You cannot have a contented mother working in a war factory if she is worrying about her children, and you cannot have children running wild in the streets without a bad effect on the coming generations,” Senator Carl Hayden, an Arizona Democrat, testified in 1943.

Women make up roughly half of the country’s work force. They range from entry-level to professional, they live in urban, suburban and rural areas, and they often care for toddlers and teenagers. But the burdens of the pandemic-induced recession have fallen most heavily on low-income and minority women and single mothers.

Members of these overlapping groups often have the most unpredictable schedules, and the fewest benefits, and are least able to afford child care. They fill most of the essential jobs that cannot be done from home and, therefore, carry the most risk for exposure to the virus. At the same time, they make up a disproportionate share of the service industries that have lost the most jobs. The jobless rate is 9.2 percent for Black women and 9 percent for Hispanic women.

When the pandemic caused housecleaning jobs to dry up, Andrea Poe was able to find cleaning work at a resort in Orange Beach, Ala., about a 45-minute drive from Pensacola, Fla., where she and her 14-year-old daughter, Cheyenne Poe, had moved in with an older daughter, her fiancé and their five children.

The families were behind in the rent and threatened with eviction when Hurricane Sally ripped through the coast in September. To escape the floods, they piled into two cars, drove to Biloxi, Miss., and spent five nights in a Walmart parking lot.

Now Ms. Poe and Cheyenne, now 15, are in Peoria, Ariz., living in a room in her mother’s trailer.

She said she was applying for jobs every day, so far without luck. And the bills keep coming. Ms. Poe has missed two consecutive loan payments on her car and worries that it will be repossessed.

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Black women are the backbone of the Democratic Party. And they feel the heavy burden of this election.

Wendy Caldwell-Liddell is in a race against time, all the time.



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She is racing to wrap up her job as a grant-writing consultant. She is racing to get her 10-year-old son logged in to start remote learning at home since a case of coronavirus shut down his school. She is racing to drive her two-year-old daughter over to grandma’s house for daycare.



a man smiling for the camera: To Detroiters who don't like President Trump but didn't vote in 2016, 63-year old Detroit native Markita Blanchard says, "If you did not vote, you did vote for him."


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To Detroiters who don’t like President Trump but didn’t vote in 2016, 63-year old Detroit native Markita Blanchard says, “If you did not vote, you did vote for him.”

But now on top of that, three times a week, 29-year-old Caldwell-Liddell is racing to get Detroit voters, especially the black community, to, in her words, “wake up.”

Four years after Donald Trump became the first Republican to win Michigan since 1988, Caldwell-Liddell is working as a one-woman canvassing machine in downtown Detroit to prevent it from happening again, fighting against what she says is an apathy within the community toward politics.



a man smiling for the camera: Detroit native Amber Davis sat out the 2016 election. This year she says, "I don't like Biden, but I'm voting for Biden."


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Detroit native Amber Davis sat out the 2016 election. This year she says, “I don’t like Biden, but I’m voting for Biden.”

Trump’s Michigan victory was one of the biggest surprises of 2016. He won the state by just 10,704 votes. Wayne County, which includes Detroit, the largest Black-majority city in the country, was critical to that result. Hillary Clinton still won the county by a large margin — but she received about 76,000 fewer votes than President Barack Obama did in 2012.

Visit CNN’s Election Center for full coverage of the 2020 race.

While Caldwell-Liddell is motivated and focused on preventing Trump’s re-election, she also says, “the Democratic Party has not done a good job at all in taking care of communities like ours.” And it’s she clear she struggles with that burden.

“(Democrats) take us for granted because they know that Black women are going to help them get the big wins they need, where it matters. But they also know that they can give us the bare minimum, knowing that we aren’t going to choose the other side,” she said. “

“It says we still got a long way to go when the backbone of the country is the most neglected piece of the country,” she said.

She isn’t coordinating with any campaign, but she is pounding the pavement at bus stops and outside convenience stores to try to make sure Detroiters are registered to vote and are going to vote. Many of them are disillusioned by the systemic racism they see within their city, the President’s response to the coronavirus pandemic that has hit minority communities hardest and the economic inequality that has persisted for decades in Detroit and is only made worse by the pandemic.



a man looking at the camera: 29-year-old Wendy Caldwell-Liddell founded Mobilize Detroit to try and reach those who think their vote doesn't matter. "I wish the people here knew of their power. I wish people were more aware of the power that they have," she says.


© Jessica Small/CNN
29-year-old Wendy Caldwell-Liddell founded Mobilize Detroit to try and reach those who think their vote doesn’t matter. “I wish the people here knew of their power. I wish people were more aware of

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