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Frances Fox Piven, born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1932, is a distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. She earned her PhD from the University of Chicago in 1962. In 2006–2007 she served as the President of the American Sociological Association. She was married to her long-time collaborator Richard Cloward until his death in 2001. Together with Cloward, she wrote an article in the May 1966 issue of The Nation titled "The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty" which introduced what came to be known as the "Cloward–Piven strategy."


Activism, Legislation and the Department(s) of Motor Vehicles

Throughout her career, Piven has combined academic work with democratically-informed political action. For instance, in 1983 she co-founded Human SERVE (Service Employees Registration and Voter Education), an organization whose stated goal was increasing voter registration under the linking of social services or Department of Motor Vehicles usage with voter registration offerings. Human SERVE's initiative was taken up by the Clinton administration and made it into the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, colloquially called the "Motor Voter Bill" (Ehrenreich 2006).

Honors and awards

She has been honored with the American Sociological Association Career Award for the Practice of Sociology (2000), the Charles McCoy Career Achievement Award of the Caucus for a New Political Science of the American Political Science Association (2004); the Mary Lepper Award of the Women's Caucus of the American Political Science Association (1998); the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Political Sociology Section of the American Sociology Association; the Tides Foundation Award for Excellence in Public Advocacy (1995); the Annual Award of the National Association of Secretaries of State (1994); President's Award of the American Public Health Association (1993), Lee/Founders Award of the Society for the Study of Social Problems; the Eugene V. Debs Foundation Prize; and the C. Wright Mills Award.[1]


  • Labor Parties in Postindustrial Societies (Oxford University Press, 1992)
  • The War at Home: The Domestic Costs of Bush's Militarism (New Press, 2004)
  • Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America (Rowman and Littlefield, 2006)

With Richard Cloward:

  • Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare (Pantheon, 1971, 2nd ed: Vintage, 1993)
  • Poor People's Movements: Why they Succeed, How they Fail (Pantheon, 1977)
  • New Class War: Reagan's Attack on the Welfare State and Its Consequences (Pantheon, 1982)
  • Why Americans Don't Vote: And Why Politicians Want it That Way (Beacon, 1988)
  • The Breaking of the American Social Compact (New Press, 1997)
  • Why Americans Still Don't Vote: And Why Politicians Want it That Way (Beacon, 2000)

With Lee Staples and Richard Cloward:

  • Roots to Power: A Manual for Grassroots Organizing (Praeger, 1984)

With Lorraine Minnite and Margaret Groarke:

  • Keeping Down the Black Vote: Race and the Demobilization of American Voters (New Press, 2009)

The Frances Fox Piven Papers are held by Smith College; the website outlines the [2] Scope and Contents of the Collection.


  1. ^ [1] official bio
  2. ^ [2]

Further reading



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