History Faculty Publications and Presentations

Recipe for Disaster: Motherhood and Citizenship at Love Canal

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2009


In 1978, approximately 900 families living in the LaSalle neighborhood of Niagara Falls, New York discovered that over 22,000 tons of toxic chemicals were buried in their midst. In response residents formed the Love Canal Homeowners' Association, which demanded state aid in relocating families, and neighborhood women became the organization's most visible leaders. While the group's protests and use of the media were clearly influenced by civil rights and other postwar social movements, its rhetoric emphasized state obligation to protect reproduction, children, and homes. Despite the women's liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s, Love Canal women argued for relocation based on their traditional domestic roles. This maternalist activism demonstrates the mixed legacy of postwar social movements and the emergence of heterosexual reproduction as the basis of citizenship in 1980s America. This research contributes to the histories of women's political activism, public health and environmentalism, and 1970s America.


Copyright © 2009 Journal of Women's History

Publication Title

Journal of Women's History