Beginning in the late 19th century, competing ideas about motherhood had a profound impact on the development and implementation of social welfare policies. Calls for programmes aimed at assisting and directing mothers emanated from all quarters of the globe, advanced by states and voluntary organizations, liberals and conservatives, feminists and anti-feminists - a phenomenon that scholars have since termed 'maternalism'. This volume reassesses maternalism by providing critical reflections on prior usages of the concept, and by expanding its meaning to encompass geographical areas, political regimes and cultural concerns that scholars have rarely addressed. From Argentina, Brazil and Mexico City to France, Italy, the Netherlands, the Soviet Ukraine, the United States and Canada, these case studies offer fresh theoretical and historical perspectives within a transnational and comparative framework. As a whole, the volume demonstrates how maternalist ideologies have been employed by state actors, reformers and poor clients, with myriad political and social ramifications.