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community, lone mothers, intersectionality, participatory mapping, social construction


This manuscript explores the unique construction of community that young, low-income, women create, based on the embodied internal and external spaces they occupy as lone mothers. Issues related to diverse women’s representation, voice, and power, within these socially constructed communities are examined. Attention is paid to how young low-income mothers experience and actively create their own supportive community within both geographic and social boundaries, in active resistance to dominant and oppressive assumptions. To explore these concepts in-depth, results are presented from an ethnographic study that examined the community participation of eleven young, low-income, racially diverse single mothers living in a small U.S. Midwestern city. Findings focus on the multiple ways that women’s lives embodied the idea of community through the prism of motherhood, race, class, and geographic/physical space. The use of qualitative participatory mapping techniques is also emphasized to examine these physically and socially constructed boundaries. Implications are discussed for ways that social workers can best advocate for social justice by using an intersectional lens to locate and partner with the organic communities of mothering that these women created.

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This article was published Open Access thanks to a transformative agreement between Milner Library and Taylor & Francis.


This article was published in Journal of Progressive Human Services, 2023. DOI:

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

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