By Andrea Lynn Even before they could vote, female reformers helped influence the policies and institutions that shaped modern welfare states, argue the contributors to a new book. Formally outside the political pale, but spurred on by needs borne of industrialization, Australian, British, French, German, Swedish and U.S. women between 1880 and 1920 fought for a wide variety of maternal and child health and welfare policies, write the editors of "Mothers of a New World: Maternalist Politics and the Origins of Welfare States" (Routledge). "During periods when state welfare structures and bureaucracies were still rudimentary and fluid, female reformers, individually and through organizations, exerted a powerful influence in defining the needs of mothers and children and designing institutions and programs to address them," write Seth Koven, a professor of European and women's history at Villanova University, and Sonya Michel, a UI professor of history and of women's studies, in their introduction to the book. Using "maternalist" political debate and strategies, activist women "transformed motherhood from women's primary private responsibility into public policy," the editors write. The book of essays by Michel, Koven and 10 other scholars demonstrates that the visions of motherhood and of maternal roles varied greatly at the turn of the century, as did reformers' success. U.S. maternal and child-welfare legislation, for example, is the "least advanced" of the countries examined in the book; the federal government still provides neither federal maternity benefits nor medical care for mothers and children. France, by contrast, has offered women free medical treatment, paid maternity leave and a nursing bonus since 1911. Because many modern feminists have rejected motherhood and maternalism as incompatible with female emancipation, some historians have downplayed maternalist politics and women's influence on the formation of welfare states, Koven and Michel write. In addition, some feminist historians have downplayed maternalism because some maternalist reforms have actually limited women's opportunities, Michel argues in the book. In her essay tracing the development of day-nursery and mothers' pension movements, Michel writes that, from 1910 to 1930, publicly funded mothers' pensions (the forerunners of today's Aid to Families with Dependent Children program) succeeded "because they affirmed women's maternal role, whereas child care - had it ever been put on the public agenda - would have challenged it." "Had the maternalist reformers who spearheaded the day-nursery movement embraced a broader view of women, they might have been able to push at the limits of public opinion and gain support for a panoply of policies that allowed mothers a range of options," Michel writes. "It was the limited vision of women's rights and responsibilities, not the idea of child care as a public service to all, that became maternalism's legacy to the American welfare system."