Claim: Humorous list is compiled from genuine comments submitted by welfare applicants.
Example:[Collected via e-mail, 2000]
I am forwarding my marriage certificate and 6 children. I had seven but one died, which was baptized on a half sheet of paper.
I am writing to the welfare department to say that my baby was born two years old. When do I get my money?
Mrs. Jones has not had any clothes for a year and has been visited regularly by the clergy.
I cannot get sick pay. I have six children . . . Can you tell me why?
I am glad to report that my husband who was reported missing is dead.
This is my eighth child. What are you going to do about it?
Please find out for certain if my husband is dead. The man I am now living with can’t eat or do anything until he knows.
I am very much annoyed to find that you have branded my son illiterate. This is a dirty lie, as I was married to his father a week before he was born.
In answer to your letter, I have given birth to a ten-pound son. I hope this is satisfactory.
I am forwarding my marriage certificate and my children, one of which was a mistake as you can see.
My husband got his project cut off for two weeks and I haven’t had any relief since.
Unless I get my husband’s money soon, I will be forced to lead an immortal life.
You have changed my little boy to a girl. Will this make any difference?
I have no children as yet, as my husband is a truck driver and works day and night.
In accordance with your instructions, I have given birth to twins in the enclosed envelope.
I want my money as soon as I can get it. I have been in bed with the doctor for two weeks and he doesn’t do me any good. If things don’t improve I will have to send for another doctor.
Origins: As is typical with such humorous lists of supposedly “real-life” examples, the howlers are written by women, a circumstance which invokes the widely-believed stereotype of illiterate welfare moms and thus makes the compilation appear more believable. Could these have come off real
social assistance applications? Anything is possible, of course, but we can only note that this list has been circulating in various forms for decades, with new entries being added and old ones dropped off while various attributions have been added and subtracted throughout the years. For example, the entry about the woman who hasn’t had any relief since the husband’s project was cut off appeared in a collection of funny letters circulated since the 1930s, in which it was headed: “Dere Mr. President.” Likewise, the entries about the unclothed Mrs. Jones who is visited regularly by the clergy, a mother irate that her son has been labeled an illiterate, the bus driver who works day and night to get his wife pregnant, the twins born in the envelope, and the child who was a mistake all appear in a 1967 Reader’s Digest collection identified as “Troubles at North Dakota State Welfare Headquarters.” (Included in that list but not part of the Internet version quoted above is: “Please send my money at once as I need it badly. I have fallen into errors with my landlady.”)
Some of the items quoted in the example text above appear in the following list found in a 1954 collection of folklore, entitled “E.R.A. Howlers” and presented as excerpts from letters received by ERA Farmers Rehabilitation Project.
My husband has worked about one shift two months ago and now he has left me, and I ain’t had no pay since he has gone, nor before either.
Please send me my elopement as I have a four months old baby and he is my only support and I kneed all I get every day to buy food and keep in close.
I am a poor woman and all I have is gone.
Both sides of my parents is very poor and I can’t expect anything from them as my mother has been in bed for one year with one doctor and she won’t take another.
Do I get more than I am getting?
Please send me a letter and tell me if my husband has made applications for a wife and child.
I have already wrote to the President and if I don’t hear from you, I will write to Uncle Sam both of you.
This is my eighth child, what are you going to do about it?
I cannot get sick pay, I got six children, can you tell why this is?
Mrs. Brown has no clothes for a year and has been visited regularly by the clergy.
I am glad to say my husband who has been missing is now deceased.
Sir, I am forwarding my marriage certificate and two children, one of them is a mistake.
I am writing to say that my baby was born two years old. When do I get my money?
Please find out for certain if my husband is dead, as the man I am living with now can’t eat or do anything until he knows for sure.
I am very annoyed to find that you have branded my oldest child as illiterate. It is a dirty shame and a lie, as I married his father a week before he was born.
You have changed my little girl to a boy, will this make any difference?
I have no children as yet as my husband is a bus driver and works day and nite.
In accordance with your instructions I have given birth to a boy that weighs 101 pounds. I hope this is satisfactory.
The lady came into my office and reported this: “I have had no relief since they cut my husband’s project off.”
I have two children and my husband cannot supply enough milk.
In accordance with your instructions I have given birth to twins in the enclosed envelope.
Additionally, all the entries in the Internet version quoted above were printed in an anecdotal history of the United States from 1923-45 published in 1988, where they were attributed to Russell W. Ballard, director of welfare for Lake County, Indiana from 1936 to 1941.
Real life? Maybe. But a more likely conclusion to draw would be that most of these entries are more lore than truth.