Reagan’s “Welfare Queen” Was Real and Terrifying


Ronald Reagan’s anecdotal speech about a “welfare queen” who bilked taxpayers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars has largely been discredited as racist demagoguery, but it turns out that particular woman did exist—and welfare fraud was the least of her offenses.

Read Josh Levin’s longform account of the life and crimes of Linda Taylor, who, though she was quite real, was not exactly representative of any government-swindling trends. Rather, she was a uniquely terrifying criminal implicated in, among other things, murders and baby trafficking:

“She acted friendly, nice, kind, and I seen her with her kids, and I seen my niece there,” the now 62-year-old Termini says. There were four or five children there in all, she remembers. “I go, OK—then I trust her. But then when I went back for my son, he was gone.”

Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →