Ronald Reagan weaponized welfare recipients in the 1976 Presidential election. During a radio address, he cited a “woman in Chicago” as proof that fraud was rampant in the welfare system. It did not deliver him the victory he hoped for, but it resounded with the public. Using that talking point, he would go on to be elected President in 1980.
Who was the ‘woman in Chicago,’ the so-called Welfare Queen? Her name was Linda Taylor, we think. While the woman is known, her real name is not. She had more aliases than she did husbands. Taylor was shrouded in crime and mystery, with the two often intertwining.
Not Black Or White
Linda Taylor was born to Lydia Mooney, a white woman, in 1926. The father of the child is not known, though that would play a part later in Taylor’s life. Many believe Mooney cheated on her husband with a black man, who disappeared shortly thereafter. Mooney’s husband would file for divorce on the grounds of infidelity, which adds fuel to the theory.
Growing up, Taylor was identified as white in public. However, family and friend shunned her because of her mixed-race status. In Cullman County, Alabama racism was celebrated. A mixed kin to this family was a fate worse than watching the final season of Game of Thrones.
At some point, Taylor ended up in Lincoln Park, Illinois. She pretended to be white for a time, but an opportunity presented itself that she could not pass up.
Brushes With Crime
Before heading to the Chicago area, Taylor went out to the Bay Area of California. She was arrested for prostitution. Soon after her arrest, Taylor married a man of German descent. The marriage certificate said she was Hawaiian. The marriage lasted about as long as a french fry when someone is hungry.
Her time in Lincoln Park resulted in a scheme that seems to be straight out of a TV show. After pretending to be white for most of her life, Taylor decided to pretend to be black. A gambling kingpin had died, and there was no heir apparent. She decided it was her time to collect money.
Her racist family that had shunned her, showed up in the courtroom. They testified the kingpin was not her father and she had no rights to the money. Most people believe their actions were more about concealing the fact Taylor is biracial than trying to hurt her. Nonetheless, after the Judge ruled against her, Taylor decided she would forever be known as black.
It has also been reported the judge would have ruled against Taylor anyways. The documents she provided to “prove” her identity were obvious forgeries.
After the failed scheme, Taylor must have gotten better at forgeries. It was right after she failed to secure the gambling kingpin’s fortune that she began working the welfare system. Michigan was the first state she tried her new scheme in.
Having found success in the Mitten State, she moved back to Illinois and replicated her tactics there. More success, at least for a while. However, despite Reagan’s claim that she had bilked the government out of a million dollars, the actual amount was significantly less. It is estimated she only gleaned $40,000 over the span of several years. And she was only charged for defrauding the government of $9,000.
Why such a discrepancy? Taylor’s web of lies made investigating the case nearly impossible. Even Nancy Drew wouldn’t have been able to track the different aliases and husbands. She was indicted on 31 counts of fraud between Michigan and Illinois. That would be drastically reduced as the case dragged on.
Taylor was found guilty and sentenced up to six years in jail.
Alleged Other Crimes
Taylor will forever be known as the spooky Welfare Queen. Towards the end of her life, many had forgotten about her and treated the title as a Republican talking point. Yet, there are a myriad of other crimes Taylor allegedly committed that should have been her calling card.
Multiple sources point to her being a kidnapper, though they didn’t offer any case for the assertion. There are also stories about Taylor buying and selling babies on the black market. At least one of the alleged kidnapped children was part of the welfare scheme.
And then there were the murders. A female friend that was close to Taylor died in the ’70s under mysterious circumstances. No charges were brought against her. Likewise, in the 1980s, a man shot and killed Taylor’s husband. Taylor falsely claimed the man was her father. Conveniently, life insurance policies had been bought for the husband. Nobody stopped her from collecting the payout on the policies.
As with the gambling kingpin, Taylor tried to assert her rights to another person’s fortune. She claimed Mildred Markham was her mother and alternatively her grandmother. Markham would die under mysterious circumstances. Adding more evidence to the likelihood that Taylor was responsible, she collected even more insurance money. Though that was the only thing she inherited from Markham.
Villain or Victim
Today’s society likes to have people on one side or the other. Either they are saints or they are minions of the devil. Taylor does not fit into either category easily. It is easy to qualify her as a bad guy. Her resume of misdeeds is long. But the torment she suffered at the hands of a racist family and being denied an education because of her race may have played a factor. Reagan making her a scapegoat also adds to the belief she may not have been all bad.
Taylor may have just been trying to do whatever it took to survive. Until she caught the murder bug and killed spouses. That’s Florida-level crazy.