I just couldn't put it down.
Ann Fessler "The Girls Who Went Away". Penguin Press 2006
It tells the story of a lot of women who became pregnant out of wedlock before Roe v. Wade and how they surrender their babies for adoption. It tells how the culture in America was at that time (basically post WWII-'70's) and addresses the horrible anguish of the moms.
I was struck again and again by the lack of openness or communication between the girls and their families, the hypocrisy of the church, the schools, the society in general and of not punishing the fathers, while forcing the girls and their families to bear nearly the entire brunt of this unforgiveable trespass, the guilt, the lies, how ignorant girls were kept re: birth control and biology (no or minimal sex education).
And we can't leave out the cruelty of some of the social workers, doctors, and NURSES who were involved in the maternity homes and hospitals and in the case management of these trapped young women. Not all were cruel, of course, just that so many of the women interviewed recalled the way they were dropped off at the hospital by cab or by Maternity Home or Wage Home workers who then left them alone, how they were enema'd, shaved, left all alone to labor, and then knocked out to deliver, the judgemental, disrepectful, harsh treatment of some of the mentioned professionals, including some judges who threatened to lock up and did lock up as mentally incompetent the moms who refused to relinquished their babies.
I understand more about my life, my mom's life, the culture, just everything about this topic, the role and lot of women, and about victimization. Maybe you will be helped, too. Maybe you were one who went away or maybe you were adopted because your birth mom was single, maybe you are one of those who was taken home and raised by your mom and her family. If you can share, I would be so grateful to hear your story. No intrusion is meant, I feel only compassion and love for those who had any role in this painful type of event. Maybe you were the parent of sibling of a girl who went away, maybe the father of her child.
This book is a wonderful resource for anyone who wants to know more about Women's Liberation, Birth Control, religion's influence on us, even Communism, and life in America in the era mentioned.
No wonder the Sixties happened and no wonder our morals today have changed nearly 100% from the era described.
One thing I don't fully get - how 100% of the girls said they were forced to take the avenue they took, how their parents made all the decisions to deal with "the problem" - why were so few Angry? They all felt powerless, terrified, dirty, shameful, and guilty. Only one, though, says she was angry. I think I would have been angry at the terrible unfairness of it all - Dad goes free, society/church/schools continue to condone the double standard while punishing the whore and her bastard.
Anyway, check it out and share what you think of this book.
Dec 10, '07
It an interesting book. My bio-mom was sent away, but not to one of those homes because she was 18. She and my bio-dad moved across the country and he worked and rented an apartment until I was born. The adoption was the best thing for all concerned IMO. I wish more young mothers would consider it today.
Dec 10, '07
I have that book and I agree. I read it within 24 hours.
So many moms agree, though, that they didn't 'give the baby up.' They said they were made to feel that the decision wasn't theirs to make and their babies were more or less taken away. Very interesting book.
Dec 21, '07
I was born at the Willows Sanitarium for Unwed Mothers. My non-identifying information calls it "Willows Hospital".
When The Willows closed in 1969, all the records were taken out into the back yard and burned.
Since I was born in Missouri, I do not have access to my original birth certificate. To open the adoption file, I would need a notarized permission form from both of my adoptive parents.
I'm 42 years old, and I need my parents' permission. I've asked for that, but mom says; "You don't need to know."
I haven't read this book yet. Hubby read it, and before I could screw up the courage, he loaned it to a friend.
I paid a fee of $50 for my Social History, but all of the identifying information is whited out. I had a name, too. Don't know what it was, but it was nine letters long. My adoptive parents were told I was of Norwegian and German descent, but the file says I'm German and Dutch.
My birth certificate looks just like anybody else's ... it was amended, and there's no indication I'm adopted except the "filed" date on the photocopy of my birth certificate is from 1966. Adoptions then didn't become final until a year after placement. I've always known I was adopted. My parents were told by the social worker to tell me early and often.
I'd love to meet my birth family and have registered on several web sites with my place of birth and birthdate, but no luck yet. Sometimes I get email from people who were also born at The Willows.
I will read the book.
Last edit by abooker on Dec 21, '07
Jan 6, '08
Sadly this is all to common in the UK, there were several old mental health hospitals in my area and many of the long term residents were the young girls who were pregnant outside of marriage - or their children. These hospitals were closed withing the last 15 - 20 years but these women and their children are now too institutionalised to be released into the community and so are in LTC facilities.
I was an "unwed mother" when I was 16 - my son is 25 now but even in 1982 I nearly ended up in a mother and baby home, not that I would be held against my will but there was still the stigma of what people would think etc.
I think I am going to find out if anyone has written anything about this practice in the UK? I read a book based in Ireland that was about this subject - if I remember the title I'll post it - it was about the old workhouses and the author is only in her 50s so it is a recent story.