Kidnapped: Child Abduction in America

4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195311419
ISBN-10: 0195311418
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Fass (history, Univ. of California, Berkeley) focuses on youth in this work. Fass traces the history of kidnapping in the United States from the abduction of four-year-old Charley Ross in 1874 to the 1979 disappearance of Etan Patz and more recently the abduction and murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas. Fass offers well-researched highlights of known cases such as the Leopold and Loeb, Lindbergh, and Gloria Vanderbilt kidnappings; however, she fails to deliver behind-the-scenes revelations or speculations on why kidnapping crimes occur or why today they have become increasingly violent. Readers are left to speculate on what role the media play in this increasing crime against society and its vulnerable children. Nevertheless, this is a good starting point for further research or psychohistorical analysis. Recommended for larger public and academic libraries.?Sandra Isaacson, U.S. EPA, Kansas City, Kan.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Kirkus Reviews

Fass (History/Univ. of Calif., Berkeley) focuses her grim study on the public's reaction to the horrific crime of kidnapping, from Charley Ross to Polly Klaas. The 1874 kidnapping of four-year-old Charley Ross, the first for ransom, captivated the public for years after, and Fass writes well of Charley's gradual transformation from lost child to holy innocent, celebrated in newspapers and in a bestselling book written by his father. The media frenzy that greeted Charley's disappearance--decades later, men still claimed to be the lost boy- -turned into a frightful circus that was responsible for the loss of more than one victim as kidnappers panicked in the glare of publicity. Fass also profiles Betty Jean Benedicto, a baby-snatcher who gained weight to imitate pregnancy and starved herself to mimic Hanna Marcus, the depressed mother of the child she had stolen. Benedicto was released early by a sympathetic judge--and with the best wishes of the Marcuses, who felt Benedicto treated their baby kindly. She went on to steal another infant. Male kidnappers, unsurprisingly, are dealt with more severely by the public. In 1924, Leopold and Loeb, the University of Chicago prodigies who killed 14-year-old Bobby Franks, were viewed as homosexual devils. And Richard Hauptmann, whether guilty or not of killing the Lindbergh baby in 1932, was executed for the crime. Modern kidnappings, like that of Etan Patz, are viewed as the work of a pedophile with a desire to exploit a child through pornography or prostitution. While most current kidnappings are more along the lines of a noncustodial parent stealing the child, and stranger kidnappings are still very rare, in the public's view, sexual predators lurk everywhere. Fass writes about organizations that provide ``kidnap insurance,'' and the histrionic tactics used to make parents aware of purportedly rampant pedophilia in this country. Despite its academic tone, a sad book with compelling stories. (27 b&w photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (March 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195311418
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195311419
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,245,870 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Richard K. Stephens on June 14, 2009
Format: Paperback
"Kidnapped: Child Abduction in America," by Professor Paula S. Fass is the only study yet available on the subject. The book is useful for the accurate information which it contains despite that the fact that it also contains an abundance of inaccurate "facts," distortions, and willful omissions - all which support the author's ideological prejudices (which clearly lean heavily toward utopian/collectivist child-rearing by bureaucracies).

The book's errors are legion; therefore only a small sample can be mentioned in a brief review. Fass claims the Philadelphia Charley Ross kidnapping of 1874 is America's first ransom kidnapping of a child (or the first "fully constructed" case, whatever is meant by that). In truth, the Pool case of 1819 qualifies as perhaps the first nationally known case (date of kidnapping: May 20, 1819, Baltimore, Md.). The Pool case does not, however, suit the author's ideological purposes. Nancy Gamble and Marie Thomas, the kidnappers of little 20-month-old Margaret Pool were females who physically abused their tiny victim.

Throughout the book, Professor Fass makes broad claims that are not supported with a lick of evidence. One of these false claims is her generalization that women are seldom kidnappers for ransom, sadistic purposes, child labor purposes (prostitution, entertainment, servants). This is untrue.

Deceptive rhetoric abounds in "Kidnapped: Child Abduction in America." In the book's introductory chapter, the "myth" of Gypsy kidnapping is compared to the Medieval "blood libel" against the Jews, allowing the reader to get the impression that the myth of Jewish kidnappers for child sacrifice and the myth of Gypsy child kidnapping are similar in type and origin.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Meaghan on May 15, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you're really interested in missing children and child kidnappings, like I am, this is definately the book for you. It begins with the heartbreaking 1874 ransom abduction of Charley Ross from Pennsylvania. His father refused to pay the ransom, not because he didn't love his son, but because he thought kidnappers should not profit from their crime. Charley never returned home. The next chapter is about the Lindbergh baby, then Leopold and Loeb, and so on. It ends with modern kidnappings: Etan Patz, Kevin Collins and Polly Klaas. There's also a chapter on parental abduction. In other words, this book is very extensive.
While it's a very "academic" book, it's not dull like a textbook. I found it very entertaining, with a nice centerfold of photographs. This book should definately have a place on anybody's true crime shelf.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is not really a collection of "kidnapping stories" as one would presume or as one would get from a Ramsland type author. Through the analysis of the time and place of each kidnapping the author delves into the attitude and changing ideas of America toward kidnapping. Where once the assumption was that no one would kidnap anybody unless they expected a lucrative ransom, the assumption now is that no kidnapping takes place unless sexual abuse is the motive. How did we change? That's what this book is all about.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Peter Thomas Senese - Author. on January 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is not easy reading, particularly for a left-behind parent who may have had to or continues to endure the terrorizing tragedy of child abduction or kidnapping (they are two very seperate but painful events, and are dealt with in the courts differently). In 'Kidnapped: Child Abduction in America' by Paula S. Fass, readers are brought into a historical perspective on how society deals with the abduction and wrongful removal of a child, and how this perception has moved the courts in different ways. Fass brings out a very important issue in this meaningful, yet painful book: what is the role of the media in abduction, and how has the role of the public voice directed the subjectivity of the various courts who are charged with overseeing such cases. Importantly, the author also points out that though the law is objective in theory, how the courts have handled abduction is subjective.

What is missing, is an in-depth understanding of what a left-behind parent can do for themselves while seaching for a child. Emotionally, physically, spiritually, and financially most left-behind parents are left with scars no words could ever express. The turmoil brought onto a parent, yet alone a child, is unbearable. And for some, always with the safety of the child first and foremost, it may not be easy or suggested that a left-behind parent speaks directly to the press due to concern of their child's safety.

Nevertheless, this is an invigorating book, and the stories presented, painful. When you see one of those fund raisers for an organization involved with missing children, do not think twice about helping. If you're a parent involved with a search, keep your faith. Sometimes its the only thing one can hold onto. Again, keep your faith.

Well done, and thank you for bringing the issues of child abduction and child kidnapping out further into the public light.
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