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The Baby Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption Paperback – May 6, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. An episode in American adoption history little remembered by the public at large, the crimes of nationally-lauded Memphis orphanage director Georgia Tann are skillfully and passionately recounted by freelance writer Raymond, herself an adoptive mom. The portrait of Tann that emerges is a domineering, indefatigable figure with an insane commitment to ends-justify-the-means logic, who oversaw three decades of baby-stealing, baby-selling and unprecedented neglect. Meanwhile, she did more to popularize, commercialize and influence adoption in America than anyone before her. Tann operated carte blanche under corrupt Mayor Edward Hull Crump from the 1920s to the '50s, employing a nefarious network of judges, attorneys, social workers and politicos, whom she sometimes bribed with "free" babies; her clients included the rich, the famous and the entirely unfit (who more than occasionally returned their disappointing children for a refund). "Spotters" located babies and young children ripe for abduction-from women too uneducated or exhausted to fight back-and Tann made standard practice of altering birth certificates and secreting away adoption records to attract buyers and cover her tracks-self-serving moves that have become standard practice in modern adoption. A riveting array of interviews with Tann's former charges reveals adults still struggling with their adoption ordeal, childhood memories stacked with sexual abuse, torture and confusion. Raymond's dogged investigation makes a strong case for "ridding adoptions of lies and secrets," warning that "until we do, Tann and her imitators will continue to corrupt adoption." A rigorous, fascinating, page-turning tale, this important book is not for the timorous.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year in 2007!

“An episode in American adoption history little remembered by the public at large, the crimes of nationally-lauded Memphis orphanage director Georgia Tann are skillfully and passionately recounted by freelance writer Raymond...A rigorous, fascinating, page-turning tale.” – Publishers Weekly starred review

 

“A fascinating dark tale of Ms. Tann's influence [that] gives voice to the brokenhearted children and their birth parents damaged by her actions. …[R]iveting.” –Dallas Morning News

 

“Raymond recounts this astonishing and horrifying true story with tremendous self-awareness and intrepid research into Tann's ongoing legacy.” – The Tampa Tribune

 

“Fascinating, insightful, chilling and compelling.  A very important book – and a terrific read.” – Adam Pertman, Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and author of Adoption Nation

 

"The Baby Thief is a hallmark of investigative journalism—an emotionally charged story of families living through a dark and complex time in American history. It is handled with honesty and tact. It will change you forever."--Doris Booth, Authorlink.com

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Union Square Press (May 6, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402758634
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402758638
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #694,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I bought my wife another book for her to read while I read this one.
William Jones
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in adoption, or in the triangle of adoption - mother, adopted parents and/or adoptee.
A. Starkey
Barbara Bisantz Raymond has done a thoroughly wonderful job in her reporting of Georgia Tanns' influence on Adoption Law today.
Loujean S. Miller

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Marley Greiner on April 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Baby Thief : the Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller who Corrupted Adoption by Barbara Bisanz Raymond will hit the stands soon. And oh what a book it is!

I've known about this book and its various incarnations for a long time. In 2001 Barbara sent me an early draft. Unfortunately, I didn't follow up on it like I should have. I am happy to say, though, that Barbara did, and the result is a fascinating but sickening account of how adoption got to where it is today.

For those of you who aren't familiar to Georgia Tann, she was a baby thief who worked her evil with the full knowledge of courts, social workers, and politicians. Between 1924 and 1950 she arranged 5000 "adoptions"--many of them of children she'd kidnapped or obtained by other illegal or unethical means. Tann stole from the poor to sell to the rich. Sometimes she just gave babies away to the child-hungry denizens of Tennessee's power structure, all too happy to turn their backs on justice in order to fill their nurseries with undocumented children to call their own. As part of Boss Crump's Memphis machine Tann's political influence in Tennessee was immense and unheard of for a woman, even now.

Raymond argues that Georgia Tann invented, popularized and commercialized adoption as we know it today with its secret closed and codified system of identity erasure and falsified birth certificates.

Tann's influence did not end with her death in 1950. It is carried today by the approximate 6 million adopted persons and their birth and adoptive families in the US (and more in Canada) whose records remain sealed by the state.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Mary M. Mason on April 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The Baby Thief is both a mystery novel and a historical chronicle of 5000 wrongful adoptions. It is more than an exposé of bygone crimes committed by the notorious Georgia Tann. Throughout the book, the author weaves the stories of those who lost one another; children who remembered being wrenched from their mothers; siblings separated and meted out like puppies; mothers and fathers who searched until their deaths for the children they had lost. In order to cover her heinous crimes, Tann issued false certificates portraying adoptive parents as having given birth to the child they adopted. The practice caught on so that in almost all states today, adoptees even as adults cannot get their original birth certificates. Tann's legacy of introducing sealed birth certificates has resulted in generational harm for countless adopted adults who will never know who they are.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Sandra Young on May 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Madonna adopting a new baby makes headline news; Angelina Jolie has turned adoption into a new career. But, celebrity adoption though currently headline news, is not new. Joan Crawford (Mommy Dearest), Art Linkletter, and many other celebrities of the past discovered adoption years ago. And, in the past, if a celebrity chose to adopt, they called Georgia Tann, the Memphis, Tennessee woman who single-handedly recreated adoption to her own specifications.

Anyone who has been listening to the news knows that America is in love with the idea of adoption; everyone, that is, except the parties most intimately involved in the loss side of adoption, the mothers and the children taken for adoption. The warm, fuzzy, happy-ending side of adoption is welcome news in people's homes on their nightly news, as another underprivileged infant is brought home to fulfill a desperate adopter's ambition to become a parent. We hear little or nothing from the women or families that have suffered the losses. Current methods used to obtain surrenders in America have been based on corrupted practice from early on, according to Barbara Bizantz Raymond, author of the recently released book, The Baby Thief, the Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption , published by Carroll and Graff.

Raymond interviewed and corresponded with many of Tann's surviving victims, and tells how Georgia Tann commercialized adoption, removing it from the arena of the well-meaning charity women and created an industry that today accounts for almost $2 billion a year, largely unregulated. Due to Tann's desire to hide her own and her cohorts criminal practices, today we have sealed records and falsified birth certificates in the majority of the country.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By William Jones on August 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My wife was put up for adoption throught Georgia Tann's Children's Home. She has told me some of her experiences from being in the home in the 1940's but I just didn't believe all that I heard from her and others until I read the book. I could not read but just a few pages at a time due to the impact this book made on me. I bought my wife another book for her to read while I read this one. We both would go to bed very disturbed each night after reading the books. I would never have believed anyone could do such things to children such as Ms. Tann did and get away with it. What is amazing is all the other people in high positions in government who also got away with helping her with her twisted ideas. One of my surprises was the participation by Evangelist Pat Robertson with his misguided ideas toward adopted children. Fortunately he and his team of lawyers didn't prevail and adoption laws were changed for the good in Tennessee. It's about time that someone exposed what adopted children go through at no fault of their own. I hope this book gets great exposure all over the world because this kind of thing is still going on today in other countries. I only wish this book was written 50 years ago.
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