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The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade Hardcover – May 4, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Nobody ever asked me if I wanted to keep the baby," says Joyce, in a story typical of the birth mothers, mostly white and middle-class, who vent here about being forced to give up their babies for adoption from the 1950s through the early '70s. They recall callous parents obsessed with what their neighbors would say; maternity homes run by unfeeling nuns who sowed the seeds of lifelong guilt and shame; and social workers who treated unwed mothers like incubators for married couples. More than one birth mother was emotionally paralyzed until she finally met the child she'd relinquished years earlier. In these pages, which are sure to provoke controversy among adoptive parents, birth mothers repeatedly insist that their babies were unwanted by society, not by them. Fessler, a photography professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, is an adoptee whose birth mother confessed that she had given her away even though her fiancé, who wasn't Fessler's father, was willing to raise her. Although at times rambling and self-pitying, these knowing oral histories are an emotional boon for birth mothers and adoptees struggling to make sense of troubled pasts. (May 8)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Perhaps it's no surprise that this story has gone untold for so long, considering the personal nature of the subject and the moral dilemma heaped upon the young women who gave their babies up for adoption. What is astonishing is that Fessler, a photographer and video installation artist writing her debut book, manages to tell this compelling story with a perfectly honed sense of restraint and respect. She handles the large volume of source material nimbly, letting each individual story breathe. The only complaint is that her research methodusing a self-selected groupisn't up to snuff for academic rigor. In the face of such glowing critical praise, that lone complaint seems, well, a little academic.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
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Why would this woman, a wonderful, loving, mother, give a child away and not tell us? What happened that she would take a secret like that to the grave? How could her family not have any idea? This book explained exactly why, how, and what was happening in our society in 1964, when my mother signed away her rights to her firstborn child.
It also gave me an insight into why my mother was the way she was. Why she insisted my little sister and I use birth control, going so far as to take us to the doctor for the pill, at a time when it was NOT the thing parents were doing. Why she had a yearly cycle of depression centered around the time that we now know is our older sister’s birthday. Why she never told my father, who she met not long after she gave that baby up. And other pieces, bits of information and things she said that didn’t seem that strange at the time, but looking back meant something so very different and helped put together a puzzle we never knew was there.
I’m not known for being overly emotional about things, but this was very difficult for me to read, even knowing in advance the kind of societal pressures on single women of that era. I kept having to walk away for a while after reading this chapter or that story, because it was bringing everything too close for me to handle. My mother was one of these women, and although I knew she’d had an abusive childhood, I had no inkling that she had suffered this injustice as well.
Even if you aren’t connected to anyone who may have been touched by this shameful era of our history, this book is a great opportunity to learn the reasons why women’s rights continues to be such an important movement, even today. We can’t let these kinds of things continue to happen 50 or even 60 years later.