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Like Our Very Own: Adoption and the Changing Culture of Motherhood, 1851-1950 Hardcover – January 20, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Berebitsky's work, which nicely fills a void in the social history of adoption, grew from a dissertation into an eminently readable and fascinating history of the adoption process and its implications from 1851 to 1950. Her well-documented study includes actual adoption cases and personal letters written by prospective adoptive parents. Imagine listing your expectations in a child much as you would the accessories in a car you were ordering! By also studying popular fiction and magazines, Berebitsky (history and director of the women's studies department, Univ. of the South) delivers a solid perspective on the period. As she shows, adoption wasn't always done for purely honorable reasonsDsometimes it was done for labor purposes, sometimes for the notion of protecting social order. It is unnerving to read about orphan trains or children who were abandoned or taken from a one-parent household only to be adopted and then ignored or used. Perhaps a follow-up will take this research up to today and compare and contrast adoptions after the sexual revolution and common use of birth control. Recommended for both academic and public libraries.DSandra Isaacson, OAO/US EPA, Las Vegas
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From the Back Cover

"Thoughtful, provocative, and lucidly written, this fascinating book explores a history that is both largely uncharted and of considerable contemporary interest. Berebitsky argues that early adoption practices held the potential to broaden our cultural ideologies of family and domesticity--but that, as its definition narrowed, adoption came to mirror the biological family, thus losing its utopian appeal."--Barbara Melosh, author of Gender and American History since 1890
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Pr of Kansas (January 20, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700610510
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700610518
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,719,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Anyone who is thinking about adopting a child or already has done so really should read this clearly written, engaging study of the history of adoption in the United States. Berebitsky's book is history that is relevant to our lives today and to the problems so many of us have confronted as we have explored how adoption relates to the so-called "real" biological family. To put it simply, the author shows that the issues and problems that adoptive parents face today are hardly new, but have a long and rich history. The best example of how the past illuminates the present is what Berebitsky discovers about the many unmarried women living before 1920 and who adopted children even though they either had no husband or were living with a female partner. Such women were not only accepted as mothers, they were encouraged to adopt such children. At a time when people believed that women's natures suited them to rear children, even women without a man in the house were sufficient as mothers. Beginning in the 1920s, though, single women fell out of favor as adoptive parents. That was when child "experts" and social critics began worrying that women without the tempering hand of a husband might "smother" their children with excessive affection or that mature unmarried women were really lesbians who would pass their deviance on to their children. What Berebitsky's work shows, then, is that there really is no such thing as a "real" or "natural" family that the rest of us must measure ourselves or our domestic arrangements against. In the recent past there were real alternatives to the "natural" family of married mother and father. Any adoptive parents today, as well as single women and gay or lesbian couples who are creating their own families through adoption will find plenty of evidence here to show that the unnatural or deviant ones are those who say there is only one kind of real family.
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