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Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade 2nd Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0415926768
ISBN-10: 0415926769
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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

In a thorough and important, if often tiresomely repetitive, study, Solinger (Women's Studies/Univ. of Colorado, Boulder) dissects the politics of female fertility in America from 1945-65, when the strikingly different treatments of middle-class white and poor black pregnant teenagers clearly reflected the demands of a racist, family-centered economy. Before WW II, Solinger reports, unwed mothers in the US were considered the products of defective, amoral environments-- permanent outcasts for whom no kind of rehabilitation was possible. After the war, she argues, a perceived societal need to produce as many white children in ``healthy'' male-headed families as possible, combined with new Freudian psychological theories and racist sociological assumptions concerning black sexuality, engendered a dualistic treatment of unwed pregnant women depending on the color of their skin. Whereas the ``market value'' of white babies enabled and even encouraged white single mothers to ``sacrifice'' their offspring for adoption in exchange for a second chance at respectability (usually after exile in a maternity home), ``unmarketable'' illegitimate black babies were considered the inevitable product of the ``natural'' black libido and were therefore left to be raised by their mothers, who were in turn treated as incorrigible breeders who gave birth to win more government benefits. With the ``sexual revolution'' (for whites) and ``population bomb'' (for blacks) of the late 60's and early 70's came the technological fixes of birth control and legalized abortion--though these steps toward female self-determination for women of all races were more a result, Solinger claims, of a slump in the white baby market and fear of black overpopulation than of societal concern for the fate of single mothers. Revelatory but regrettably dry work with repercussions for today. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"A stunning but troubling book that illuminates the deeply racialized terrain on which the politics of women's reproductive capacities and decisions have been played out. Contributing mightily to contemporary social policy debates, this rich history of single pregnancy from 1945 to 1965 warns us that reproductive rights must not only guard each woman's choice to contracept or to terminate a pregnancy, but also must win honor and social support for each woman's choice to become a mother."
-Gwendolyn Mink, author of "Welfare's End
"It is impossible to read "Wake Up Little Susie without understanding that racism as well as a deeply felt distrust of women as mothers--magnified when the women are not formally subordinated to husbands--makes such odd national passions possible."
-Bernice L. Hausman, "Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering, vol 4.1
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 362 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (March 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415926769
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415926768
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #449,011 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Linda A. Webber on November 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
I am a reunited Mom and as I was reading this book I felt the shame begin to lift from my soul. I have been asking myself why I didn't fight harder to keep my baby and after reading "Wake up Little Susie" I see there was a conserted agenda of our government, religious institutions,and those of the adoption industry to separate our children from us in the name of what others deemed was for the best.In truth it was both a punishment for female sexuality and also we were used to provide children for couples unable to procreate. The problem is those same people did not have to live with the wounds of us Moms and our children when they decided that unmarried woman were not worthy to parent their own flesh and blood in the marketting of our children.I am freeing my shame and I am now putting it where it belongs on those that profited off of the hearts of woman and children. Shame on them! And thank you Rickie Solinger for your honest account on what was done to us . Linda Webber
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Format: Hardcover
Neither "tiresome", "repetitive" nor "dry" (as stated by one reviewer). On the contrary, this book is exciting and refreshingly insightful. Only a "birth" mother can attest to the truth and honesty of the experience Ms. Solinger painstakingly, courageously and historically details in "Wake Up Little Susie".
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Format: Hardcover
This book helped me understand my mother's surrender of her right to raise me. It has helped tremendously in the reunion between my mom and me. I was especially interested to find that giving away the rights to raise one's child was more of a European-American phenomenon than an African-American one. I remember taking a class once with an African-American woman who was trying to research her family tree. I felt a great kinship with her because my own roots were severed, by adoption rather than slavery. How cruel for society and the adoption industry to coerce mothers into making their babies commodities. I would like to believe that practice has stopped, but even though the maternity homes are no longer there, the coercion still is. Reading Solinger's book made me think and do even more research into the adoption industry. I'm so thankful to Solinger for writing it!
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Format: Paperback
When I first read Ricki Solinger's book I could not believe that she had hit upon the same phenomenon as I had discovered in my doctoral research. I found her work thorough, scholarly yet biting. In no way is it restricted to those women who lost their babies to the adoption industry, but is an insightful view into the repressed '60s which many like to think of as "swinging' and sexually free. Read Solinger's work along with Wini Brienes' "Young, White and Miserable" and Susan Douglas's "Where the Girls Are" and you will get an accurate picture of what the '50s and'60s' were *really* like. I know - 'cause I was well and truly there.
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Format: Paperback
Not for everybody, BUT if you are a birthmother who relinquished a child 1940-1975, or an adoptee or adoptive parent involved in adoption from same period, READ this. The attitudes and treatment have changed so much that reading this is important for anyone involved in an adoption during that period of time. It also reveals interesting differences in attitudes and behavior between white, middle-class America and other groups.
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Format: Paperback
This is a great study on what it was like for women, both black and white, to deal with pregnancy outside the institution of marriage. This book is well-researched and it reads like a book you would read for a college class so it is not something to just pick up and read on the beach. This book is highly informative and easy to read. The author has organized each chapter well and there is an extensive biography at the end of the book in case readers are interested as to where she obtained her information or who are interested to get other books on the same topic.

This book took me awhile to get through because it is not light reading. It is dense and has a great number of arguments and details in it but its worth the read if you are interested in post-WWII unwed pregnancy and how different the experience was depending on your race. This book definitely makes the female readers of today grateful for the Roe v Wade case that made abortion a legal practice in this country.

I would only recommend this book to people who are truely interested in the subject matter. Otherwise you will find this book dry and boring.
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