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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

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2013

    Harrowing first-person accounts from "girls who got in trouble"

    As a suburban male coming of age in the late 1960s, I can remember the snickering about the "girls who got into trouble," though I never knew any. Ms. Fessler's book is at its best when she lets those girls (now women) tell their story in their own words. I was reminded that paternity testing did not exist then but the double-standard did, so the fathers in almost all cases walked away unburdened by any responsibility for the children they fathered. The first-person accounts of the pressure to relinquish, the shame place on them by the "grown-ups," the lack of counseling, the isolation and sorrow and lingering sense of loss are heartbreaking. I felt, though, that the book was unbalanced. While my personal belief (as an adoptee from the era examined in the book) is that mothers and their children fare best when kept together, surely there are cases when a mother who relinquishes a child finds the resilience to move on to a fulfilling life post-relinquishment. That's a minor complaint, though, for a book that personalizes the damage done to so many young women by post-WWII culture in America.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2006

    refutation of the first two reviews

    I've read the book and it is a very depressing and harrowing account of what adoption CAN be, but not necessarily what adoption always is. I am adopted and have two great parents who did not attempt to exploit my birth mother--who decided to give me up voluntarily. My adoption was facilitated professionally and I was in good health the entire time. I know this because Holt International adoption agency is very respected throughout the world and does a great service by facilitating adoptions from poor nations. However, from my own experience and research I must corroborate that many adoptions that occurred several decades ago, before societal acceptance and regulations, were susceptible to greed and manipulation, as this book asserts. It certainly highlights a part of what adoption was and can be still. However, to attribute these accounts to the overall culture of adoption would be a mistake. Hopefully, this book can bring some awareness that adoption has come a long way but that there are still negative remnants from the past.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 27, 2010

    Eye Opening!

    this is such a great book that openly talks about a subject that was so taboo at the time! being born in the 80's, it's mind boggling to me to see how we treated young women and their unexpected children just a few decades ago. a great read!

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  • Posted August 29, 2009

    Great book!

    As an adoptee, I found this book to be very helpful in understanding the culture surrounding my birth mother's decision. Growing up as I did in an era where being unmarried & pregnant is not as big a deal, it's difficult for me to really understand the condemnation and stigma these women faced, how REAL the punishment was for being unmarried & pregnant. I understand her a little better now, and I'm sending her my copy so that maybe she can understand herself a little better, too.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2008


    I was born in 1961, so my interest in this topic stemmed from becoming close with several adults who are adoptees. I became even more interested after I mentioned something in passing to my 16 year old niece and made reference to the time before abortion was available, and she had no idea what I was talking about. I found this book dispelled many myths about the feelings and intentions of birth mothers. I found it alternately very sad (stories of girls being forced to do something they didn't want to do) and very inspiring (stories of joyous, healing reunions). I'd recommend it to anyone who's life has been touched by this issue.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2008

    A Treasure to me an adopted child

    My Mother gave me up for adoption and I always wondered how she felt. This book gave me alot of insight. What a brave courageous woman she was. I just found birth family, but regrettfully my Mother had already passed away. One day I hope to meet her and tell her how much I love her and thought about her everyday!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2006

    Thanks, Ms. Fessler

    I had seen movies featuring characters who got pregnant out of wedlock and were sent away to maternity homes. But after seeing a website and then this book, I saw that it wasn't just made up, but real. I found myself feeling sorry, shaking my head, and feeling happy--feeling sorry for the women who were made to feel like trash when they were still young and didn't know what was happening, shaking my head at the people who judged, insulted, and shamed them, and feeling happy when the women finally reunited with the kids they were forced to give up. Adoption can be a good thing, but ONLY if a woman (or girl) does it out of her own free will. These women didn't have a choice in that and suffered greatly because of it. I had no idea. This book taught me something, and that's the importance of being compassionate and nonjudgmental. It also underlined the importance of providing young people with honest, accurate sex education so that something like this never happens again. By publishing this book, Ms. Fessler gave these women a voice. Thanks, Ms. Fessler, for sharing these stories with us.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2008

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    Posted January 30, 2009

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