The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade

The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade

4.7 37
by Ann Fessler
     
 

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In this deeply moving and myth-shattering work, Ann Fessler brings out into the open for the first time the astonishing untold history of the million and a half women who surrendered children for adoption due to enormous family and social pressure in the decades before Roe v. Wade. An adoptee who was herself surrendered during those years and recently made contact… See more details below

Overview

In this deeply moving and myth-shattering work, Ann Fessler brings out into the open for the first time the astonishing untold history of the million and a half women who surrendered children for adoption due to enormous family and social pressure in the decades before Roe v. Wade. An adoptee who was herself surrendered during those years and recently made contact with her mother, Ann Fessler brilliantly brings to life the voices of more than a hundred women, as well as the spirit of those times, allowing the women to tell their stories in gripping and intimate detail.


Editorial Reviews

Michael Mewshaw
While striving for diversity of age, race and social background, Fessler discovered that her sources spoke with one voice about the early trauma that continues, in their telling, to blight their lives, scar their psyches and undermine their marriages and their relationships with their parents. Open the book to any page, and sad refrains repeat themselves with the plangency of a ballad.
— The Washinton Post
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 fianc , 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 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Fessler's book is the culmination of interviews with more than 100 women who had been forced to give up their children for adoption between the end of World War II and Roe v. Wade (1973). The book discusses all facets of the complex issue, including the women's discovery that they were pregnant out of wedlock, going away to maternity homes to deliver the babies, and later searching for their adult children. Fessler (photography, Rhode Island Sch. of Design) successfully intertwines the women's personal stories with descriptive text, placing the accounts in historical context. An adoptee herself, she begins and ends the book with the search for her own birth mother. She points out that although the circumstances of the women she interviewed varied (generally, they had answered queries Fessler had placed in newspapers), they all shared a sense of overwhelming loss and isolation in their grief. Thought-provoking and thoroughly researched, this book is recommended for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/06.]-Nicole Mitchell, Birmingham, AL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Oral history featuring the voices of women who gave up their babies for adoption from 1945 to 1973, put into context by the author's exposition on the mood of the times. Fessler (Photography/Rhode Island School of Design), a video-installation artist and adoptee who has created a number of autobiographical works on adoption, recorded some one hundred women. Narratives from 18 of them appear here, with shorter selections from many others. Drawing on government statistics, sociology, history, medical and legal texts, as well as personal journals and the popular press, she surrounds their stories with descriptions of social mores during the three postwar decades. In an era when sex education was meager and birth control difficult to obtain, more than 1.5 million babies were given up for adoption. The notion that these children were simply not wanted by their mothers is quickly dispelled by the stories told here, which make it immediately clear that the unwed women, many still teenagers, had little choice. Adoption was presented as the only route that would preserve a girl's reputation. She was told to surrender the baby, forget what had happened and move on with her life. Fessler's transcripts reveal that forgetting was impossible and moving on not easily done. Although the stories are at times repetitious, individual voices speak clearly of guilt, abandonment, loneliness, helplessness, fear and coercion. For many, shame and secrecy shaped their lives for years afterward, affecting their relationships with husbands and subsequent offspring, even the ability to form healthy marriages or bear children. The author brackets these oral histories with the story of her own long-delayed search forher birth mother and their eventual meeting. By giving voice to these women, Fessler has enabled adoptees to view the circumstances of their birth with greater understanding. A valuable contribution to the literature on adoption.
From the Publisher
Journalism of the first order, moving and informative in equal measure. (San Francisco Chronicle)

A remarkably well-researched and accomplished book. (The New York Times Book Review)

A wrenching, riveting book. (Chicago Tribune)

Haunting. (People)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101644294
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/26/2007
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
93,894
File size:
0 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Journalism of the first order, moving and informative in equal measure. (San Francisco Chronicle)

A remarkably well-researched and accomplished book. (The New York Times Book Review)

A wrenching, riveting book. (Chicago Tribune)

Haunting. (People)

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