Friday, September 08, 2006

The Girls Who Went Away


Ann Fessler, an adoptee, has put together a wonderful new book, "The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades before Roe v Wade.

This book should be on everyone’s “must read” list. Ms. Fessler talks with the girls who went away. They were from all walks of life, from all strata of society. They had just one thing in common: they got into trouble. One of the most interesting lines in the book, to me, was another young girl talking, a girl who didn’t go away. She said that she was doing the exact same things her girlfriends were doing, only she was one of the girls who didn’t get in trouble, and so she remained a “good girl.” What irony.

The book is loaded with insights into a desperate period in our history. After World War II, bumper crops of young unwed mothers were springing up all over. What to do with them? Send them away, hide them, keep them out of sight, make up new names, and keep secrets. If the unwed young women did as they were told, kept silent and gave up their babies to adoption as soon as they were born, the girls were sent back home and told that they should just forget all about what happened and begin a new life.

That’s a fairy tale ending. It never happened. The girls who went away didn’t forget! Ever!

Since I’ve never found my birthmother, I know nothing of the events surrounding my birth. Any one of these young women could have been my mother and I despaired to think of her being treated by society in such a shameless fashion. The only other time I felt this way was after watching the movie, "The Magdalene Sisters." I remained in the theater after everyone left, just sobbing my heart out, again thinking one of those young girls could have been my mother.

PEOPLE Magazine, Sept. 18th, interviews 3 birthmothers who are featured in Ann Fessler’s book. It’s worth the price of the magazine just to read this article.

Question: How do we as a society treat the “girls who get in trouble” nowadays?



Yes!!Yes!! The more our stories get heard the better chance we have at other states opening records across this country.

Anonymous said...

If their family has money and don't cringe when their babies are called "bastards", they do okay. Otherwise, they "go away".

Happy G'Ma

Anonymous said...

> Question: How do we as a society treat the “girls who get in trouble” nowadays?

Society seems to have come to agree with you- teenaged girls keep their babies. I work with kids, and I can't agree with you. Very few of these children do well.

Although as an adoptee I never experienced the emptiness some describe, if you say that was your experience, I believe you. I'm sorry that you went through that. But I don't see how it compares with what I see happen to kids I work with in the school system- best case, a mother who loves them and means well but can't care for them as an adult parent would, and the instability that follows; worst case, abuse and neglect. Most teenaged girls are not emotionally or psychologically ready to be mothers even if surrounded with support. The boys are even less ready to be fathers, and this absence is huge.

I don't suggest we go back to namecalling and cruelty. That was wrong. But is it necessary to brutalize and stigmatize a girl in order to say that she isn't ready for the responsibility of parenthood? I don't think so.

Susan said...

I have a son that I adopted from a teenage mother. My husband is also an adoptee. The child we adopted came to us through our oldest daughter- her friend from school had him and couldn't look after him. Unfortunately because she was so young and didn't have proper parenting she drank and did some drugs while pregnant. The baby suffers from behavior problems as a result. This teen aged girl use to call us to come to our house every weekend because she was scared of looking after her baby. We eventually took in both of them and tried teaching her to be a mother. But I guess if you are not emotionally ready to look after a baby,,,well your just not ready.