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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
Fessler, Ann (Book - 2006)
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The Girls Who Went Away
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Penguin Putnam
A powerful and groundbreaking revelation of the secret history of the 1.5 million women who surrendered children for adoption in the several decades before Roe v. Wade

In this deeply moving work, Ann Fessler brings to light the lives of hundreds of thousands of young single American women forced to give up their newborn children in the years following World War II and before Roe v. Wade. The Girls Who Went Away tells a story not of wild and carefree sexual liberation, but rather of a devastating double standard that has had punishing long-term effects on these women and on the children they gave up for adoption. Based on Fessler's groundbreaking interviews, it brings to brilliant life these women's voices and the spirit of the time, allowing each to share her own experience in gripping and intimate detail. Today, when the future of the Roe decision and women's reproductive rights stand squarely at the front of a divisive national debate, Fessler brings to the fore a long-overlooked history of single women in the fifties, sixties, and early seventies.

In 2002, Fessler, an adoptee herself, traveled the country interviewing women willing to speak publicly about why they relinquished their children. Researching archival records and the political and social climate of the time, she uncovered a story of three decades of women who, under enormous social and family pressure, were coerced or outright forced to give their babies up for adoption. Fessler deftly describes the impossible position in which these women found themselves: as a sexual revolution heated up in the postwar years, birth control was tightly restricted, and abortion proved prohibitively expensive or life endangering. At the same time, a postwar economic boom brought millions of American families into the middle class, exerting its own pressures to conform to a model of family perfection. Caught in the middle, single pregnant women were shunned by family and friends, evicted from schools, sent away to maternity homes to have their children alone, and often treated with cold contempt by doctors, nurses, and clergy.

The majority of the women Fessler interviewed have never spoken of their experiences, and most have been haunted by grief and shame their entire adult lives. A searing and important look into a long-overlooked social history, The Girls Who Went Away is their story.

Baker & Taylor
A critique of the consequences of policies enforced after World War II prior to Roe v. Wade, written by an adoptee, describes how countless single women were compelled to give up their children and how their situations were devastatingly compromised by the growing sexual revolution, limited birth control options, unrealistic social standards, and the unavailability of safe abortions. 60,000 first printing.

Baker
& Taylor

This book brings to light the lives of 1.5 million single American women in the years following World War II who, under enormous social and family pressure, were coerced to give up their newborn children. It tells not of wild and carefree sexual liberation, but rather of a devastating double standard that has had punishing long-term effects on these women and on the children they gave up. Single pregnant women were shunned by family and friends, evicted from schools, sent away to maternity homes to have their children alone, and often treated with cold contempt by doctors, nurses, and clergy. The majority of the women interviewed by Fessler, herself an adoptee, have never spoken of their experiences, and most have been haunted by grief and shame their entire adult lives.--From publisher description.Describes how countless single women were compelled to give up their children for adoption in the years prior to Roe v. Wade, and how their situations were compromised by limited birth control options and the unavailability of safe abortions.

Authors: Fessler, Ann
Statement of Responsibility: Ann Fessler
Title: The girls who went away
the hidden history of women who surrendered children for adoption in the decades before Roe v. Wade
Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, c2006
Characteristics: 354 p. ; 25 cm.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references and index
Subject Headings: Adoption United States Psychological aspects Birthmothers United States
Topical Term: Adoption
Birthmothers
LCCN: 2005058179
ISBN: 9781594200946
1594200947
Branch Call Number: 362.8298 F
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Aug 03, 2012
  • missmellie rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This book opened my eyes to the way that women in the fifties and sixties were treated. I am a young feminist, and I think it is very important for me to understand what my sisters have gone through. It is largely an ethnography of this group of women who were forced to give up their babies for adoption. The book is composed almost entirely of their stories. It is a sad read, but it was well worth my time.

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