Salon has an interesting article on a new book about women who gave up their children for adoption prior to Roe V. Wade: Ann Fessler’s The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade
Spirited away under the pretense of an illness or a family vacation, the women — many of them teenagers — spent their pregnancies away from home and gave birth among strangers. While the maternity homes were billed as a quiet place for women to reflect on their futures, when it came time to sign adoption papers, most of the women Fessler interviewed said they felt intense pressure to relinquish their children. Persuaded by social workers who said they would never be able to provide as well for their babies as a stable couple would, ostracized by families who were shocked by their behavior, and insecure about their own strength and intelligence, most women did as they were told and tried to forget.
Decades later, though, the mothers say the repercussions of those decisions are still being felt, as they struggle with depression, fight to find their lost children, and make peace with their past.
Fascinating. I know I have a cousin out somewhere in the world that I don’t know.
This is the part I think is really interesting, and particularly relevant, given that the religious right is trying to force us back into the dark ages by stamping out birth control, limiting sex education and eliminating abortions:
The second myth was that during the time period the book covers, anyone who got pregnant and sent away was considered a slut. It was an extremely hypocritical time sexually, because by the end of the 1960s something like 68 percent of women were having sex before age 20, but everybody lied about it. So all the girls who were having sex but didn’t get caught could claim they were virgins, but the ones who got pregnant couldn’t deny what they had done. So it was assumed they were either promiscuous or more sexually advanced than their peers, when most weren’t. It turns out, actually, that among the women I interviewed, most became pregnant with their first sexual partner, some with their very first sexual experience, and many within only five sexual experiences. So most likely they got pregnant not because they were promiscuous, but because they were naive. They didn’t know anything about sex; some didn’t even know how babies were born. People just didn’t talk about sex during the era; there was no sexual education, and in some families it simply never came up.