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

girls-who-went-awayThis is a nonfiction collection of stories gathered from interviews by women who gave children up for adoption in the 1950’s, 60’s, and early 70’s. The author intersperses the stories with chapters about the culture and social forces at work during the period. The book tells a wide array of stories, but one theme runs throughout the book – the lack of choices and agency of the birth mothers, and the incredibly strong forces from society, social workers, and their own families that led the women to give their children up. I did not know much about adoption before reading this book, but I knew what society said about adoption: that birth mothers wanted to give up their children and could not or would not raise the children themselves. This might be different today, but The Girls Who Went Away shatters that myth for the 50’s-70’s. The women’s stories are shocking and sad, and some made me angry, but it is important for these stories to be told, as that can be the first step in understanding and healing for birth mothers and adopted children.

One problem I had with the book is that the author chose women to interview based on women who were (in the organization?). The group of women were self-selecting, as they joined the organization and volunteered to tell their stories. This makes for a sample that is probably not representative of birth mothers as a whole during this period, but as there are not public records of women who were birth mothers to sample from, and there is so little research into this area, I feel this book goes a long way to filling the need for information about the topic.

http://kcls.bibliocommons.com/item/show/531626082_the_girls_who_went_away

http://www.amazon.com/The-Girls-Who-Went-Away/dp/0143038974

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