So pretty soon we’ll put up a post on Band of Sisters so we can discuss what we thought of the book (my opinion of the book in one word: meh) but I just wanted to remind you all that the August read is The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade. I’m over halfway through the book and already I love it. I think I’d even venture to say it’s a must-read for every person in America. Yes, bold statement. But seriously, ever chapter, every page, every story breaks my heart and makes me shocked that I’ve been ignorant about the way in which teenage mothers were treated in the 1950s and 1960s and how they were forced by their parents and society to give up their children. It’s definitely a must-read. Here’s just a snippet to entice you to go check it out:
So I’m in the front seat with the social worker. My mother’s in the backseat. And out come the papers. She said, “We need you to sign these so we can place your baby.” I said, “You know, I really don’t think that I can sign these papers. I really don’t think I can do this. I really don’t want to do it now–I’m just coming out of this surgery.” And she said, “Well, look. The baby’s been in foster care this whole time. You haven’t bonded with her at all.” She said, “As far as we’re concerned, she’s only known the foster mother at this point. The adoptive family is waiting for her. And why would you want to just do this to them? They’ve been waiting all this time while you were sick to get this done.” On the one hand, I was outraged that I should care that they were waiting, and on the other hand, that was the deal I had made. As young as I was, I understood what making a deal with the devil means: you just can’t win.
So my mind is racing, trying to think up ways to get out of this. […] And as things got a little tense, and I was about to say, “No, I’m not going to sign these,” she said, “You know, the state paid for you to go to St. Agnes. That’s quite a bit of money that we put out in good faith. Do you have the money to pay for that?” I said, “No.” I looked at my mother, and I said, “Mommy, what am I going to do?” And she said, “Babe, I don’t know. We don’t have any money.” I wanted to know from an attorney–I wanted to know from somebody what my rights were. But for every question I asked this woman I got the answer that I didn’t want to hear: that I had no rights. That I had already given her away. That it was the best thing. And that it was all my fault. Somehow, it was all my fault that things weren’t going well. And that I needed to just go home and I would forget about it and I would be fine.
I couldn’t talk about what had happened to me, about my daughter and giving her up, because every single person I told the story to judged me. Not one single person said, “I know how you feel. If I were in your spot I would have had a hard time.” Every single person judged me.
—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
Come back in a few weeks when we discuss the book at length.