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The Baby Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  610 Ratings  ·  119 Reviews
For almost three decades, renowned baby-seller Georgia Tann ran a children's home in Memphis, Tennessee — selling her charges to wealthy clients nationwide, Joan Crawford among them.

Part social history, part detective story, part exposé, The Baby Thief is a riveting investigative narrative that explores themes that continue to reverberate today.
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 12th 2007 by Da Capo Press
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John Mosman
Jan 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, memoir
As a "Georgia Tann" baby, I did found this book interesting and informative. I find myself fortunate in that my adopted parents were wonderful parents throughout my youth. I am about to be 65 years old and have had none or very little interest in finding my birth parents or even knowing anything about them. My adopted parents were my parents, the end. Having a grandson and reading this book has changed my perspective. My daughter and I will proceed in the process in opening my adoption records i ...more
J.M. Cornwell
Aug 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
“The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption.”

In 1924 when Georgia Tann made Memphis her home base for what would become the most pervasive and powerful organization in Tennessee history, and indeed American history, she changed the rules of adoption and left a legacy of pain and moral destruction in her wake that took long after her death in 1950 to rectify. Georgia Tann also created a demand for adoptable children where none existed before.

Despite the subtitle of
So cliché, but, THIS BOOK BLEW MY MIND!!! OMG!

Kidnapped, swindled, bought and brokered, tricked and traded - countless children sold illegally with the full cooperation of the legal system and local law enforcement, along with many other active and passive participants who turned a blind eye, through the Tennessee Children's Home via Georgia Tann. She destroyed/endangered/altered many families and children's lives. And of her umpteen thousand "wards" deemed unfit - too ugly, too old, too sickly
Sep 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
HOLY CRAP. this is a true story. I had no idea modern adoption got started and became mainstream as a result of a corrupt/scandalous woman. The problems adoptees face today in trying to get their own records is because of Georgia Tann. The book got 4 stars because the author could have said everything she did in about half the pages...she was so repetitive. It was riveting, like a car accident.
Nov 26, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: from-library
I am so disappointed in the actual writing of this book. This book covered such an intriguing story and such a critical part in the development of adoption law in America. So much potential that really needed a better editor. Instead of giving a concise reporting of the history and parties involved and the long-reaching effects, you are bounced around from one moment in time, back to another, to an interview snipped with a victim. All very haphazard with no organization or clear time line going ...more
Sep 30, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: adoptees, adoptive parents, mothers
Not the best writer in the world, but interesting material esp with regard to Tann's long-term legacy on the policies of the US adoption industry. It was a bit unsatisfying in the end, however, because the author seemed unwilling to make the very natural intellectual leap to the idea that adoption instead of being 'corrupted' by this one admittedly truly evil woman is, in fact, a corrupt practice at its heart, one that should be used as rarely as possible in providing for the welfare of human ch ...more
Apr 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Sharon by:
Shelves: adoption
I think the key factors that should determine the rating of this book are 1) the correctness (and relevance) of the description of how Tann carried out adoptions, and trickier, 2) the correctness of the description of the effect that Tann had on the general practice of adoption, continuing decades after her death. This is hard for me to rate, since I actually had never even heard of (or didn't recall hearing of) Georgia Tann previously. Some of the primary allegations that Raymond makes against ...more
Terri Lynn
Oct 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, crime
I was riveted to this book and the story of Georgia Tann, a lesbian woman who studied law but was forbidden by her lawyer father from practicing law because women in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s usually didn't. She never married since lesbians needed to stay in the closet and were not allowed to marry but she did adopt a child and even adopted her lover Ann so she would be able to inherit. She and Ann pretended to be sisters in front of many people.

Georgia Tann was a ruthlessly evil bitch. That i
Mari Reive
Jan 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is not a book you read for the author's style of writing. It almost doesn't matter. This is unfortunately a true story of an appalling nature. We're that it wasn't true. It's a story about the woman who wilfully,for her own personal gain, destroyed people's lives with far-reaching consequences. She changed the face of adoption forever and not in a good way. As an adoptee of the closed system, I kept wishing throughout the book that she was still alive so I could personally kill her.

I gave
Oct 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: adoptees, birthparents, adoptive parents, social workers and anyone else interested in the subject
This was an excellent, well-written and -researched social history, thoughtfully interlaced with the author’s own adoption experience. I had no idea Georgia Tann was so important a figure, and so evil (almost deliciously so). This is a must-read for anyone interested in adoption, from any perspective.
May 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoy a book which looks in to complex issues in the fearless way this author tackles them.

This book is much more than an historical true crime expose. It begins with looking at Georgia Tann, a woman who began her working life as a social worker, but with moxie and a fine grasp of how to manipulate people in power, she came to the the queen of adoptions par excellence, dominating not only the adoption market in Tennessee, but a figure of national renown in placing children in adoptive
Jul 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: individual-books
"This is the harrowing story of Georgia Tann, who from 1924 to 1950 stole or otherwise separated from than 5,000 children from their families. Whether abducting children outright or tricking new mother still groggy from anesthesia into relinquishing their babies, Tann covered her tracks by replacing the names of birth parents on "amended" birth certificates. Her ploy was legitimized by officials who legalized closed adoption, claiming this would spare adoptees the taint of illegitimacy. Scores o ...more
Susan Snodgrass
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I recently read Lisa Wingate's 'based on fact' fiction title, 'Before We Were Yours', which was based on this actual tale. I heard Lisa speak at a function and she mentioned this title as one on which she relied for research. I had heard of Georgia Tann before and seen two made for TV movies about her life and work in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I love history and so I wanted to own this book to learn even more.

This book is the true story of the woman who sold over five thousand neglected, a
Nov 15, 2011 rated it it was ok
2 1/2. fascinating topic and amount of information, very well-researched, poorly written. i felt like i learned so much historically about the political climate of 1920-40s memphis and the history of adoption. my heart ached for so many of the families who we affected by the ruthless georgia tann. while it wasn't a long book by any means, the heavy subject matter made it difficult to read quickly. i did not like the organizational structure of the book. i felt like it went back a forth a lot on ...more
Carol Ann
Jan 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
Georgia Tann was a ruthless money grabbing monster. In the 1920s through to her death of cancer in 1950 she was responsible for stealing babies and young children and selling them to the highest bidder. She had the backing of local government and law officers. She ruined thousands of lives while lining her own mishapen pockets. Thank God for reform.
Jan 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Another great read-if you love books that are true and will teach you something that you never knew before then this is that book.

Although a very sad book its story needed to be told to enlighten the world on what happens in the Adoption world.

I had no clue of the Adoption system before good or bad so I really learned allot, it was quite the eye opener.
Dec 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I started reading this last night and I said to Donnie, you should read this--it's about someone who steals babies! Um, duh. Anyway, I highly recommend this book for anyone who likes nonfiction and is obsessed with adoption blogs (maybe that's just me).
Sep 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book bounced around alot, but I am giving it a 4 because the subject matter was so intriguing. I spent the whole book cringing, wondering why I had never heard this story before, and not wanting any of it to be true.
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
What a horrible, monstrous woman.. I don't know how any one can sleep at night knowing that they were destroying families.. Souless monster. No one has the right to decide who is fit to be a mother or father income.. Pure evil exists.
Keri Bender
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this book was pretty interesting to learn about the history of adoption and also some background history on Tennessee. I will probably pick up some other books now to learn more.
Oct 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Baby Thief is basically a report type book that tells the story of Georgia Tann who is considered to be the mother of adoption in the United States. This woman was one of the most brutal and evil women I have ever read about; she would literally steal or remove children from their homes sometimes getting their parents permission through manipulation and bullying and sometimes through literally stealing the children.

Georgia Tann placed children who had been removed or stolen from their birth
May 19, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Disclaimer: The following review is based on the BOOK. It is not a repudiation or defense of Georgia Tann or the adoption network. I am reacting to the book as a literary piece alone.

Hat's off to the author: It takes a really terrible writer to make a juicy story like Georgia Tann's unreadable! This book really tested my vow to finish every book that I start. 99% of the time, the work pays off and I find something wonderful in the final pages, but certainly not in this case.

The writing is repet
Mar 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book describes how one woman single-handedly changed the public outlook on adoption. Early in the 20th century, abandoned children were still viewed as damaged, the undesired and undesirable product of parents who, for whatever reason, could not or would not provide for them. George Tann successfully placed hundreds of children for adoption by instead convincing people that these children were "blank slates" who could become anything their adoptive parents wanted them to be. Obviously, this ...more
Jung Sun
Apr 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone involved with social work, is an adoptee, birth mother, adoptive parents
My knowledge on the history of American (domestic) adoption is very limited. Most of my knowledge on adoption is based on international adoption. When I started to get to listen and learn from some domestic adult adoptees on the internet I started to get curious about America's domestic adoption system and wanted to learn more about it.

This book gives a pretty good background of how Georgia Tann could get away with such horrid acts, although I would have liked to learn a lot more about Georgia h
Oct 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
The author was incredibly biased and wrote in a sensational, emotional style. I resented her the entire time I was reading the book. If she had just presented a deadpan, professional account of the history of Georgia Tann, it would have been a MUCH better book. Then the reader would react to Georgia in the way the author wants - with revolt and disgust. Instead, the reader has to listen to the author’s frequent judgmental diatribes. Her fierce hatred of Georgia and biased, emotional reporting ac ...more
Leah K
Dec 06, 2013 rated it liked it
The Baby Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption by Barbara Raymond
302 pages


Georgia Tann was considered the mother of modern adoption – noble…right? Maybe not so much so. From 1926-1950 she had the nasty habit of stealing children from unwed mothers and selling them for a hefty price to the rich and the famous and death among children in her “care” was common. Even after it came out with what she did, parents whose children were stolen had no right to
Apr 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Marley Greiner, Jessica DelBalzo
I've long knew who Georgia Tann was but did not realize that she was responsible for amended birth certificates and sealed adoption records. She also, more than any other single individual, began charging large sums of money in exchange for a baby or child. Many of the babies and children she placed for adoption were actually stolen or kidnapped, not relinquished by their parent(s). Many were from very poor families during the Depression. Siblings were not kept together. Georgia Tann's babies an ...more
Aug 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction

Georgia Tann, a woman who turned peoples minds around regarding adopting children of single mothers however was evil and unkind. Before Georgia starting stealing and selling babies and children the stigma attached to children of single moms was negative. These children were given away to people who needed labor on their farms, factories or in their homes. They were considered unintelligent and mentally unstable. Then Georgia Tann came along and made people realize that children of single moms we
Jul 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: abortion, non-fiction
This is the crazy, true story of an evil woman, southern politics, and adoption. I thought this book was fascinating from start to finish: this woman posed as social services to take babies away from mothers she thought unfit, she put photos of babies in the newspaper at Christmas-time asking for people to adopt them, and the gave babies to judges, lawyers and law officials to gain favor in the community.

The author writes from an interesting perspective as she adopted her own daughter. Georgia
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