Mary's Reviews > The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe V. Wade

The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler
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's review
Jun 19, 2010

really liked it

Extensive interviews with several woman who "gave up" (under much duress from their families and societal pressure) their babies as young unwed teens in the 50's - early 70's which document the long-lasting trauma these women suffered. The circumstances of the pregnancies and adoptions are pretty sad (horror of discovering the pregnancy, getting dumped by their boy friends, shunned by friends and family as "loose women", many basically abandoned at homes for unwed mothers where they gave birth in a room all alone, manipulated into signing their babies away without any legal counsel (most of whom were minors at the time!) etc).

I do think the title is a bit misleading. I don't think the problem was that there was no legalized abortion ("Roe v. Wade") as none of the women mentioned the desire to get an abortion. I think the real problem was that there was lack of information about sex (i.e., how babies are made-most women interviewed had no idea that sex could lead to babies) and no access to birth control at that time.

It is extremely hard for any woman under the age of ~40 or so who grew up with sex-ed in school, and readily available birth control (the pill was not marketed in the US until ~ 1960, and even then only to married couples; it was not available to ALL women until ~ 1970) and greater acceptance for women to have children out of wedlock nowadays to understand the pressures these women felt. Most of the women interviewed were (not to be melodramatic) basically scared for life by the process and went on to have dysfunctional relationships, substance problems, etc (although most had turned themselves around by the time of the interviews). It's a shame that they did not receive more support from family and counseling at the time of adoption.

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