Book About Maternity Homes

1 view
Skip to first unread message

Gervasi

unread,
Dec 13, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/13/98
to
Dear Birth Mothers:
My name is Susan Gervasi. I'm writing a book about what life was like in
American maternity homes during the adoption boom of the 1960's, and what
impact those experiences may have had on birth mothers' subsequent lives. If
you would like to share your story for such a project, please contact me at
ge...@erols.com .
Thanks very much,
Susan

Morra

unread,
Dec 13, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/13/98
to

dear susan,
could you share with the group a little more background about this book?
is it a part of a thesis or dissertation? are you a social worker? are
you a natural mother?
i would love to know more,

barbara

Patty B...

unread,
Dec 14, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/14/98
to Gervasi
Gervasi wrote:
>
> Dear Birth Mothers:
> My name is Susan Gervasi. I'm writing a book about what life was like in
> American maternity homes during the adoption boom of the 1960's, and what
> impact those experiences may have had on birth mothers' subsequent lives. If
> you would like to share your story for such a project, please contact me at
> ge...@erols.com .
> Thanks very much,
> Susan

Susan...

I'm interested to know just why you chose this as a subject for a book. Were
you also incarcerated in a maternity home in the 30s/40s/50s/60s/70s/80s/90s?
Yup...the institution which kept me under lock and key in 1963/64 is still
"welcoming" pregnant teens, only now their attitude has done a perfect 180...
makes me ill...not that I'm not happy for the teens who stay there today and
the total difference in their experience compared to mine and hundreds of
thousands of other birth mothers, but I cannot help feeling betrayed by those
friggin' hypocrites - the Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Not to mention anyone
else who's ever had dealings with them.

Have you read Rickie Solinger's book, "Wake Up Little Susie" ??
Here's the scoop on that book - from http://www.amazon.com/

==============================================>>

Wake Up Little Susie : Single Pregnancy and
Race Before Roe V. Wade
by Rickie Solinger

Hardcover - 324 pages (March 1992)
Routledge; ISBN: 041590448X;

Reviews
From Kirkus Reviews , January 15, 1992
In a thorough and important, if often tiresomely
repetitive, study, Solinger (Women's Studies/Univ. of
Colorado, Boulder) dissects the politics of female
fertility in America from 1945-65, when the
strikingly different treatments of middle-class white
and poor black pregnant teenagers clearly reflected
the demands of a racist, family-centered economy.
Before WW II, Solinger reports, unwed mothers in
the US were considered the products of defective,
amoral environments-- permanent outcasts for whom
no kind of rehabilitation was possible. After the war,
she argues, a perceived societal need to produce as
many white children in ``healthy'' male-headed
families as possible, combined with new Freudian
psychological theories and racist sociological
assumptions concerning black sexuality, engendered a
dualistic treatment of unwed pregnant women
depending on the color of their skin. Whereas the
``market value'' of white babies enabled and even
encouraged white single mothers to ``sacrifice''
their offspring for adoption in exchange for a second
chance at respectability (usually after exile in a
maternity home), ``unmarketable'' illegitimate black
babies were considered the inevitable product of the
``natural'' black libido and were therefore left to
be raised by their mothers, who were in turn treated
as incorrigible breeders who gave birth to win more
government benefits. With the ``sexual revolution''
(for whites) and ``population bomb'' (for blacks) of
the late 60's and early 70's came the technological
fixes of birth control and legalized abortion--though
these steps toward female self-determination for
women of all races were more a result, Solinger
claims, of a slump in the white baby market and fear
of black overpopulation than of societal concern for
the fate of single mothers. Revelatory but
regrettably dry work with repercussions for today. --
Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights
reserved.


Customer Comments
Average Customer Review: Number of Reviews: 2

Trish....@uts.edu.au from Australia, August 11, 1998
Ground-breaking! Solinger has dared to tell the truth.
When I first read Ricki Solinger's book I could not
believe that she had hit upon the same phenomenon
as I had discovered in my doctoral research. I found
her work thorough, scholarly yet biting. In no way is it
restricted to those women who lost their babies to
the adoption industry, but is an insightful view into
the repressed '60s which many like to think of as
"swinging' and sexually free. Read Solinger's work
along with Wini Brienes' "Young, White and
Miserable" and Susan Douglas's "Where the Girls
Are" and you will get an accurate picture of what the
'50s and'60s' were *really* like. I know - 'cause I
was well and truly there. --This text refers to the
paperback edition of this title

A reader from Santa Rosa, California , June 30,1998
Society's 50's & 60's attitude about unwed pregnancy
Not for everybody, BUT if you are a birthmother who
relinquished a child 1940-1975, or an adoptee or
adoptive parent involved in adoption from same
period, READ this. The attitudes and treatment have
changed so much that reading this is important for
anyone involved in an adoption during that period of
time. It also reveals interesting differences in
attitudes and behavior between white, middle-class
America and other groups. --This text refers to the
paperback edition of this title

===================================================================<<

I'm hoping you won't hide out in email...please DO come back to the newsgroup
and engage us in a good discussion on this subject.

--
Patty B...

St. Anne's Maternity, Class of 1963/64


"When we come back to things that really matter, then peace
begins to settle into our lives; and somewhere deep down
inside, we know that simpler times are better times."

Thomas Kinkade

-----------== Posted via Deja News, The Discussion Network ==----------
http://www.dejanews.com/ Search, Read, Discuss, or Start Your Own

Veronica22

unread,
Dec 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/15/98
to
Patty B wrote:
"Yup...the institution which kept me under lock and key in 1963/64 is stil=
l
"welcoming" pregnant teens, only now their attitude has done a perfect 18=
0...
makes me ill...not that I'm not happy for the teens who stay there today =
and =

the total difference in their experience compared to mine and hundreds of=
=

thousands of other birth mothers, but I cannot help feeling betrayed by t=
hose
friggin' hypocrites - the Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Not to mention any=
one =

else who's ever had dealings with them."

*****

Patty, I'd be interested to know what they are doing now that is different. Do
you have specifics about how pregnant women are treated there today?

Thanks
Veronica

Jennifer

unread,
Dec 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/15/98
to
I don't think this woman deserved such a snotty reply. Sorry for what
happened to you Patty but I am one of the "new" birthmothers that you seem
so jealous of. If you didn't want to contribute to her book you didn't have
to reply...after all I didn't mention "The Other Mother".

Jen

Gervasi wrote in message <751grg$shg$1...@winter.news.rcn.net>...

Patty B...

unread,
Dec 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/15/98
to
[Bcc sent. Original reply posted to: alt.support.birth-parent]

Snotty reply? Gosh, Kid...don't take things so personally :) I sent that post
both to the newsgroup *and* via email...I received a wonderful response from
Susan today and I'm hoping she will repost her email (to me) on the ng for all
to see. She had no trouble understanding what I wrote.

Jealous? No, dear. Anyone who claims to be "jealous" of ANY birth mother, no
matter when the hell she surrendered her child, needs a few screws tightened,
and a few holes (in da haid) plugged.

Here is my statement, ver batim:

"Yup...the institution which kept me under lock and key in 1963/64 is still
"welcoming" pregnant teens, only now their attitude has done a perfect 180...
makes me ill...not that I'm not happy for the teens who stay there today and

the total difference in their experience compared to mine and hundreds of

thousands of other birth mothers, but I cannot help feeling betrayed by those
friggin' hypocrites - the Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Not to mention anyone

else who's ever had dealings with them."

Please note:

1. reference to "the institution" which "incarcerated" me and that *their*
"...attitude makes me ill..."

2. "not that I'm happy for the teens who stay there today"
...translation: I realize the experience is a lousy one for them, too.
I feel betrayed by those who RUN the place. If you were also on their
mailing list you'd understand what I meant in a nanosecond.

3. "...I cannot help feeling betrayed by those friggin' hypocrites..."
...translation: friggin' hypocrites = The sisters, and their cohorts,
who ran that hell-hole. [FYI: Established in *1908*]
Pardon me for not being MORE specific in saying "...anyone else who's ever
had dealings with them.." SHOULD have read any adoption professionals.

Okay. Are we clear now? Good. :) Forgive what may seem to be a bit terse
about my reply. Our country is going down the crapper this week and I have
a rotten case of the flu. I'll remember to bring flowers when I'm feeling
better ;)

Hope you're feeling well, Jennifer. I'm looking forward to getting to know
you better. btw...my daughter's 35th Bday is next month, and I've been closely
involved in adoption reform and peer counseling since 1978.

Patty B...

unread,
Dec 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/15/98
to
Veronica22 wrote:

>
> Patty B wrote:
> "Yup...the institution which kept me under lock and key in 1963/64 is still
> "welcoming" pregnant teens, only now their attitude has done a perfect 180...
> makes me ill...not that I'm not happy for the teens who stay there today and
> the total difference in their experience compared to mine and hundreds of
> thousands of other birth mothers, but I cannot help feeling betrayed by those
> friggin' hypocrites - the Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Not to mention anyone
> else who's ever had dealings with them."
> *****
>
> Patty, I'd be interested to know what they are doing now that is different.
> Do you have specifics about how pregnant women are treated there today?
>
> Thanks
> Veronica

Yes, Veronica, I do have specifics...hope you'll be a good sport and allow me
to post that tomorrow? I've been out of bed too long as it is...this flu is
horrid!

Patty B...

unread,
Dec 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/16/98
to
(Bcc to: Susan and Jen. Please come to the newsgroup to discuss!)

Jennifer wrote:
>
> I don't think this woman deserved such a snotty reply. Sorry for what
> happened to you Patty but I am one of the "new" birthmothers that you seem
> so jealous of. If you didn't want to contribute to her book you didn't have
> to reply...after all I didn't mention "The Other Mother".
>
> Jen

Hi, again, Jen...

I Bccd a copy to Susan of my last post to you...she replied that it would be
fine with her for me to post her email reply to me - this would be in response
to the my note which you felt was "snotty" ...

******************
Date: Tue, 15 Dec 1998 10:42:51 -0500
From: "Gervasi" <ge...@erols.com>
Subject: Re: Book About Maternity Homes
To: "Patty B..." <pat...@my-dejanews.com>

Dear Patty,

Thanks very much for responding to my query. I'm coming at this project from
a couple of angles. I did read Wake Up Little Susie & found it wonderful, so
full of insight. I'm a professional freelance writer in the D.C. area, and
last June wrote a piece for the Washington Post about Internet adoption/birth
parent searches. Got to know some women & got interested in the fact that,
while Solinger touched on maternity homes in the 60's in her book, I felt the
whole story still needed to be documented and told. My other angle is personal
-- I got pregnant in the 60's, and though I didn't go to a maternity home, I
had a miserable shotgun marriage (another relic of the past, I've heard) that
eventually died a natural death. But the fact is those were pretty much the
options or penalty, if you will, for unmarried pregnancy: shotgun marriage or
maternity home/relinquishment. I think, inotherwords, that I understand the
lose-lose dilemma we faced back then, & think it is very important that that
be set on the record, both for our sake as women for adoptees to understand.
I think the experiences of women in maternity homes during that era were,
from what I can tell, mostly pretty traumatic, though I also have heard some
women say the experiences were good.

I want to more fully understand the role of maternity homes in adoption
practices, too. I think there's a lot that has not been investigated. I've
been doing some historic research -- fortunate to be in the D.C. area cause
many resources are nearyby, Library of Congress, National Archives -- as
well as Child Welfare League, Salvation Army, -- to supplement memories of
women who went through the homes.

I'm very interested in your comments about how maternity homes are different
now. Do you think the girls who give up their babies these days will regret
it down the road? Do you think they're getting better counselling?

Anyway, I wanted to get back to you right away, though I could go on and on.
I had posted on Alana's list some time back & have done a number of interviews,
but want to get as many perspectives as possible.

Thanks again for your interest. If you would want to talk by phone or email
about your own experiences with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, let me know --
I think I've only interviewed one woman who went through a Catholic maternity
home -- wait, there were two -- and since I understand Catholic Charities ran
more homes than the other big two, that's a glaring lapse in my research.

Hope I've answered your questions!

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Susan (phone # snipped)
**********************************

Here is the permission to repost Susan's email to me:

*******************************
DATE: Tue, 15 Dec 1998 21:14:28
From: "Gervasi" <ge...@erols.com>
To: "Patty B..." <pat...@my-dejanews.com>

Patty --

I don't mind if you want to post my response to your questions. I didn't
take offense.

Susan
****************

Okay...now I hope we can get back on track with this subject. Susan...please
DO come back to the newsgroup so we can discuss at length. It's been a long
time coming, but I now know that I truly want to get tons of this junk off
my chest! :)

Veronica22

unread,
Dec 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/16/98
to
Patty B wrote:
"Yes, Veronica, I do have specifics...hope you'll be a good sport and allow me
to post that tomorrow? I've been out of bed too long as it is...this flu is
horrid!
"
****

Of course Patty, post when you feel better. I have had a couple bouts with
"Texas crud" this year -- so I sympathize with you!

Get well soon!

Veronica

Rea Conley

unread,
Dec 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM12/16/98
to

k...@pleasedontspamme.com wrote:

> Well, I've constantly stated that I am totally jealous of birthmothers.
> All THEY had to do was give away their babies and get on with their lives.
> We adoptees, the babies who were so inconvenient that we had to be discarded
> as quietly and above all as quickly as possible, were the ones who had to
> live with that choice for the rest of our lives. We're the ones who had to
> pay for our birthmothers' decision with our mental health and in some cases
> our lives. Ah, but I know that most of the readers here aren't interested in
> stupid little details like that.
>
> I'll make a deal with you birthmothers out there: if reincarnation really
> happens, I'll happily, gladly, JOYFULLY come back in my next life as a
> birthmother if you all agree to come back as adoptees relinquished into the
> system of hopelessly closed records. In fact, that is something I would pay
> money to see, if such an arrangement would be possible to make (which
> obviously it isn't). The idea of karmic retribution is very attractive to
> me. Being abandoned to adoption is a hell I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy,
> but I'd happily see birthmothers made to live out the lives they chose for
> us.
>

Kim,

Do you really think that if we birthmothers were told the following: "Your child
will be adopted by a set of cruel and abusing people. Your child will have a
miserable life and be deprived of everything it needs, emotionally and physically.
Your child will go through hell on earth." Knowing that, how many birthmothers
would still relinquish?

Instead, we were told that there would be love, sunshine, happiness and all the
warm fuzzies forever after for the child. THIS IS WHAT WE CHOSE FOR OUR
BIRTHCHILDREN. We didn't choose to abandon our children to hell. We also didn't
make the laws concerning closed records.

Most of us did not have the knowledge nor the resources to do a study of how these
adoptions actually turn out. We had no way of knowing ahead of time what the life
would be like for the child with its adoptive parents. We could only hope that the
promised bliss would actually come true. If the adoptive parents then failed to
live up to the expectations, why do you blame the birthparents for it? The adoptive
parents clearly had a choice: to either give a good life to the adoptive child, or
not to. If they didn't - then they reneged on their promise. Why is that the fault
of the birthparents?

In my case, it was a choice between the promised "financially secure, loving and
caring adoptive parents" and living in a hovel, either having to get noncaring and
possibly abusive strangers to take care of the baby while I worked in a low-paying
job - or be supported by inadequate welfare. I did not think that my child would
thrive under those circumstances.

Knowing what I know now about the adoption reality, would I relinquish again? No
way. But I didn't know then.

Kim, your pain comes through loud and clear with every post you do. I do think,
though, that your anger is misdirected - your adoptive parents put you through
hell, not your birthmother.

Arcy
Birthmom

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages