Amer­i­can Baby: A Moth­er, a Child, and the Shad­ow His­to­ry of Adoption

  • From the Publisher
September 1, 2019

In 1960s Amer­i­ca, at the height of the Baby Boom, women were encour­aged to stay home and raise large fam­i­lies, but sex and child­birth were taboo sub­jects. Pre­mar­i­tal sex was com­mon, but birth con­trol was hard to get and abor­tion was ille­gal. In 1961, six­teen-year-old Mar­garet Erle fell in love and became preg­nant. Her unsym­pa­thet­ic fam­i­ly sent her to a mater­ni­ty home. In the hos­pi­tal, she was­n’t even allowed her to hold her own son. After she was final­ly coerced into sign­ing away her parental rights, her son van­ished into an adop­tion agen­cy’s hold. Amer­i­can Baby lays out how a lucra­tive and exploita­tive indus­try removed chil­dren from their birth moth­ers and placed them with hope­ful fam­i­lies, fab­ri­cat­ing sto­ries about infants’ ori­gins and des­ti­na­tions, then clos­ing the door firm­ly between the par­ties for­ev­er. It struck shady deals with doc­tors and researchers for pseu­do­sci­en­tif­ic assess­ments,” and shamed mil­lions of young women into sur­ren­der­ing their chil­dren. Mar­garet went on to mar­ry and raise a large fam­i­ly with David’s father, but she nev­er stopped long­ing for and wor­ry­ing about her first­born. She did­n’t know he spent the first years of his life liv­ing just a few blocks away from her; as he grew, he won­dered about where he came from and why he was giv­en up. Their tale — one they share with mil­lions of Amer­i­cans — is one of loss, love, and the search for iden­ti­ty. Adop­tion’s closed records are being legal­ly chal­lenged in states nationwide.

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