The Girls Who Went Away
Ann Fessler interviewed over 100 birth mothers who were forced to give up their babies for adoption during the post-WWII years. The stories were related by the mothers themselves and were heartbreaking. Through these stories, the despair and long-lasting emotional effects of giving up one's child were clearly portrayed. The work is somewhat repetitive, but perhaps it was the author's intent to lead the reader to understand the widespread societal norms of the times. I feel that the author would have completed the work with some indication of how these practices have been replaced with today's solution to unwed pregnancies. She, of course, indicates that post Roe v. Wade, young women have had the option for abortion. I think perhaps the same social stigmas are intact, at least in the Deep South. But certainly, the options are greater. However, the pain may be the same.
The most interesting outcome, for me, while reading this book was to remember my own teen years during the 60s and 70s. My best friend "went away" and there were rumors that she was pregnant. I never believed it because I could not believe that I, as her best friend, would not know. When she came back, we were no longer friends and I could not understand what had changed. Now I think I understand. Because she could not share this intimate secret with me, she must have felt it was difficult to continue our friendship. We continued to know one another through high school graduation and I know that she is now married with three children because I sometimes see her mother-in-law. I hope that she is happy and I am sorry that she had to experience what the women interviewed by Fessler described.
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