right before my father was shipped out to Europe, where he was wounded in action. I was born on July 14, 1945, after the victory in Europe and a month before the surrender of the Japanese in the war in the Pacific.
As this picture illustrates, these boys came home glad to be alive and lusty as most young bucks are. Prior to that time, most unmarried mothers found havens in places like the Florence Crittendon Homes which were founded to help give these young mothers and their infants a better start in life, together. Adoptions did happen, but not on a large scale. Only later, as the numbers of unwed pregnancies began to rise and social work became a "profession," did Flo Crit and other such establishments morph into adoption-oriented clearinghouses.
With the emergence of the field of social work on that scale, came the concept of adoption as we know it now. It was the "perfect solution" for the perceived problem of teen/unwed pregnancy and the increasing numbers of couples wanting to adopt. In many cases, hubby came home from the war with infertility issues due to a "case of the mumps." The mumps were not always what caused the problem for these fellows. But it seems that, by that time, rather than dealing with and accepting the fact of their childlessness, more childless couples wanted to adopt. Thus the rising numbers on both ends began the burgeoning adoption industry and the adoption-minded response from state agencies. Looking at it from this end of the time scale, it was cause and effect and the attitude that human beings could engineer anything. The good, old American way of supply and demand went into high gear.
Adoption, which was not the way most mothers before had handled pregnancies while unmarried, became, more and more, the Idea Whose Time Had Come. It was supposedly a win-win situation. The parents of the pregnant girl got their shameful secret swept under the rug, childless couples got an adorable infant and all was well. If the mother got a bit stubborn and wanted to keep her baby, well, she's the one who lifted her skirts and it was perfectly legal to mistreat these wanton girls to "rehabilitate them." We were isolated and treated like criminals, sneered at by medical professionals and sent home, broken-hearted, with the advice to say nothing to anyone about our terrible secret.
The numbers spiked as the war babies and post-war boomers started growing into nubile young girls and randy young boys. The hypocrisy of the times was ubiquitous and the autonomy of women was not even a spoken concept. The popular theory of the mental health profession at the time was that girls who became pregnant (i.e., had sexual activity) prior to marriage were psychologically defective, even delinquent, and gestating, laboring,delivering and surrendering their child in secrecy was a way to cure that emotional and psychological defect. The religious leaders saw the loss of our children as our way to redemption for our sin of fornication. The reason we were singled out is because we were the only ones whose fornication bore fruit. So it was either a shotgun wedding...hard to do if the father denied paternity and the burden of proof was on the head of the frightened mother...or a trip out of town to "visit an aunt," during which time, the "problem" would go away and the family honor would remain untarnished.
As the sixties progressed into the latter years of that decade, women started looking askance at the double standards and outmoded attitudes towards us, our contributions to society, our abilities and our sexuality. By the early 1970's, things started to change. Women became more outspoken, more in control of their own destinies and less inclined to allow others to make decisions for them. With the legalization of safe, medical pregnancy termination and the increasing availability of birth control for even the single woman, there were more choices for women. In 1976, 13 years after I had been coerced into surrendering my second child, I was invited to a baby shower for the daughter of a friend at work. She was single, in her freshman year of college, and had the loving support of her parents in HER decision to keep her child. The father had reluctantly signed an agreement to help support the baby. I attended for a short while, then went home and wept bitter tears, holed up in the bathroom so that my two raised children couldn't hear me. Keeping and raising a child by a single mother was no longer a horror and a shame to the majority of people.
As these new choices started appearing, the number of adoptable infants started declining. From what was a bounty of baby-flesh for the facilitators to market, it dropped to around one infant for every 40 potential adoptive couples. In pockets of backwardness and for parents who were still trying to present themselves as the progenitors of perfection, there was still pressure on young women to surrender and agencies and attorneys who made their daily bread from this were not about to let these isolated cases know their options. It was also another way of after-the-fact birth control. For those who complain about abortion being used in this manner, this was seen as more "acceptable." For the religious, thus was born the adoption rather than abortion campaign and more social engineering to be had by all. Hooray. A lot of the newer mothers who "made the decision" to surrender are now in support groups, dealing with their grief.
A lot has come down the pike in the 65 years since that sailor smooched that pretty nurse in the middle of that huge celebration. Most of the women of my daughter's and granddaughter's generations would no more put up with what was imposed on my generation than they would shoot themselves in the foot. I have gotten a good bit of my information for this post from reading some books about the times, most notably Rickie Solinger's "Wake Up Little Susie" and Anne Fessler's "The Girls Who Went Away." I also have been able to read a lot of the articles written by Karen B. W. Buterbaugh who has done extensive and exhaustive research into the subject. But, more importantly, I lived it. I watched it happen. I saw the effects of repression and change, first hand. And I believe the evidence of my own eyes and ears.
I saw a president assassinated and another chased out of office for his own arrogance. I saw the first steps of a human being on the moon. I went from "My Little Margie" to the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" to "Murphy Brown." I was delivered by a woman doctor and always thought that was something unusual. Now, three women who have specialized in the OB field are delivering babies on TV. To anyone who says that women who came after us had no choices, I have to say, not knowing their family situation, horse feathers! I, myself, have helped mothers-to-be avail themselves of social programs to help them until they could get on their feet. I have also gone with one to the Department of Local Health to obtain birth control after she terminated her pregnancy. That was also more than 15 years ago.
I am not here to argue any of these points, what I know, I know. What I have seen, I have seen and what I have learned, I have learned. I cannot be forced to defend my position by leading questions with an eye to debate. As far as I am concerned, the issue is non-debatable. It happened...call it the EMS or the BSE or just "those days," it still happened and within those time frames.
So here you have it, as I have witnessed it. I won't argue it and it needs no defense. It is not our duty to justify or prove our facts to anyone. Most people can look this stuff up for themselves. The truth stands up to anything anyone else might want to say. Again, I wish all people in this battle success in the areas they have chosen for activism.
Me, I'm all about us EMS mothers, aged into grandmothers and AARP members, who went away and came home, changed forever.