' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: O Lord, how long must birth mothers be punished?

Friday, July 2, 2010

O Lord, how long must birth mothers be punished?

"Unwed mothers should be punished and they should be punished by taking their children away." - Dr. Marion Hilliard of Women's College Hospital, Daily Telegraph, (Toronto, November 1956)
We have been getting some extraordinary comments from a Canadian who calls her self Cat, jammed packed information of late, including the quote above (see previous blogs). Apparently the history of the Women's College Hospital, according to Cat, is doing its best to wipe clean its slate from the dark ages of unwedness that most first/birth mothers found themselves during not only the conservative Fifties but also the supposedly Swinging Sixties. If there was a slight a shift in attitude ten years later, I sure as hell did not feel it when I got pregnant in 1965 in Rochester, New York. And neither did Jane, who was living in Alaska when she became pregnant. Jane fled Alaska and spent her "confinement" in San Francisco, a city where she knew no one. Both of our children were born in 1966, the year of the Fire Horse in Chinese astrology. Not a good thing, apparently. But that's another story.

While being a single mom today carries no shame--well, maybe in high school it still does, the pregnant girl is Glee is less than thrilled, is she not?--sometimes I wonder how it's possible to make our children understand what it was like back then, how we hid our pregnancies, how our parents totally freaked out--and some of them threw us out--how terrible a thing it was that we had sex and "got caught."  I remember lying to the doctor when I hoped to get a script for The Pill. I was 22, incredibly nervous in admitting that I was Having Sex Outside of Marriage. (HSOM!) Today, it's unusual for someone not to be having sex by the time they are 22.

I know that so many reunions flounder for lots of reasons, but it seems that at least some of them do so because our children can not really forgive their birth mothers--even though they may be unconscious of their deep-rooted feelings of abandonment, anger and animosity towards us. And they can not imagine the cultural attitudes back then that propelled us towards adoption as the solution for our "problem." That's why is it important to keep the records of the past.

While my own daughter, Jane, she said she understood why she was relinquished for adoption, that she accepted it was different back then, it did not prevent here for closing me out whenever she felt like it. We would have long periods of cheerful ease in our relationship, then suddenly, BAM! out of nowhere she would shut down and walk away--for months, for nearly a year. Yet her adoptive mother could say the ugliest things to her but Jane always went back for more, forgave her quickly. Yet with me, over a small irritation that I expressed--she changed her phone number, would not answer my emails. It's a story that I'm all too familiar with.

I am thinking of this a great deal right now because Linda, who has blogged here but not of late, will be attending a family wedding this weekend, and her surrendered daughter is likely to attend. But they are barely speaking to one another. Or not at all. Mind you, the daughter found Linda and all was well for a short time, but....

                                                                                                     photo by ken robbins

So Linda has been on my mind, even as I get ready to meet my "adopted" granddaughter, relinquished granddaughter, Lisa, tomorrow night, 10 p.m. at the Islip airport. I wish there were some way to fix things for Linda, that her daughter would be glad to see her and relate to her as a daughter and a friend, not someone to be ignored or barely acknowledged. I wish the rest of her family--especially her sister--could understand that this is not a mere simple issue that she can "get over," the way one gets over a love affair; I wish that sister could truly understand that the daughter's rejection of Linda--her birth mother, her mother, her real mother who will always be her real mother--cuts to her very core, and that nothing that has happened between them deserves this kind of rejection. I wish her family could grasp how cruel and unusual it is for them to carry on with Linda's daughter--display photographs of Linda's two grandchildren, visit her at her home, become "friends"--while Linda's daughter ostracizes her. But that sister doesn't get it.

We call her Judasina.

I can't fix this. I can't rewire the daughter's brain, or the wounds she carries because she was given up for adoption, just as I could not do anything to make my daughter come back to me until she was ready. She had to come back on her own schedule. What does this all mean? I don't know. I'm just rambling here today, worried about Linda at that wedding. Tomorrow will be another day; the pain will recede somewhat, but inside we carry it with us, hoping for a brighter tomorrow. Life is a river that keeps on flowing.--lorraine
The book above is a collection of essays by adoptees, birth mothers and adoptive mothers, including one of my essays. I see that you can buy a copy for basically the cost of shipping. If you are interested in any of the books shown here, please link on to it from this First Mother Forum, as that is how we are trying to keep the blog going. I've tried to take regular ads, but ads for adoption agencies pop up immediately. So the Amazon ads pay less but I can control the content. And some of the buys on the ad that changes are pretty good. Last time I checked, I was owed $1.61.


  1. There was still PLENTY of shame directed at single moms when I was pregnant in 1989-1990, and I still see LOTS of it today too.

    Make no mistake: religions, the US government, and the adoption industry have spent a great deal of money and effort making sure that the message that single moms deserve to lose their babies to adoption is still being spread LOUD AND CLEAR in the year 2010. And many U.S. mothers today are falling for it and losing their babies as a result.

  2. Yes, even now, there is "stigma" attached to the unwed mother. As we went through my then 17 year old daughter's pregnancy last year, I watched her lose her friends, listened to the school talk about how much better it would be for her to go to the "alternative" school or better yet, drop and get her GED. She was given adoption literature at school and almost every time we went to the OB were asked "Are you keeping the baby?" Do they ask ALL their pregnant mothers that? I doubt it. I was told by my oldest daughter, lost to adoption, that "we really needed to do what was in the baby's best interest and place her for adoption". The world hadn't changed much in 1985 when I placed my daughter and truthfully in 2010 there may be a little less shame but there still is the pressure for the "adoption plan". You would think by now the push would be to offer support, like we have done for my daughter. To offer services which would keep the family intact... Ah well, perhaps 2020!
    ...and to Linda, my thoughts will be with you! (((Hugs)))

  3. Linda needs to ditch her family. It's not unusual for families to behave like that to the daughter who relinquished. If it had been a fantastic family then the adoption wouldn't have happened.
    Why does Linda continue to have a relationship with those awful people. My heart goes out to her.
    Bestest of beautiful luck with meeting your granddaughter. I hope it will be the beginning of many times shared.

  4. Lorriane, I hope you have a wonderful week with your granddaughter. What a dream come true!

    And Linda...if you are reading this, I'll be thinking about you at that wedding. (((huge huge huge hugs)))

  5. Last year I had to tell my reunion story over & over (ad nauseum) at a hospital, how my son ignores me, often refuses to speak to me, goes months/years in silence, leaves me out of every major event, is rude, mean, & cold to me. And what angered me in people's reactions (non-triad people) was that first thing, they all questioned "the search" process. The first thing EVERYONE asked me was "Oh... well did he search for you or you for him?" In our case it was kind of mutual, he wrote to me first, wanted to talk on the phone, said he was ready to meet, but I "found him." Sooooo? Whether he searched or I searched, isn't the important thing now, 10 yrs later, how we treat each other? Is he not responsible for his harsh actions against me because I searched?
    Does his anger trump all the joy he expressed at meeting me and the first 2 years of getting to know each other? At exactly what point did he decide "okay, now I can really show her she means nothing?" If it is "punishment" they truly want to exert over us, is it because of lack of understanding over the circumstances of their relinquishment, or is it something else all together? Could it be based on the "shame" they felt all their lives for being adopted? Society told them they were "unwanted" but I wanted my son terribly, just had no resources, good advisors, or the courage to raise him all alone. It just seems to me that many adoptees publically hate their mothers or show disdain toward them to "people" in society while it's really society itself that needs to be educated & changed. Because this punishment thing many have going doesn't help anyone understand. In my opionion, it only fosters more shame all around. It's the shame I'm so sick of. Take responsibility for pregnancies, for your own actions, for how you treat others, for everything you do & say & any hurt you cause and society would be a better place, I think. And just to be clear, the Lord in your "O Lord," doesn't have anything to do with the anger/punishment reunited people show their moms.

  6. Re: "Unwed mothers should be punished and they should be punished by taking their children away." - Dr. Marion Hilliard of Women's College Hospital, Daily Telegraph, (Toronto, November 1956)

    The punishment for getting pregnant out of wedlock... It was HUGE back in my day. And I'm sure it hasn't gone away completely.

    Then to be punished again by our children — whether unconsciously or not, by rejecting us or mistreating us — that hurts more. Because we were either manipulated into the relinquishment or truly believed it was the "best thing."

    Linda's sister is an accomplice in that punishment. Pure and simple.

    As for a way to fix things for her. Lorraine, I'm a fixer too, or wish I could. A long time ago, I hatched a plan with another bmom. We were going to buy a big ol' bus, paint it like the sixties and call it The Birthmother Bus, and travel all over the country, visiting adoptees who refused to meet their bmoms and bmoms who didn't want to meet their child.

    We never did it, but it's the sort of thing I wished I was free to do.

  7. Is there a link for for the Marion Hilliard quote (other than this: http://www.exiledmothers.com/adoption_facts/
    adoption_industry.html )

    The Daily Telegraph is an English newspaper.
    I am wondering if there has been a mix-up with the Toronto Telegram, a conservative paper which ceased publication in 1971

  8. This written by..Cat(thy Henderson)

  9. Nothing changes, the pressures are different, the pain's the same for us all.One day the BeeMommies will discover a child isn't a gift of love.

  10. No, it is still real.

    Nothing drove it home more for me recently than my own mouth.

    I was having a conversation with a professional contact who is very conservative, who I don't care for very much, but who could help me.

    I mentioned the age of my son, her eyebrow arched.

    Oh, I breezily brought-up, my child's father married me. I have my education, education or lack thereof was a bigger stigma when I had my son, than a wedding ring.

    Acutally, the wedding ring meant nothing to the people pushing adoption, the youth and lack of education was what was pushed on me.

    I have both though, NOW, my education and my son has an active and involved father.

    I left my meeting with blue-blazered, pearl-necklaced woman feeling quite the creep. Where was the sisterhood in my explanation?


    I had impressed on her that I had "good-judgment" and left feeling that I had betrayed myself.

  11. Thanks, Anon. That helps, but I mean a link to the original article from which the Hilliard quote was taken.

  12. I went to the web page cited by anonymouse, and was wondering where these amazing undocumented statistics came from in the article by Ms. Henderson:

    "The impact on natural mothers has been ignored. Did you know that 90% of natural mothers are depressed for life due to the fact they have been cut off from their children or that time makes this worse - not better. Did you know that about 50% of natural mothers of closed adoptions never have another child. Over 42% have hysterectomies. Many commit suicide because of the unbearable heartache and indescribable pain."

    I admit to being ignorant of much Canadian history, but this sounds extreme anywhere. Throwing around numbers like this does nothing for our credibility and can lead to our real and serious issues being dismissed.

  13. The statistics about depression and hysterectomies likely come from http://www.birthmothers.info/kelly/results.html.

    re suicide, the study found that 63% had thoughts of killing self.

    (study was once published on Judy Kelly's own site at ATT.net, but that site has vanished)

  14. Please read here>>>


  15. Cat here

    Anon wrote; The Daily Telegraph is an English newspaper.
    I am wondering if there has been a mix-up with the Toronto Telegram, a conservative paper which ceased publication in 1971

    No, there has not been a mixup.

    You are right that there is an English Daily Telegraph, but the saying came from the Toronto version which you quite correctly say has cease publication. You have to remember that Women's College Hospital is in Toronto. I had my son there in the 1970's and believe me, that punishment policy was still in place even then.

    The Toronto version of the Daily Telegraph was still in publication in 1956 when Dr. Hilliard told them this.

    A reference to this can be found in
    "No Car, No Radio, No Liquor Permit:The Moral Regulation of Single Mothers in Ontario, 1920-1997 (Toronto: Oxford University Press 1998) by Margaret Little

    This site has a good detailed abstract about this book.

  16. Anon is right that the figures do come from the Judy Kelly study but there are other studies that also come to very similar conclusions.

  17. In reunion I have found that many do families do not support reunion between mother and grown adult. Why?

    I have thought about this and think a lot of it has to do with admitting that they had a part in separating the mother and baby. Guilt plays a role there. But they don't feel so guilty that they don't have an opinion, or feel they have a right to treat reuniting mother the way they want such as siding with adoptee like Linda's sister has which is absurd.

    My two sister's had their own actions in my reunion for what reason I don't know it was horrible. I decided to back away from them and just recently started talking to them again. I do plan to tell them in person why I did that. My own mother wanted to "thank" female adopter. I swore to myself that she would NEVER ever get to do that over my dead body. Just recently started talking to my mom again after 12 years of so I just couldn't accept that she felt she had no part or acknowledgement in me not being able to keep my baby.
    She finally has somewhat acknowledged her part, and now we might be able to salvage what time we have left. We will talk its about time. Seems my mother didn't think she needed to acknowledge the loss of my baby. But she sure felt she needed to acknowledge and thank the woman that got to raise my baby. wtf...stupid thinking and I do think she thinks that absolves her from making me surrender,,,and she again looks wonderful just as the adopter does for raising the baby I wanted.

    My thinking here but still am going to confront them about this face to face. Families do more damage during reunions...they all want to be part of everything but never think of mother or grown adoptee needs time to get to know each other. Luckily, I got that time but had to exclude those who were forcing their agenda in our reunion including adopter.

    I hate doing anything that involves aodpter and I am sure she feels same way. Wish I NEVER had to see her face again.

  18. Cat here;

    Origins Australia has a large number of articles about the effect adoption has on mothers.

    Here is a link for that.

    Mental Health Damage to Mothers

  19. @Cat...

    I can appreciate your wanting to share information here from other websites...but I know lots and lots of first mothers, including myself, that read this information several years ago. Mostly is not new news. But imagine would be helpful for the first mother who is just coming out of the closet or an adoptee who does not know the circumstances of their surrender. Why not just steer people to the Exiled Mother site, OriginsCanada, OriginsUSA or OriginsNSW...everything you have copied and pasted here, much of it is already on those websites. JMO! And BTW, many mothers have accumulated their own adoption specific 'libraries', too. But thanks anyway.

  20. I have the book " 'No Car, No Radio, No Liquor Permit', The Moral Regulation of Single mothers in Ontario, 1920 - 1997" right here in front of me, and the actual words are:
    "The debate inside Queen's Park was only part of a larger controversy that continued concerning morality and premarital sex. Unwed mothers became the scapegoats for much of the social turmoil about moral standards. Dr. Marion Hilliard, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at the Women's College Hospital, believed that an unwed mother should be punished by having her child adopted:
    ' When she renounces her child for its own good, the unwed mother has learned a lot. She has learned to pay the price of her misdemeanor and this alone, if punishment is needed, is punishment enough.' (110) Other social workers and officials representing homes for unwed mothers echoed Dr. Hilliard's philosophy."

    Notes. Chapter 5:
    110 AO, RG, 29, series 74, box 3, file 3.2, 'Mothers Are Not Unhappy', Toronto
    Telegram, 22 November 1956

    The sentiments are disheartening and offensive, but they were not expressed as quoted, seemingly verbatim, in the OP.
    However, the paper was indeed The Toronto Telegram, which has never had any connection with The Daily Telegraph UK.

  21. Dear anonymouse

    Cat here;

    People in these messages (including Lorraine) asked me to post these.

    You may have this information but it is obvious just by reading these messages that have been specifically asked that not all people have all of the information you may have.

    You and others may have accumulated your own libraries but there are many that have not and if they ask a question here, do I not have the right to answer that question, no matter hold old the book or material may be if the question is specifically asked so that the person who asked may increase their knowledge?

    I thought that was what a forum was for.

    BTW - why make someone go to a web site and force them to go through several pages of material when you can direct to the specific page. That makes no sense at all for a specific question.

  22. @ anon re: ref to "No Car, etc".

    The link disappeared from the message for some reason.

    Here is the link again which has the abstract for the book. (the wording of the link does not reflect the contents, so don't worry about the words in the link address).

    Abstract for "No Car, No Radio, etc"

    You can order it from Amazon or ask your local library too.

  23. I do not trust statistics as a means of convincing anyone of anything. Having grown up in the 50s and 60s, I remember too many cheesy commercials employing statistics like "9 out of 10 smokers prefer Camels" or "Ivory Snow is 99 &44/100ths percent pure".

    In adoption reform, too many studies are self-selected groups and not rigorously conducted, yet once they are published they are referenced back and forth again and again and become accepted truth just because they are quoted endlessly.This includes quotes taken out of context as well. "I read it on the internet" does not make it automatically true. We may like and agree with what these studies say, but the opposition can get studies just as easily to refute them and promote their viewpoint, plus most of these studies are vulnerable to being dismissed if a real researcher starts picking at them.

    What I think makes a real impact is our stories, as told in "The Girls Who Went Away" especially, but there can never be too many collections of well written true stories of surrender from those of us who lived it, collected and put out there for a larger audience to read. I know several collections have been mentioned here, Origins USA has one, and another book like "Girls Who Went Away" covering 1973 to the present would be a wonderful way to show adoption abuse is still happening.

    Rather than quibble over whether it is 50%, 30% or 10% that never have another child, I feel there is greater impact in several mothers who never had another for various reasons telling their stories, and that this is what will make a difference in getting our truth out there.

  24. I've become pretty convinced that my son will keep trying to punish me until the day I die. Twenty years we've been in reunion with the first couple of years being pretty wonderful - but his originally passive aggressive acting out has become pretty blatant the past 15 years. He is so hateful and disrespectful at times, that I refuse to talk to him.

    Yet he continues to deny that he's angry about being adopted. Sigh. Oh how I wish we could rewire their brains, Lorraine!

    I've just become so used to it now that I've given up hope that he'll change. Of course his issues are complicated by drug addiction and enabling behaviors by his adopters ... but bottom line is that in his mind; I did the deed.

  25. anonymouse, many people who read here may not be familiar with these other sites, or these articles. and even then, sometimes it is hard to dig through these sites to find the information!

    there are almost 100 pages on the OriginsNSW site, for example. the other sites are likely just as big.

    so yes, some moms may know this already and have it saved to disk, but there are also many for which is it news. it is not information wasted.

    thank you, Cat, for posting this information here. it will help people find that site and that info who might not know about it already.

  26. Lorraine said,” sometimes I wonder how it's possible to make our children understand what it was like back then, how we hid our pregnancies, how our parents totally freaked out--and some of them threw us out--how terrible a thing it was that we had sex and "got caught."

    Your remark is thought provoking. Could it be that some children don’t want to understand? Or perhaps some children truly don’t understand? In either case, it is apparent that a disconnect often exists between an adoptee’s perception of the firstmom’s pregnancy experience and the reality of that experience. I suspect that this may be one of several factors involved in unsuccessful reunions.

    One of my favorite books is “The Girls Who Went Away.” Once I began reading it, I couldn’t stop. I’m not sure though if an adoptee would react similarly in an effort to understand his/her mother’s pregnancy experience. However, the person who might not read the book might watch a documentary or a youtube clip. Due to the importance of the subject, multiple media formats need to be available to ensure that adoptees have ample opportunities to get a clear picture of their mother’s experience. A true understanding may mitigate some of the anger that some adoptees have.


  27. Just wondering, since most of the surveys floating around in adoptionland were self-selected among those already searching or reunited, could it be that more women who never had another child search than those who had more, or that they get more involved in support groups?

    I honestly have no clue, just throwing this out there as another possibility.

  28. Maryanne,

    Your comments regarding statistics were well stated. It is because statistics are often loosely used to bolster one's positon that the following saying became popular: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

    I agree with you. The statistics you quoted do indeed sound extreme and unless I had much more detailed information about the study subjects, the research strategy and design and the evaluation of the data, I would be very hesitant to say things like, “90 % of natural mothers are depressed for life due to the fact that they have been cut off from their children…..” (e.g., how does the researcher know for a fact that the life-long depression was indeed caused by being cut off from their children? Were other variables considered?)

    I too believe that adoption reform research studies would be better served using a qualitative approach to the research design model. As you pointed out, telling our stories is an excellent vehicle for accomplishing such a task.

  29. maryanne, i would go as far as to state that most if not all surveys are self-selected. the only ones i can think of which are "mandatory" surveys such as that by Census Canada. (and then, there are folks who snub their noses at it).

  30. I sometimes think that trying to explain to a younger generation about how different things were back then is like asking them to imagine the world without their mobile cell phone or the internet.

    It is difficult for them to even imagine that concept.

  31. "it is apparent that a disconnect often exists between an adoptee’s perception of the firstmom’s pregnancy experience and the reality of that experience."

    There is another disconnect that is equally important, and that is the first mother's perception of the adoptee's experience of being relinquished and adopted.

    I agree that stories help, because no one story is exactly like another and it is those personal touches that make these histories ring true.
    Particularly during the "Girls Who Went Away" years, financially dependent unmarried under-age women were in less of a position to keep than those who were older, and even for older relatively independent women, the disincentive to stand up against a harshly judgmental society was pervasive and intense (and the consequences for doing so, often severe)
    But ultimately, I'm with the person who said trying to conjure up the world as it was is a well nigh impossible task. Along with information and imaginative empathy there has to be a leap of faith - but one which goes both ways.
    After all, adoptees experience their own reality too, and they are beginning to tell their stories, which are a necessary counterpoint to those of first parents.

    There is doubt that attitudes to unmarried mothers have changed dramatically over each successive decade since the 1950s. But the pressures remain, though to an increasingly less extent, in many pockets of our culture.
    LDS families and others, churches and associated adoption agencies continue to steer their "erring" daughters toward adoption, believing it to be a moral and social panacea, much as they did during Marion Hilliard's time. Though the judgmentalism is less - or at least less overt.

  32. Re: the Dr. Marion Hilliard quote.

    It may have been para-phrased but the meaning still remains the same as was the end result. Thousands of unwed mothers lost their babies because of this prevailing attitude.

    The book does say ". Dr. Marion Hilliard, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at the Women's College Hospital, believed that an unwed mother should be punished by having her child adopted" - that is straight from the book.

    Also, without having access to the whole Telegraph article or other contemporary articles to hand, it is possible that she really did say that line verbatim somewhere and that there may well be some speech where this quote may have come from.

    You also have to remember that Dr. Hilliard wrote hundreds if not thousands of articles - she may well have mentioned that line in one of them. One would have to go through all of those magazines, newspapers and journals. I personally would not be surprised if she really did say that.

    It certainly was the attitude of Women's College Hospital for decades (until approx. the 1980's)

    As an unwed mother who had her baby at this notorious hospital, they certainly punished us. My son was taken from me without any consent to his adoption.

    The social workers had their own office on the maternity ward, ready to swoop in at a moment's notice. They would actually examine mother's hands for wedding rings. Woe betide you if you weren't wearing one.

    They were cunning, brutal and heartless in the manner that they took our babies at this horrible place.

    Instead of a consent to an
    adoption, they would tell you to sign a non-ward, temporary foster care agreement and that you could have your baby back when you had proved yourself. They also told mothers that if they didn't sign, they would take the baby anyway.

    We were denied any access to a lawyer. I asked for one prior to signing the temporary foster care agreement (which I was not allowed to read) - the social worker refused. There were no cell phones or internet in those days. The nurses carried keys which were used to lock down the ward phones so we could not phone out. If we tried to leave even for the smallest amount of time to get a lawyer, they threatened to charge us with abandoning our children.

    We were literally trapped with no way out.

    Of course, once in foster care, they made all sorts of excuses for not returning our babies. They didn't even tell me about the court date when they made my son a crown ward which ended my parental rights. I had no idea about this until it was too late.

    They were allowed to do that at Women's College Hospital (my son was taken from me in the late 1970's). We had no rights at all.

    Ironically, the file states that I am a very good mother, so it is clear that my son was not taken on grounds of neglect or abuse. It was just the fact that I was not married at the time of his birth - period.

    That seems to bear out the punishment policy of taking babies from mothers just for not being married - and they certainly punished us for that. I suffered a great deal of verbal and physical abuse there as did other unwed mothers that I personally know.

    I lost count the number of times nurses called us sluts, whores, stupid girls, little tarts, etc.

    I can barely bring myself to recall the brutal phyiscal abuse we were made to endure.

    We were all told that we deserved to suffer.

  33. Re: The Daily Telegram (in Toronto)

    I can vouch for the existence of this newspaper. I used to read it when I lived in Toronto (many years ago).

    It was very dry reading - not surprised it was doomed and ceased to be in 1971.

    Telegram and Telegraph are very similar names - so easy to be confused. Both names were used throughout Ontario.

    There were other papers in Ontario that had the word "Telegraph" in it, such as the Daily Telegraph in Berlin, Ontario.

    BTW - Berlin, Ontario no longer exists. It has been renamed Kitchener due to the First World War.

  34. Cat here - sorry for any confusion about Telegram and Telegraph.

    I went a bit word blind - you are right that it should read Daily Telegram.

    I guess I was thinking of Berlin :)

    My apologies to the forum.

    I am working on a letter to the Ontario Ombudsman - still angry that I am still being denied the right to name my son's father on the OBC.

    I sometimes I don't think or see straight when I am upset. Sorry about that (eye problems don't help either - bits of the jelly in the eyeball break off and float across my line of vision distorting small letters).

  35. I think Maryanne and Gail are right that honest well-told stories triumph mightily over stats in communicating the harsh realities of the not-so-distant past when it came to the way pregnant unmarried women were treated.
    Gail makes an excellent point about the importance of other media as a means of getting things across, and apropos of that, Osolomama has linked to a wonderful documentary on CBC's "Passionate Eye" about Ontario first parents "back in the day".
    It is called "The 40 Year Secret".
    Check it out here:


  36. CarolC, I don't know of any other way to contact you. Would you consider telling me more about your story for my article on "punished" bmoms? You can reach me through my blog.


  37. Cedar,

    Maybe "self-selected" was not the right word, as I am not a statistician or researcher. What I meant was that most of the studies I have seen used by adoption reform and anti-adoption groups were done using those who replied or were already in touch or members of the group, not a random sampling of mothers who had surrendered in general. A true study needs to include a cross-section of the population, not just one segment.

    Also many of these surveys were a very small group, and almost all were already involved in searching or support groups which is a self-selection right there. The questionnaires I have seen and participated in were often written in such a way to bias the outcome and response. They were not neutral.

    A survey does not have to be mandatory like the census to cover a true cross section of the group being studied. As Gail pointed out, it also has to account for other variables among the population being studied. She used the example of "90% depressed their whole lives over surrender".
    How does one define "depressed" in this context? Clinically depressed? On medication? Sad or unhappy about having surrendered?

    Another suspect piece is the number of hysterectomies. What age were the women in the survey? If they were around 60, how does that figure compare to women who have not surrendered a child but are the same age? With many of these questions, it is also vital to remember the saying "correlation does not equal causation". Perhaps a majority of women who surrendered are nearsighted or prefer tea to coffee, but was this caused by surrender?

    If we want to be credible, I do not think we should quote and repeat statistics that are at best questionable. It is tempting to use numbers that back up what we already believe to be true, but it is not really scientific research but propaganda backing a pre-set agenda.

    Real research posits a hypothesis or theory, then does a controlled scientific study, but the honest researcher has to be unbiased and ready to accept data that proves the hypothesis wrong as well as that which proves it correct.

    Adoption reform is full of junk science. It does not help our cause.

  38. anon wrote "that is straight from the book."

    So is " ' When she renounces her child for its own good, the unwed mother has learned a lot. She has learned to pay the price of her misdemeanor and this alone, if punishment is needed, is punishment enough.' " which was put in inverted commas, normally intended to indicate a direct quotation.

    anon said "it is possible that she really did say that line"
    Can I quote you on that?
    It's too good to waste.

  39. and another book like "Girls Who Went Away" covering 1973 to the present would be a wonderful way to show adoption abuse is still happening.

    Completely agree and willing/able to contribute/organize, etc.

    Claud and I have discussed this at length many times. As Bernadette noted, the same bias, stigma existed in 1986 when I was sent 1000 miles from home to a maternity "home" to surrender my first born to a baby broker named Kurtz.

    Claud, Bern, me, others, we really need to get this post BSE reality OUT THERE.

  40. Anon wrote

    anon wrote "that is straight from the book."

    So is " ' When she renounces her child for its own good, the unwed mother has learned a lot. She has learned to pay the price of her misdemeanor and this alone, if punishment is needed, is punishment enough.' " which was put in inverted commas, normally intended to indicate a direct quotation.

    anon said "it is possible that she really did say that line"
    Can I quote you on that?
    It's too good to waste.

    Yes, that woman really did say that. It is referenced in the book mentioned earlier or one could go around digging through Toronto newspaper archives of Nov. 1956

    Go ahead and use that.

    I can tell you from first-hand experience that they felt like that at Women's College Hospital for almost 3 decades afterwards.
    The staff were so heartless there.

  41. Thanks for the permission, anon.
    "It's possible she really did say that" is such a quotable quote.

    People are going to be really impressed to hear that Marion Hilliard might have said that "Unwed mothers should be punished and they should be punished by taking their children away."

    Especially when they check the archives of the T.T and discover that Hilliard's words as (correctly) transcribed from the original by Margaret Jane Hillyard Little read "When she renounces her child for its own good, the unwed mother has learned a lot. She has learned to pay the price of her misdemeanor and this alone, if punishment is needed, is punishment enough."
    Almost, but not *quite*, the same thing.

    Not, of course, that accuracy is important.
    I mean, who cares?
    It's only words.

  42. I have a photocopy of the original November 22, 1956 article in front of me.

    "Mothers not all unhappy" by Dorothy Howarth, Toronto Telegram Reporter. Toronto Telegram, November 22, 1956.

    "Anonymous" is almost right regarding the quote from Dr. Marion Hilliard. This is the complete quote:

    "When she renounces her child for its own good, the unwed mother has learned a lot. She has learned an important human value. She has learned to pay the price for her misdemeanor, and this alone, if punishment is needed, is punishment enough."

    A copy of this article can be ordered directly from the Toronto Sun (Sun Media Corporation).

    1. I know this is a stretch, but is there any way you might still be active and still have the article? I am having a really hard time figuring out how to access it. Thank you!

  43. Here is that quote in context of what's around it: eliminating fathers from the picture and talking about "discipline" in the home being the "remedy.":

    " 'The father plays absolutely no part in this. That is part of her rehabilitation. When she renounces her child for its own good, the unwed mother has learned a lot. She has learned an important human value. She has learned to pay the price of her misdemeanor, and this alone, if punishment is needed, is punishment enough.' Dr Hiiiard echoes the beliefs of the social workers and the agencies dealing with unwed mothers, though hers have come to her privately. And she, like the other authorities, though refusing to blame the girl's home, lays the remedy right on its doorstep... 'We must go back to a primary set of values and the discipline that starts with the very small child,' says Dr. Hilliard."

  44. What matters is sentiment - that it was an awful view to have of unwed mothers and that the end result was that their children were taken away.

    Dr. Marion Hilliard obviously knew they were going to suffer - that was their "punishment".

    She must have viewed unwed mothers as criminals to use those particular words about them
    (misdemeanor, punishment, etc.)

  45. Thanks, Cedar.
    It's good to see Hilliard's opinion reported in full context. The fact that it illustrates how those fathers who would have taken responsibility were deliberately excluded is a valuable extra.
    "Family values" haven't changed much in some circles since those days. I'm sure "Focus of the Family" and the LDS hierarchy would be right there in terms of sentiment.

    Link to Cedar's blog which includes a scanned copy from the original Telegram article:

  46. Cedar, any chance of copying the whole article so that we can read it?
    The title intrigues me. Especially given the Hilliard quotation, I can't help wondering what the rest of it says.

  47. I am a twenty four year old adoptee almost a year in reunion, and I would like to comment on this topic. My birth mother willingly had sex, had an opportunity to raise me, walked away from me after seeing me and it's hard to not want her to at least suffer. She had two kids after me and never mentioned me again until this january when I found her after thirteen years of searching. I want a relationship, but I aslo think that birth mothers need to take responsibility. I get the whole baby era scoop thing, but that isn't always the case, or bmoms feel pressured by adoption agencies or paps, but the only people i see that are actually signing the papers and walking away from their children are the birth mothers. I'm just saying, an "im sorry i gave you away" take responsibility is all, you gave the kid away not the other way around. period. yeah, there's sometimes i pull away from my bmom, because she acts like her parents divorcing was more traumatic that my being placed in foster/adoption, that by keeping her biracial child a secret is ok, and it is not. the birth children owe birth mothers nothing. they didn't leave. And i am not trying to be rude, i am just pissed that some birth mothers, mine specifically., can give their kid away live scott free and then have their kid in their life...

  48. And before I am lambasted I have only been respectful to my birth mom, have only worshipped her hand and foot... but I wonder when she is going to be punished for abandoning me, and then pushing the responsibility on her parents, they didn't do this to me, i am not their kid, i was hers and she left me.

  49. Anon 24 year old adoptee, my son said pretty much the same thing to me, that I had a habit of blaming everyone else for my own actions and it was time I took some responsibility. So I did. And it did help the relationship.

    I had to take responsibility for my part in the surrender, and leave my parents and others to deal with their own stuff instead of putting it all on them, my boyfriend, the agency etc. I had already explained all that and also used it as an excuse. It was time for me to grow up and take a hard look at my part of the surrender.

    And I am very, very sorry, and said so, but another thing my son said was that it was not up to him to forgive me, but something I had to do myself.

    I would not doubt your mother has already been punished plenty, even if not outwardly. Maybe you can tell her how you feel, and how you are tired of hearing excuses and just want her to take a little responsibility for her own actions.

    The next step, though, once she has taken responsibility, it to accept that and let it go and move on from there with the relationship. Just as it is tiresome for adoptees to hear endless excuses from their birthmothers, it is tiresome to mothers to hear endless accusations and demands for endless apologies from our children when we have already taken responsibility and apologized. It is not your job to forgive her, and it is not your job to call for or instigate her punishment. That would serve neither of you well.

    If you both want a relationship, you both have to be honest and listen to each other, accept the past that cannot be changed, and move on to build a relationship. This can take many years, you are very young and new at reunion. It takes some patience too, from both sides. I wish you and your mother luck and many good years, and greater understanding and honesty.

  50. Dr. Hilliard's book on love and marriage was a good read. I wouldn't thought such a quote would be attributed to her. She may have already have been ill or still very bitter about her love lost. I still respect and admire her. Richard Soto



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