' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Kudos to Walmart

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Kudos to Walmart

Walmart's Robin Morse
Thanks to Walmart for selling hope and opportunity to teen moms. In a series of ads in the Portland, Oregon area, Manager Robin Morse tells us that as a single, 19-year-old mom, she took a job at a Walmart electronics department. She worked her way up the ladder becoming Manager of the Walmart in Hood River, a town of 7000 50 miles east of Portland. She met her future husband there.

Robin, an attractive blond, puts a face on the thousands of single young women who succeed in motherhood and careers. I'm hoping that Robin's story inspires pregnant teens to see beyond the dramatics of 16 and Pregnant and the doom and gloom scenario played by "experts" like Dr. Phil and decide to keep their babies.

There's a certain irony in Walmart becoming the symbol of opportunity. In my day, dime stores, the forerunners of Walmart, were the symbols of dead end jobs and despair. The Dr. Phil then was Ann Landers, advice columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times.

1961 photo Ann Landers, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing slightly left / World Telegram & Sun pho
Ann Landers
Over half a century ago, Ann spoke at my high school, Hyde Park, as part of a tour of Chicago high schools. She immortalizing her words later in her 1963 book,  Ann Landers Talks to Teen-Agers About Sex. Having sex, she warned us would lead to pregnancy.  And pregnancy would lead to dropping out of school and spending our lives working at the trinket counter at Woolworth’s, the largest of the ubiquitous five and tens. 
Jane in 1959

(Teen pregnancy was rampant in the 50’s and scare tactics didn’t make a dent in it. The solution, several decades away, was sex education and the availability of birth control. Unfortunately, some Republican politicians are trying to turn back the clock by restricting sex ed to sermons on abstinence and de-funding Planned Parenthood.)

I’m one of those liberal who sneered at Walmart, joining critics who accused it of destroying small businesses and ruining towns across America. Walmart is planning to open 17 stores in the Portland area. It’s likely that the ad was intended to counter negative publicity about a class action lawsuit alleging discrimination based on gender rather than to inspire teen moms.

Nonetheless, I want to drive to Hood River and give Robin a big hug. While I’m there, I’ll buy a trinket.

As for Ann Landers, she later teamed up with the National Council for Adoption opposing allowing adult adoptees access to their records. Ann urged adoptees not to search for their birth families and accept the fact “that the woman who raised you is your mother."

Click here to watch Walmart's ad with Robin Morse. 


  1. Jane, I'm surprised and disappointed! Kudos to Walmart?!
    While I'm happy for Robin, apparently she's an exception rather than the rule when it comes to WalMart hiring practices. How can you dismiss the recent (3/29/11) sex discrimination suit against the company? http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/walmart-discrimination-court-decide-millions-female-employees-sue/story?id=13237106

    I'm sure you're well aware of their long history of offenses ranging from not allowing bathroom breaks to oncompensated overtime to overnight workers prevented from leaving the store by locked doors.

    I'd say the kudobs belong to Robin for her tenacity and determination in spite of socioeconomic challenges and cultural perceptions of single motherhood.

  2. Gretchen,

    I had the same reaction when I first read Jane's story because of their long history of discrimination against women in promotions, their despicable health-insurance practices, and otherwise poor working conditions. The minimum number of women who will be in the class action suit against the company is 1.5 million. The annual turnover in the workforce, women and men, is around 50 percent! I have never bought anything at Walmarts, and plan never to.

    But as Jane reminded me, she does point to the law suit against Walmart, and the point of her story is that single mothers can make it. Adoption is not the only route to a happy unencumbered life, as the 'Adoption Option" folks at the Center for American Progress would have us believe, and if the ad reaches a single young woman who is considering giving up her child but decides otherwise after seeing this story, that is a "good thing."

  3. While I know Walmart, intimately, I also know that if they can encourage a young mother to to keep her child, I will not get in their way. Sometimes we have to get a little smudge on our egos to realize that not everything is bad.

  4. It would be interesting to see who WalMart supports re. Planned Parenthood because they can put up all the "we're for the single mom" ads they want, the proof will be in the campaign contribution fund pudding.

  5. I would expect high turnover at an employer like Walmart where most of their workforce is unskilled labor, and probably has a high percentage of high school and college students working their on a short-term basis. McDonalds, by way of comparison, had 44% turnover in 2008.

  6. Thanks for this, Jane. Because I believe in free enterprise and that Walmart serves low-income shoppers, plus their success despite the complaints, I have not had a problem with them. I've thought about going to work at our local WM, going in to see what is really true, but so far haven't take that jump. As if I'm even employable at this point...

    Not checking out the ad, since I know it will upset me, but I have to say that if they are hiring single mothers, and supporting them at some level, I am impressed. How many other companies stand up like that? When I was pregnant in the sixties, I doubt anyone would have hired me or kept me on once I started to show and they knew.

    But that was then and this is now.

  7. Sorry, no, this publicity stunt featuring a young single mom is not changing my opinion of Walmart nor enticing me to shop there. It is interesting how single-issue people can be easily persuaded to go against their former principles by something like this.

  8. Dear Last Anonymous (oh how we love names, even made up ones):

    I am still not shopping at Walmart. Won't won't won't. Know too much about their overall employee practices; but this post is about the fact that you can be a young single mother who kept your child and still made something of her life--at a store that would be analogous to the Woolworth's of yesteryear.

  9. Well, I like Walmart, lol. And this story reminds me of the film Where The Heart Is, about the girl who gave birth in one in the middle of the night. That is a good single Mother story too. And for all you Walmart haters out there, well at least they are doing something right...:)

  10. Anon,

    I'm not chomping at the bit to shop at Walmart either. If they open a store near me, though, I may check it out.

    Watch the video. Robin is just the sort of role model a single young pregnant woman needs. Attractive, articulate, down to earth, upbeat, a good mom.

    This image is helpful to counter the adoption industry's doom and gloom messages. The industry leads expectant mothers to believe they will be mired in poverty forever; that their children are better off being raised by those who can give their children more than they can.



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