The Girls Who Went Away


In this deeply moving and myth-shattering work, Ann brings out into the open for the first time the astonishing untold history of the million and a half women who surrendered children for adoption due to enormous family and social pressure in the several decades before Roe vs Wade.

Coalition Staff Member Review

In this book, author Ann Fessler, who is an adoptee herself, shares the voices and stories of women who surrendered their children for adoption during the Post WW2/Pre-Roe V. Wade period in America. The author shares the stories of a number of young mothers who are each unique, but eerily the same, as these young, vulnerable women fell victim to a society that truly believed they were doing what was best for both the “unwed” mother and “the” baby. The author takes the reader on a journey back to a society where conforming to social norms was of utmost importance, and where shame for those who fell out of line was feared.  More importantly, though, each mother’s story describes the powerful bond that is formed between a child and their mother even before the baby is born and the life-long consequences that come when that bond is severed.

The stories in this book will break your heart, make you angry, and will help you understand the tremendous grief involved when a mother and her child are separated. There are also stories of reunification that can be heart-warming but may leave you wondering how the separations were allowed to happen in the first place.

What I believe is remarkable about this book is how the author handled each story with the care, compassion, and grace that these women should have received at the beginning of their journey. After a lifetime of hiding under their guilt and shame, the author finally allowed these women to have a voice – and each voice has value. If you are looking to gain an understanding of birth parents or just to understand some of the complexities of adoption, this is a book you should read.


Author: Fessler, Ann
Additional Author: The Penguin Press
ISBN: 978-0-14-303897-9
Count: 1
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