For almost three decades, renowned baby-seller Georgia Tann ran a children's home in Memphis, Tennessee — selling her charges to wealthy clients nationwide, Joan Crawford among them. Part social history, part detective story, part expose, The Baby Thief is a riveting investigative narrative that explores themes that continue to reverberate today.
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Barbara Raymond has written extensively for Good Housekeeping, Ladies' Home Journal, Redbook, McCall's, Parents, Reader's Digest, Working Mother, Writer's Digest, and USA Today. She contributed to The Handbook of Magazine Article Writing (Writer's Digest Books), and was an author of a Good Housekeeping Child Care section that won the National Magazine Award for Public Service. She has been nominated for a National Magazine Award in Reporting and received two awards for feature writing from Women in Communications.
Starred Review. An episode in American adoption history little remembered by the public at large, the crimes of nationally-lauded Memphis orphanage director Georgia Tann are skillfully and passionately recounted by freelance writer Raymond, herself an adoptive mom. The portrait of Tann that emerges is a domineering, indefatigable figure with an insane commitment to ends-justify-the-means logic, who oversaw three decades of baby-stealing, baby-selling and unprecedented neglect. Meanwhile, she did more to popularize, commercialize and influence adoption in America than anyone before her. Tann operated carte blanche under corrupt Mayor Edward Hull Crump from the 1920s to the '50s, employing a nefarious network of judges, attorneys, social workers and politicos, whom she sometimes bribed with "free" babies; her clients included the rich, the famous and the entirely unfit (who more than occasionally returned their disappointing children for a refund). "Spotters" located babies and young children ripe for abduction-from women too uneducated or exhausted to fight back-and Tann made standard practice of altering birth certificates and secreting away adoption records to attract buyers and cover her tracks-self-serving moves that have become standard practice in modern adoption. A riveting array of interviews with Tann's former charges reveals adults still struggling with their adoption ordeal, childhood memories stacked with sexual abuse, torture and confusion. Raymond's dogged investigation makes a strong case for "ridding adoptions of lies and secrets," warning that "until we do, Tann and her imitators will continue to corrupt adoption." A rigorous, fascinating, page-turning tale, this important book is not for the timorous.
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