The Story of Adoption in Women’s History
As we enter Women’s History Month, we remember and reflect upon the strides women have made and the important women who have paved the way for better tomorrows. We remember such landmarks as the Seneca Falls Convention, the Suffragette Movement, the fight for pay equity and equal representation. Women across the Nation, and the World, are speaking up and fighting for a more equitable world for all. While it is important to take time this month to remember how far women have come, it is equally as important to remember how far women have yet to go and examine the issues still facing women today.
While birth mothers still have a long road ahead in terms of equality in adoption, there have been significant and vital changes in the practice of domestic infant adoption in the United States.
An often silenced group in the fight for equality, are women who have made the decision to place their children for adoption and adoptees who have to fight for their right to access their basic information. While birth mothers still have a long road ahead in terms of equality in adoption, there have been significant and vital changes in the practice of domestic infant adoption in the United States.
Post-Civil War Era marked a period known as the Orphan Train Movement, believed to be responsible for the “placement” of nearly 200,000 orphans. These children were orphans or abandoned youth; the children of immigrants or Civil War soldiers who were then put on an Orphan Train to more rural parts of the United States and indentured as farm labor or household workers. This practice continued until the early 1900’s when finally, the exploitation was realized and action was taken, resulting in the creation of childcare agencies and laws that promoted adoptive placements over indenture. 1917 brought about the Nation’s first adoption law, where Minnesota required all adoptive placements be investigated and approved and limited the access to records for all parties involved.
…incredible women like Ashley Mitchell and Kelsey Vander Vliet Ranyard are fighting for the rights of birth mothers and expectant mothers.”
From 1945-1974, our Nation entered what is known as the Baby Scoop Era; a time where adoptive placements were at an all-time high, and adoption was an acceptable means of growing a family. In a post-World War II world, “illegitimate” births rose three times the prior national average due to a rise in unwed couples and a shift in the moral compass of younger generations. This time frame also resulted in the harshest adoption laws and practices – sealed birth records, limited or no access to information, coercion and forced placements. Laws that adoption advocates, birth mothers, and adoptees are still fighting to overturn.
Today, incredible women like Ashley Mitchell and Kelsey Vander Vliet Ranyard are fighting for the rights of birth mothers and expectant mothers. Basic rights such as access to post-placement care, separate and equal legal representation, and legally enforceable Post Adoption Contact Agreements. States across the US are mandating separate legal representation for women while signing relinquishment paperwork, translators for non-English speaking women, and enforceable Post Adoption Contact Agreements. While these changes might seem insignificant, to the ten thousand women that place their children for adoption each year, the represent so much. These changes represent respect, equality, and honor – something birth mothers have been fighting for, for generations.
PairTree is proud to support the work being done. And with our 5% Fund, our Adoptive Families are contributing financially to organizations that provide lifetime support to birth mothers by listening, learning, and supporting their community. This year, we pledged our entire 5% Fund to two organizations: The Lifetime Healing Foundation, who provide lifetime support for Birth Mothers, and Equity Before Birth: the organization that objectively supports Expectant Women who are deciding on their best path.