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More Information, Please

Posted by friedag (My Page) on
Fri, Dec 27, 13 at 23:57

After reading all the new threads about the Best Books of 2013, the books RPers got for Christmas and others, I have lots of questions but I'm starting this thread to ask them in instead of disrupting the flow of the excellent information in the already existing topics.

I'll just dive in with my first question:

Vee, I've read that Sixsmith's book is really more about the life of Philomena's son in America and not so much about Philomena herself whom I gather is the focus of the film. Are you finding that's true?

I heard about the film and was curious, but I'm more interested in the broader scope of the Irish revelations than about particular personal accounts, although I'm sure Philomena's and her son's experience are interesting too. I happened to order a few days ago Banished Babies: The Secret History of Ireland's Baby Export Business by Mike Milotte. It was first published in 1997 and updated in 2012 and seems to be the definitive version, so far. Have you read it? I'm impatiently awaiting delivery of my copy. I have read accounts of the notorious Magdalene laundries and saw the 2002 film that depicted them.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: More Information, Please...more

Annpan, I read your comment about the Australian equivalent to the Irish treatment of unwed mothers and their adopted-out babies. I vaguely remember hearing or reading about the situation, but I never followed up on getting more information. Do you know if there's been a book devoted to it? I can find articles on the Internet, but they seem to be scattered in their approach and I'm looking for a synthesis.

I'm guessing that such situations existed in many places, product of the times as much as products of particular cultures. I know there was, what we would consider today, appalling treatment of unmarried women and illegitimate children in the US -- perhaps it still continues, but it was especially prevalent before the mid to late 1960s, I think. And not all of it could be blamed on religious institutions and government collusion. What was the Australian context?


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RE: More Information, Please...again

Siobhan, your brother's gift to you of Murder in Peking caught my eye. I used to read a lot of true crime (and covered some of it on my beat as a reporter), but I got burned out after a while on modern crimes. However, I still like to read of historical true-crime investigations (those reconsidered long after the events as well as the contemporaneous accounts), especially those with unusual circumstances and what to me are exotic locales. I look forward to reading your impressions and whether you find it as attention-grabbing as the blurb contends it should be. Actually, I don't have a question to ask you; I'm just commenting that I'm glad you told us about it. I do wonder, though, why your brother decided to give it to you. He must have had a reason. :-)


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RE: More Information, Please...P.S.

Question to those who have watched "Housewife, 49" the 2006 television adaptation of Nella Last's War, starring Victoria Wood: Was it what you expected after reading the book? Or did you see the TV program first and then read Nella's diaries? Either way, did you have to make adjustments in your thinking of what and how it was presented?


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Frieda, I am only a little way into the Sixsmith book so have only reached the point where Philomena is in the Convent. So far the story-line is intermingled (?) with what was going on in Dublin politics during the early 1950's.
The film only deals with the US side of the story in outline and there is virtually no 'political' content. A meeting is shown between Sixsmith, Philomena and the adopted sister (taken to the US at the same time as the boy) where some mention is made of the 'difficult' relationship between their new 'Father' and the children, but it is not played up . . .possibly because many of the people involved are still alive.
I am not familiar with the Banished Babies book and had never considered/understood that there was such a terrible problem with illegitimacy in Ireland. This is probably really naive of me, but growing up among Irish nuns who forever told us 'tales' of the purity of Irish womenfolk and the nobleness of their men, one assumed that all girls' kept themselves pure' and avoided all 'occasions of sin'.
re the Magdalene laundries. I have an old and much-loved Irish friend who trained as a nurse before coming to England. She said that her Convent school in County Clare had both an orphanage and a laundry attached to it. They had no knowledge of what conditions were like inside these institutions but that the orphan children used to attend the village school when younger. My friend had been taught by her parents that the orphans were of 'no account' and were treated as lesser beings by both teachers and pupils.
Of course we now hear how these poor females have been deeply scarred by their experiences and even today, many refuse to come forward when help is offered as the 'belief' that they are beyond salvation is so deeply ingrained in them.

Annpan there have been a number of TV documentaries about 'orphans' mainly from 'Barnardo's Homes (UK charity) being sent to both Canada and Australia in search of a better life. Sometimes the Homes seem to have 'forgotten' to ask the relatives of the young people for permission to send them abroad which led to later distress. some children were put with kind families, others were used as cheap labour. I understand that the kids under the charge of nuns had quite a hard time.


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Friedag, I don't know about any book written on the subject. I only heard some accounts on TV docos and news items. It appeared to be happening from 1950 until 1970.
Apparently some of the mothers were willing but others were pressured "how will you support this baby?" etc. and then there were the mothers who said they were tricked.
The stories I heard were very distressing.


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re Housewife 49 I read both books (I think the 2nd one was called 'Nella Last's Peace') and watched the TV adaptation and enjoyed them both. In fact many people would get more from the Victoria Wood play. She has brought the characters to life, both put-upon Nella and her rather grumpy husband and her new and busy work with the WVS (Women's Voluntary Service). As you probably know Frieda, Wood comes from Lancashire, as did Nella and is wonderful at picking up the nuances and speech patterns . . .which always make her comedy shows such a hit.
Below is the first part of the TV play, sorry the sound quality is not very good.

Here is a link that might be useful: Housewife 49


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Vee, Present day Australians are now having to deal with the "Stolen Generation" of Aboriginal children taken from their parents and the abused children from Homes as well as the adoption scandal.
A lot of these terrible practices are now coming to light. Financial compensation and counselling is being offerred but the wounds are deep.


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Vee, the Irish topic is just the sort of social history that is right up my alley. You know from experience with me that I seek the nitty-gritty details -- the more real, the better. We're a lot alike in that respect of our reading habits. :-)

This reminds me of the Forbidden Britain subject that entranced me a few months ago. However, like you I had very little knowledge of such things actually happening, although I had heard and read allusions to them. One of the first that actually registered with me was in a Maeve Binchy novel (Echoes, I think), of all things! I wondered then if this was something that was real. The main character in that book was a young Irish woman (in the 1950s or 1960s) who had 'succumbed' to sexual relations with her boyfriend and spent an inordinate amount of time (to my way of thinking) worrying about whether she was disgracing herself and might disgrace her family by getting pregnant and having to go off to a convent home to have the baby. Binchy's portrayal rang true although it was fiction. Attitudes sure have changed in the last forty to fifty years.

Vee, do you recall an autobiography by an English or Welsh woman with the first name of Lorna? I'm pretty sure you were the one who mentioned reading it. I read it, too. It was about a young woman from a dysfunctional family, and if I remember correctly her father was particularly abusive. After a litany of sad events, Lorna got pregnant and was disowned. She had to give birth in some sort of unwed mother's facility (again the 1950s or early 1960s). For the life of me, I can't remember what the outcome was but I think she gave the baby up for adoption. There was also something about her writing that annoyed me, a sort of poor-pitiful-me attitude, I think.


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Annpan, it's hard for me sometimes to fathom just what people were thinking re orphans and adoption, etc. in those days. But I wonder if it's completely better nowadays.

Currently in the US, there's a lot of angst about foreign adoptions by Americans, particularly of Russian orphans and abandoned children who might not have been abandoned afterall. You may have heard of the ban by Vladimir Putin on Americans adopting Russian kids, even the so-called "undesirables." There have been some notorious cases of American adoptive parents abusing these children. One woman disciplined her adopted son who was 'talking back' to her by putting hot pepper sauce in his mouth. A girl adopted from Russia died in her American parents' care, but that seems genuinely to have been a very sad accident. Another woman who adopted an emotionally disturbed boy could not control him so she put him on an airplane by himself and sent him back to Russia! That caused an uproar by Russians and Americans alike!!

Native Americans have agitated against Native American children being adopted by Caucasian parents. In Hawai'i, it's the same for Native Hawaiian and other Polynesian children. Special circumstances allow it, but it's very controversial even then. African-American children are sometimes adopted by white parents, but the preference is for black adoptive parents. The sensitivities are legion. With the number of mixed-race natural children these days, it seems ironic to me that cross-racial adoptions are so frowned on.


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Vee, I was warned by English friends, who read the diaries and saw the TV adaptation, that the real Nella and the TV Nella are quite different. I watched part 1 of the play that you provided the link to. Thanks for that. I like Victoria Wood and enjoy hearing the Lancashire way of talking. Wood doesn't look much like the real Nella in the photos of her, but I think that's forgivable.

When I first started reading Nella Last's War, I didn't immediately warm to Nella. She annoyed me by being so worried about her husband, William (Will), and the way she pampered him. And I wanted to say to Mr. Last, "Who died and made you King?" Then I realized that they were just in the roles that their culture had assigned to them, and I had to accept that it was just the way things were. I eventually got used to Will, although I still think he was a mean little man to give Nella only 3 pounds, 10 shillings allowance a week for housekeeping money, including food, and then thinking Nella was asking too much when she asked for a 5 shilling rise. If it hadn't been for Cliff, their younger son, siding with his mother, I doubt if Will would've relented.

I guess it's too much for a TV play to cover everything in Nella's life, but I was particularly glad to see Morecambe Bay that Nella and Will so loved to drive by on their motoring jaunts. I hope Lake Coniston and Lake Windermere are shown as well. Do you remember if they are? I'm going to purchase a copy of the DVD because the installments on YouTube are quite dark and, as you say, a bit hard to hear. I'm pretty sure that I will like the whole play well enough.

Oh, I was going to ask you, Vee: What is it with English people going to English lakes, seashores, and other bodies of water, then parking their cars to face the lake, etc., to sit inside them and stare out the windscreen at the water without getting out of their cars? I noticed this myself and writers, such as Paul Theroux, have mentioned it. It's a curious, most English behaviour, I think. I've asked other English friends about it and they laugh in recognition. :-)


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Frieda, last question first! I know exactly what you mean about English people driving to some 'beauty spot', sitting in the car with all the windows closed for half an hour then driving home. Sometimes they over-excite themselves and get out of the car to buy an icecream.
I remember, many years ago, a College friend being invited on a 'date' with a boy who owned a car (quite a rarity back in the early '60's). He drove her to some country spot with wonderful views, took out the Sunday paper, sat and read it for an hour then drove her back to town. I fear it was a romance that never took off.
English people also have a habit of arriving at the beach or similar and aiming their car at the nearest other vehicle despite there being 3 miles of empty space. If they are the only ones there people often park right next to the public loos . . . perhaps they have weak bladders?

Can't remember the 'Lorna' book but will check through my lists of 'Book Read' and get back to you.
I enjoy Maeve Binchy for a light read but think she saw/gave us Ireland through rose-tinted specs.

A True Tale told to my elderly Irish friend by her sister, a nun.

The nun was travelling from Shannon airport to Birmingham for a visit this Summer. While on the plane a steward offered her a cup of coffee. This flight being run by Ryan Air the cost of the coffee was probably about £3.50 and the nun said she only had a £20 note and no change.
An American woman sitting next to her offered to pay (nuns are good at this) and the two started talking. It appeared that the American had been in Ireland looking up her ancestors and talked of the various places she had visited and photographed. She saved her favourite snap 'til last and told the nun it was the most exciting moment of the whole trip as she had managed to get a shot of a gen-u-ine leprechaun.

At this point, through gales of laughter, I asked my friend what the photo was actually of . . . but she said the nun couldn't tell her . .. I must get to the bottom of it . . .


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Friedag, I have Googled "Child Migration experiences in Western Australia" and there are a few items there that might interest you. I am also going to check through a book written about the boarding hostel for country children that both my husband and son stayed at while they attended the local school. There were orphans placed there so may have some info. on this subject.
There is a movie "Oranges and Sunshine" on TV tonight. I think from the synopsis it is about migrant children being reunited with their families.
I think that what was done in the past was believed to be for the good of the children. I would like to think that many of these children benefitted in their new country.
As an adult migrant who only intended to stay the mandatory two years but married an Aussie and made a home here, I was glad I came!


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Vee, maybe the American woman's snap was of a garden gnome. They can be leprechaun-ish sometimes, can't they? ;-)

Speaking of Ireland, I recently read J. P. Mallory's The Origins of the Irish, meaning the pre-historical origins. His first couple of paragraphs tickled me so much that I'm going to quote the second one:

The body of an Irishman contains up to 59 of the 92 naturally occurring elements. One of these, hydrogen, accounts for about one-tenth of the mass of a human being and for a 70-kg (about 155 lb.) Niall [from Niall of the Nine Hostages], the other very light elements (helium, lithium, beryllium and boron) only provide about 25 mg. Some of the other elements are plentiful, such as the c. 43 kg of oxygen (which, like hydrogen, is largely tied up in water molecules) and 16 kg of carbon, while most of the rest are only lightly attested. For example, we could squeeze a lethal dose of arsenic out of about 150 Irishmen but it would take us on the order of 5,000 of them to obtain a gramme of gold. And to turn the Irish into a weapon of mass destruction, it would take about 70 million of them (or of anyone else) to provide enough uranium for a small atomic bomb. As there are an estimated 80 million people who claim Irish descent, this could be managed with people to spare.
That got my full attention!

Mallory goes on to explain the land that is now Ireland originated during the Ordovician (about 450 million years ago) just east in longitude and at the about the same latitude of the bulge of Australia's east coast. It took about 400 million years for it to migrate to its present location. Contrary to previous thinking, geologists now theorize that the Irish Sea may never have been completely dry (although it has been narrower) and Ireland and Britain were not connected except when covered by the ice sheets of the glacial maxima.

Mallory is quite droll about what motivated people to settle Ireland since its relative paucity of flora and fauna wasn't exactly inducement for the explorer to talk his woman and kiddies to come over from Britain, Brittany, Iberia or wherever they came from.

I'm going into this detail because I wonder, Vee, whether this is a topic that is showing up in documentaries on UK television. Do you have any interest in this sort of thing?

I am fascinated by the recent debate about whether the 'Celts' ever actually existed, according to Barry Cunliffe and other archaeologists and historians, who propose that the so-called Celtic traditions are mostly romanticized inventions of the 17th and 18th centuries. Of course the term 'Celt' has existed since Roman times, derived from the Greek Keltoi but the Greek and Roman meaning of the word was uncomplimentary -- savages or barbarians. It's certainly not the word the people later called Celts ever called themselves. But I understand that modern-day 'Celts' and admirers of things Celtic get their noses quite bent out of shape over the definition. Have you heard the outrage, Vee?


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Annpan, thank you for the tip. I'll Google the phrase you used and see what comes up. Yes, I figure there were good intentions involved as well as some not-so-good ones. I think the whole Australian migrant experience is fascinating and wish I knew more about it.

Since you are in Western Australia, you may know of some famous true crimes in that state. I'm particularly interested in a mass killing that happened in the late 1800s (or possibly early 1900s) that involved some prostitutes from Perth along with their male companions who went on an outing (picnic?) to a farm or country inn somewhere in the country outside the city. There was some sort of argument about bottles of wine (or some such) between the farmer or innkeeper and the people from Perth and the proprietor and some of the male escorts of the prostitutes wound up dead. I think the prostitutes survived but I'm not sure. Several of the people had French names. Sorry that I am so hazy on the details, but maybe there's enough to ring a bell with you. The types of crimes that become folklore are what I'm looking for.


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Friedag, that is a new story to me! I will try to find out about it. The State Library archives might help. I'll see what I can find out when I next go to Perth. I am not far from the CBD but during this hot weather I am staying within easy reach of the pool!


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When you add the story of the forced Irish adoptions to the story of the Magdalene Laundries, you get a very unpleasant picture of Irish society, particularly in its treatment of women.

Since I myself am of mixed Irish, Scottish, and English ancestry, I find it difficult to be very philosophical about the behavior of people to whom I am distantly related.

Rosefolly


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Wow, Annpan! I don't want you to go to too much trouble in tracking down the WA vintage murder unless you just enjoy doing it. I thought maybe you knew off the top of your head about it. Sometimes these events become part of a region's history that everybody remembers hearing something about. I thought I read about it in one of Kerry Greenwood's compilations of Australian true-crime writing, but apparently not: her stuff seems to be about much more recent situations.

Perhaps the best-known Australian case (outside Australia) is that of Lindy Chamberlain. There was a crime there -- it just wasn't murder -- and it still fascinates the world, I think, as much as it does Aussies who aren't weary of the whole thing.

Stay cool by the pool!


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Rosefolly, I have difficulty in thinking philosophically, too. My ancestry is three-quarters German, and I've never been able to understand why Germans historically did the appalling things they did. I guess no nationality or ethnicity is perfect and it's better to know the horrible things -- as painful as they are -- than to be ignorant of them.

I've been reading Charles C. Mann's histories, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus and 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created. Revisionist history doesn't want to give Columbus credit for much of anything good and likes to give him too much credit for everything bad. As usual, anybody who accepts history from too few sources will be getting a lopsided view. I've been flabbergasted by my own ignorance and the amount of soft-soaping that I've absorbed. Example: I had heard and read some about the collusion between African coastal tribes and European and Asian slave buyers (and sometimes it wasn't collusion; it was overt), but how often is it mentioned in typical history lessons about that period? Not very often. Thus the typical student or average reader tends to think that the fault lies entirely with the Europeans. Vee, mentioned rose-tinted specs upthread...


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Vee, I shared what you said about English car-sitters with my Yorkshire friend and she thinks you are hilariously 'spot on'. I'm not sure if I've ever observed similar behavior amongst Americans -- well, not in daylight that is!


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Friedag, I think that the mindset in Australia is more about the "here and now" than remembering things that happened in the past. Perhaps it has to do with the changing population. The number of West Australian families who settled here even as recently as between the wars have been swamped by incomers. Migrants from all over the world and Aussies from other States for the mining boom work.
I doubt even the murders committed by David and Catherine Birnie which was big news in the eighties would be remembered or even known about now.
I tried to find something about the picnic murder case online but only got a possible reference contained in a massive 300+ download which I didn't want to go through!
Like you I like to follow things up and I certainly have time to do this!


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Frieda re you Origins of the Irish. I am not familiar with the book or author and generally I don't go in for books that delve into pre-pre history . . .too much to get my head round and open to way too much speculation for me.
I got John to read the paragraph you quoted and except for saying he didn't think the human body contained helium he said presumably the rest of the piece was very tongue-in-cheek and not worth bothering with.
You ask if this sort of thing is discussed on TV etc. I have to say I can't think of any recent programmes on this topic.
I asked a visiting friend who lives among the 'Irish community' here in England if the Celtic Question ever comes up and she thought hard and long and said "No".
I know there is a theory that the 'Celts' might have originally been a tribe in central/Eastern Europe . . .on the edges of what became all those Russian satellite States with difficult names. These people were meant to be warlike, heavy drinking and good with horses; but I wonder if this is a 'chicken and egg' scenario?!
My personal view (treading softly here I don't need hate mail and I value my knee-caps) is that sometimes the Celtic connection is made much of in the Irish-American community, where possibly many people have been given a picture of what their ancestors' lives might have been like . .. you know, the little white-washed cottage, the sod fire in the hearth, the donkey cart driving to market, the wise priest keeping an eye on his flock, the singing and violin playing in the pub . . . Was it ever thus?


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Thanks, Vee, for your response and for showing Mallory's paragraph to John. I knew I was getting off into the weeds by mentioning a subject that is probably of limited interest. Yes, Mallory was being tongue-in-cheek (although he says in his Intro that he doesn't do "twinkle", a bit of Irish irony that?), and it may be basically a throwaway, but it's still a helluva way to open an academic presentation, I think. It certainly grabbed my interest. :-)

Btw, for what it's worth, all the Internet sites I found that list the chemical elements present in the typical human body note helium is present in trace amounts. Apparently it's there but isn't important.

I'm with you about prehistory being a bit "much to get my head round." I'm like the querelous kid who can't stop with, " Why's that? How do the scientists know that? How did they come up with that theory?" I'm constantly trying my John's patience. He'll explain that geoscientists can figure out, say, that the land that is now Ireland began approximately where Australia is today because of isotopes of elements present in the rocks laid down at that time and because of magnetic alignments of crystals. By that point, I've already got my hair in a mess trying to follow the jargon and arcana. My mind is not geared to thinking in millions or billions of years. My penchant is for the soft social sciences, that I am thankful only deal in the thousands of years, at most.

Well, Irish-Americans may delight in Celtishness, but apparently they're not the only ones. With the DNA testing that Bryan Sykes and his cohort conducted in the UK, some of the most receptive and enthusiastic responders were those with interest in their 'Celtic' origins. Some of the most disappointed were those who thought there was something particularly 'different' about the Picts. I was amused by an anecdote Sykes related about getting volunteers in East Anglia (I forget which town). One man said that his contribution probably wouldn't mean much because he wasn't originally from that town. Sykes asked him where he was from and the man said he was born and had been brought up in such-and-such place, ten? miles away!

I figure most of the controversies are among academics. I don't think they're happy unless they're arguing and p*ssing each other off. The everyday person won't know and won't care, but sometimes the controversies slop over to them too. What captures their attention seems to be nothing but caprice, as far as I can tell, but the TV people have to take in consideration what they think will draw the most viewers. That's what I like about UK television in contrast to American television: In the UK some producers will develop obscure subjects, or at least they used to. I hope it hasn't changed too much.


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Vee, Banished Babies came in today's post. I tore into it and am halfway through the 198 pages. In the first chapter Milotte describes why 'illegitimate' children (he always uses inverted commas every time he mentions the word illegitimate) were such a problem for the Irish in mid-twentieth century: the orphanages were bursting at the seams. Of course the trigger (no pun intended) for the overpopulation was shame. Young women and their families would not/could not keep these children themselves because of the stigma attached. Some unmarried Irish women fled to England to have their babies, where the English soon nicknamed the women 'PFIs' -- Pregnant From Ireland.

Milotte includes a section of Tables for table nerds like me: He gives a year-by-year tabulation of the number of illegitimate births, and I was surprised that they never exceeded (at least officially) 2,500 a year until 1974. At the time of Milotte's writing (1996), there were just over 11,000 births to unmarried Irish women (noting that the births were no longer considered 'illegitimate').

Anyway, I am fascinated with the social implications, especially the hypocrisy.

Keep me apprised, please, of how the Philomena book is going. It's likely to be much more personal than Milotte's study, although he does go into some personal stories, such as that of American actress Jane Russell adopting an Irish infant in 1951, named Tommy Kavanagh. Tommy's case was a bit different in that both of his parents agreed to give Tommy, their third and youngest child at the time, to Russell thinking that he would have great advantages in being adopted by Russell and her professional American football-player husband. They were right, but not before their situation was broadcast into a giant stink, giving them much grief.


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Oh Lord! Vee, at the risk of being a pest to you, I'm writing this post with you in mind because you are the only reader I know with a current interest and knowledge of the subject. I have to get the second half of Banished Babies into some sort of perspective that I can handle.

I read off and on waiting for the New Year to come in, trying to be sociable with my companions, but as soon as they drifted off, I grabbed the book and finished it. The a-ha! that explains a lot things is enough to get my 'Irish' up (metaphorically of course).

It seems to all boil down to money -- doesn't everything!? It was lucrative and to the benefit of the Church. Part of the problem of providing for orphans -- who couldn't be cared for any other way -- could be made more economical by selling off the most attractive and desirable ones. Americans were the easiest targets because they had the wherewithal and desire to go to any length to acquire babies they couldn't get in the U.S. And they paid and paid. One set of American adoptive parents were still being importuned by the orphanage Superioress, from whom they got their daughter, six years after the child's adoption had been finalized. Good Irish-American Catholics and good Catholics of any stripe continued to contribute, probably out of a sense of gratitude mixed with guilt.

Then there's the psychological/social aspect:

I tried paraphrasing Milotte's assessment, but I got things so garbled that I gave up, so I'll quote a couple of his paragraphs instead.

On another level it could be argued that the secrecy that shrouded a birth mother's 'sin' was not imposed primarily for her benefit at all, but was really a device that enabled Irish society at large to sustain the illusion of pre-marital chastity, so important in denying women control over their own sexuality. Pretending that children were not born outside of marriage was one way of denying that could enjoy sexual relationships with men who were not their husbands.

Secrecy, of course, also protected men. It is conveniently forgotten that for every shamed birth mother there was an anonymous birth father, desperate to cover his tracks. How many of these occupied positions of power in relation to the women they made pregnant? How many were employers? How many men of the cloth? How many politicians? How many were guilty of incest? How many of unprosecuted sexual assault and rape? How many were other women's husbands? In the production of tens of thousands of 'illegitimate' children in Ireland during these years, how many sexual taboos were broken? And in the determination to keep the doors locked on the adoption files, how many male reputations are still being protected?

However, in spite of most men being too cowardly to admit their involvement, Milotte does give some examples of fathers who did admit it at the time and years afterward, and they were scarred emotionally too from the experience. One particularly poignant story I think Milotte related was of an adoptee who found not only her birth mother but her birth father. She tracked him to South Africa where he had emigrated and telephoned him out of the blue. She blurted out, "Did you have a baby in the late 1950s in Ireland?" He immediately said, "Yes. Are you Marion (her birth name)?" He had never stopped wondering what had happened to his child, but a birth father had even fewer rights and recourse of finding out than a birth mother.

I'm not Irish but I think this Irish experience is applicable in probably every society, to somewhat lesser and greater degrees. It is interesting to me to note that although the overwhelming majority of Irish adoptees went to the United States, there were some sixteen other countries where Irish children were adopted, including at least one each in Libya and Peru. I wonder how those children's lives turned out.

If you want to comment, Vee, please do, but don't feel obligated. I'm sure you've noticed that a lot of threads I start wind up being a three- or sometimes four-way conversations with you, Annpan, often Woodnymph, and me. I'm not sure why. I'm not trying to dominate these threads by posting so much in them. I suppose, though, that by segregating my comments I won't be imposing on and boring other RPers so much. I am not knowledgeable enough to get into most of the discussions of fiction.


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Just chiming in to say that probably similar situations went on in most all societies. Does anyone recall the Florence Crittendon Homes in the USA?

I seem to recall also that the Romania under leader Ceaszcu (sp?) was sending babies out for adoption and that many ended up in the USA.

Annpan, did you ever see the film "Rabbit-Proof Fence"? It concerned the Aboriginal children in Australia -- a bit shocking.

As for the Celts, I had always read that they began in Central Europe, in the Danube region and migrated throughout Europe. It happens that the bagpipe also originated in that part of Europe.

Many confuse the Picts of Scotland. The name comes from the word for "paint", as they painted their bodies with dyes from plants. They were a separate people from the "Celts."


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Frieda - I am sure I speak on behalf of other RPers too, but I always enjoy your comments and topics you choose to discuss, even when they are OT. I always learn something interesting so NEVER feel you are "imposing on or boring other RPers so much."

So...please continue!


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Frieda, the 'Banished Babies' book seems to be very accurate from my knowledge of the subject. I don't think I'll be reading it as these sort of things/events just puts me in a temper and I don't get roused to fury often!
I suppose the chastity angle did not just apply to Ireland in those days, the attitude was still very prevalent when I was growing up in the 50-60's. Was this the same for you all?
Does Milotte make much of the Irish State/Church ban on contraceptives? The lack of their availability must have made the problem much worse. I know until not so long ago it was an offence even to enter the country with any form of contraception in ones luggage. The customs offices could and did check and were empowered to confiscate anything.
Also the prohibition of any form of 'termination' for whatever reason meant that many Irish girls/women were travelling to England. It caused the figures for abortions to rise disproportionally in the Liverpool area (the main port of disembarkation from Dublin).
Not so long ago a young girl in Ireland was raped by an uncle and became pregnant. The family organised a trip to England, but someone snitched to the powers-that-be and she was refused permission to leave the country. Shortly afterwards she suffered a 'miscarriage' so the story faded away.
A very sad case from 2012 was that of an Indian woman, working as a dentist in the West of Ireland who was suffering an early miscarriage, but medical help was denied to her until the foetus was dead. This didn't happen for three days, by which time it was too late to save the mother.
Of course County Kerry might be considered a backward-conservative part of the country where the Church still holds sway. In rural areas the man still rules the roost and females play their traditional roles. The more cosmopolitan outlook is similar to our own and young, well educated women are able to make their mark and don't want to be held back by matrimony and endless childbirth.

I'm still ploughing through Philomena hampered by a power-outage today. One doesn't realise how much we take electricity for granted until we find ourselves without it . . . and it's too dark to find the candles.

I'll get back to you on that one. Meanwhile maybe you would like to add something to my 'Resolutions 2014' thread!

Here is a link that might be useful: Indian Woman's Death


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Woodnymph, I was missing your input. Yes, the Florence Crittenton Homes were certainly talked about among young women of my time, but I haven't heard as much about them in the past few decades although I understand they still exist in various parts of the country.

The Gladney Home in Fort Worth, Texas was another well-known service for 'unwed mothers' (as they were called). Edna Gladney was (is?) considered a veritable saint. She was portrayed in the 1941 movie "Blossoms in the Dust" starring Greer Garson. I have a very good friend who was adopted through the Gladney Services. When she turned eighteen she applied to find her birth mother and only a few months later she was contacted that her birth mother had also applied to find her. They reunited and it seemed to be successful, but from what I understand they eventually drifted apart again. I don't think my friend had many psychological problems about being an adopted child (she had great adoptive parents), but she was curious about her birth mother.

The Romanian adoptions by Americans is certainly a recent example. However, from what I understand many of those adoptions were of children with physical and emotional disabilities, not so much of 'perfect' children as so many of the Irish children were touted to be by the nuns in Ireland. Also, attitudes of Americans wanting to adopt children have changed a lot since the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. Most Americans looking to adopt later didn't expect perfect children, but as the recent examples with the unsuccessful Russian adoptions, there's still some whose expectations were/are drastically out of whack.

I've got something to ask you about the Celts/Picts, Mary, but I'll have to put it into another post.


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Friedag, I am happy to join in this conversation and find it very interesting to be able to contribute what I can.
I had a quick look at the book I mentioned. It appears that the Anglican's Swan Orphanage took some migrant children out of pride as the other denominations were doing this! Particularly the R.Cs who were accepting boys in particular apparently in thousands but used them eventually to work on their farms from what I can make out.
Sorry to be vague but the book's author, who ran the place, was being diplomatic regarding the other homes etc.!
The children he and his wife took seemed to be vetted and were sent ahead of parents who promised to migrate later. Even so, some children were found to be 'feeble-minded' and were returned and some parents never came.
The Orphanage was supported by money from various places, endowments and grants from the State Lottery Commission until they almost ran out of orphans who were put into foster homes later. This was a mixed blessing to the children, some preferred the company of other children rather than a foster family. The home was in danger of closing. Something else needed to be done that was covered by the original charter that didn't go against the spirit of endowments and legacies to an orphanage.
Eventually, through a loop hole (!) the place was allowed to take country children whose parents wanted a suitable hostel environment while their children went to the higher education that the city provided. Which was where my family got involved.
This is way off the migrant topic but was woven into the story of the place so I had to continue with it!


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Woodnymph, I didn't see that film. I avoid films that upset me or make me angry.
My son gets very annoyed at the guilt being put on our young people for the wrongs of the past. His father's family settled here some generations ago and was never involved in any injustice to Aboriginals, always being friends with them. Because of this, he refused to let his children attend a "Sorry" ceremony at their school.


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Mary, not only do people confuse the Picts and the Celts but the Scots (who were originally from Ireland?) and the Gauls who we think of as coming from France, the Ancient Britons to say nothing of the Neanderthals in Germany or the Beaker Folk of whom almost nothing is known.
Ancient Paths. Discovering the Lost Map of Celtic Europe by Graham Robb (2013) has excited some controversy as he talks about Ley Lines and other 'prehistoric pathways' leading from Sacred River to Blasted Oak to Mysterious Monolith to Pile of Sculls . . . rather like a later-day SatNav.

Here is a link that might be useful: Robb discusses his theories


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Vee, what's a "satnav"?


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Mary, satnav is short for satellite navigation a device used in cars/trucks etc to direct the driver hither and thither. I think you call them GPS. Over here it is not uncommon to find drivers of huge vehicles stuck in narrow country lanes because the voice has sent them via the nearest route totally unsuitable for anything heavier than a tractor.


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Janalyn, thanks for your go-ahead! As you see, I'm heeding what you said. :-)

Mary, apologies for my abrupt departure. You mentioned that you had taken a course in Eastern European history during the fall semester. Was there a particular era concentrated on? If so, which one? You may have already answered my question in another thread, but I missed it.

Re the inhabitants of what we now call Scotland, I've always had trouble remembering the chronology. I sought a refresher and found out that I'm not the only one! Even the experts (archaeologists, linguistic anthropologists, historians, etc.) are not sure of the chronology, except in broad terms: Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic. The 'Celts' (the popular term for these people that some of the above experts avoid, which unfortunately tends to confuse my sense of the chronology even more) didn't arrive in Britain, Ireland, and Scandinavia until circa 4,000 B.C. Thus, they were Neolithic (or at earliest Late Mesolithic) migrants. There were already people in Britain, etc. when the Celts were trudging across Doggerland (now submerged beneath the North Sea). The Picts were a later group of people, descendants of the Caledonian tribes (themselves 'Celtic'), first mentioned by the Romans in history, but only as a general term for the 'nuisances' the Romans didn't want to deal with but had to.

Linguistically, the Picts were P-Celtic speakers like the British and the Welsh (in linguistics the term Celtic is the proper one because Edward Lhuyd, the Welsh pioneering linguist, chose in 1707 to call the sub-family of Indo-European languages that spread across northern Europe from circa the second or third millennia B.C., Celtic, although this should be kept distinct from the actual genetic background) However, the Picts nearest neighbors were Q-Celtic (Goidelic) speakers, because they had come from what is now called Ulster or Northern Ireland. This is where most of confusion stems from: the Q-Celtic speakers who crossed from Co. Antrim to Galloway belonged to the Scotti tribe, the Dal Riata. They did so well taking over the land and in converting the Picts to their way of thinking (through religion mostly) that by 900 A.D. it became reasonable to call all the inhabitants of the region 'Scots' and thus their land became Scotland. The Picts did not disappear genetically; they were subsumed by and became indistinguishable from the rest of the populace of Alba, the Scottish Kingdom although Alba originally meant the whole of Britain (words can be tricky devils).

Anyway, what I wrote above is paraphrased from David Miles's The Tribes of Britain: Who Are We? Where Do We Come From? I just wanted to share it, because it figures into Bryan Sykes's experience in Scotland with the DNA identification project he conducted in the UK. He described it in his book Blood of the Isles. There had been long-term debate about whether there was something 'special' about the Picts. Historians thought they were peculiar because they didn't know quite where to slot them. The inhabitants of 'Pictland', the region of Scotland were most of the original Picts had lived, knew the Picts were different. Alas, Sykes and his team weren't able to prove it. The bedrock genetics of that region is the same as the rest of Britain, referring to the oldest and widest-spread mitochondrial DNA, the most dependable tracking element of genetic studies to date.

I remember when I lived in Elgin in Moray and Aberdeen, I got interested in the Picts because the local folk liked to make a big deal of honoring them with festivals of body painting, libations, etc. I also trooped around Aberdeenshire, Moray, Perthshire, and other parts looking at the brochs and duns, although those relics date to an earlier time than that of the Picts. Vee, were you fascinated with Skara Brae and the shamrock-shaped house at Gurness in Orkney?


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Annpan, I always enjoy your contributions. Thank you for looking into the book about the Anglican's Swan Orphanage. It does seem to be a bit oddball how it got started, keeping up with the other denominations and all. It's interesting, too, how it morphed into its later use. I love it when the conversation expands, so any tangent you want to take, I'll follow it gladly. :-)

I know you directed your second post to Woodnymph, but you mentioned something that set my bells ringing: the "Sorry" ceremony at your son's children's school. That sort of thing goes on in the U.S. from time to time about former treatment of Native Americans and the African-American slaves, and the guilt-tripping it engenders for a long time was very effective. However, in the past few years, some Americans of European and West Asian descent have gotten weary of having to apologize over and over again for the sins of their ancestors and have begun to resent, instead of feeling guilt, for the continued victim status that is perceived as permanent by some parties and restitution that some think is still owed. There have been many restitution programs, some think enough already.


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Vee, I had to let my bile settle and my blood cool to a simmer before I could respond about the Indian woman's death in County Kerry. What a gut wrencher!

Re the chastity angle: It was certainly what was pushed in the U.S., I'd say up to about the mid 1960s and probably later in some of the more conservative regions. But by the time I was old enough for me and most of the females of my age to worry about chastity, it was an attitude that was receding into quaintness. It might as well have been antediluvian. "If it feels good, do it" was the motto of the liberated gals of my generation (probably first put into our heads by the guys who wanted to get into our pants). Sheesh! It was an attitude that many came to rue. Unplanned, unwanted pregnancies happened all too often but it didn't cause the death of a girl's or woman's reputation. Single mothers keeping their babies became so commonplace that, at first, nobody thought there was much of a problem with it. I really don't know which attitude is better or worse, as with most things it can be argued both ways.

Vee, I don't know how to interpret anything about that Graham Robb book and his theory. There might be something to it, but I'm skeptical. However, I sometimes find off-the-wall theories very entertaining.


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Friedag, actually it was the migrant child program that was proposed because of the intake of the other denominations. The Orphanage existed but the manager said there wasn't room for any migrants. He was told to do something to make room. To his credit, he organised the money for an extra building but mixed the children. It would seem that fund raising was a good part of running the place! The later years when there were fee-paying boarders must have taken some of the strain off.
It seems terrible to us now that children were "sold" to help pay the upkeep of the Irish orphanages but it takes money to house feed and clothe a child as we who have had children know well. Money has to come from somewhere and "rich" Americans were a good source of supply apparently. To be pragmatic, a child who could go to a good home was one less worry and the money generated would help raise another who wasn't such an attractive proposition for adoption.
It would be tempting to rationalize in this way....
I must say how much I enjoy writing in these threads. I have no one now in my life to discuss these types of matters with and it keeps me using my brain! Also my dictionary to check I have used the words I write correctly.


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Annpan, I often find that I can work out something in my mind by writing it into a post (with my constant paraphrasing and parenthetical insertions), with a particular audience in mind, such as RPers. The projection itself helps me, but the feedback always gives me a perspective that usually doesn't occur to me. It's better many times than face-to-face, real-life dialogue because there's more time for me, and whoever responds, to more deeply consider the subject. Often I am surprised at the reaction to such-and-such subject, but it's always informative to me and I appreciate it all. And I love a discussion that flows all over the map!

Yes, I can understand that rationalization of the orphans being "sold." I actually think the nuns (or most of them) were doing the best they could in the circumstances, in the case of the children. For the mothers, though, I'm not so sure.

I guess I should have been more explicit, because I was hoping that you would expand a bit more on the Australian experience that seems to me to be parallel to the American experience re Aboriginals/natives. I know that it's a delicate subject but, if you wish to write about it, I value your insight as I'm sure we can discuss it in a sensitive way. But if you don't want to, just let me know or direct me to some book or reportage that you think might add to my understanding.


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I'm not sure we in the US are not still "selling" babies through the legal system. My daughter and son-in-law had wanted a baby for twenty years, tried everything including two in vitro processes, and tried to adopt through the state and through a private adoption which fell through at the very last minute when the birth mother decided to keep the child. There are not enough infants to go around now that the stigma of being an "unwed" single mother has lifted, and while I know there are many needy children who need homes, when you just want a baby . . .

Ultimately, a cousin heard of a lawyer who does private placement, and we were the fortunate recipients of a three-week-old baby boy (now 19 and a college sophomore) who has been a pure delight all his life. But the cost in dollars was high. I'm not sure what portion of the fee was actually spent on the legal aspects--the attorney handled the paperwork, of course, and did accompany us to the judge when the adoption was final after one year--but I know they cashed in my SIL's railroad stock (he worked for the RR) to pay him. Well worth it, of course, but not everyone can afford it and someone made a tidy sum along the way.

I saw the movie Philomena and thoroughly enjoyed it (if that is the right word).


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Friedag, the Aboriginal problem is too complicated for me to try to explain simply. Resolution is still ongoing regarding inclusion in the Constitution.
I was in the UK when a lot of the problems were being worked out regarding land rights. Google "Mabo Australia" for info on one famous case.
On a personal note, my children were more involved with Aboriginal people than I was as I knew only one part-Aboriginal family who lived nearby. My son was friends with one of their children who was blond as some are and my son with his dark tanned skin and thick dark curly hair was often taken for Aboriginal himself as was my daughter when she lived in a Northern town. She was often addressed as "Sister" by the full-blood people who came into town from their dwellings in the "Bush".
Friedag If you ask me questions I will do my best to answer but this is such a huge subject to deal with!


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Frieda - I am sure I speak on behalf of other RPers too, but I always enjoy your comments and topics you choose to discuss, even when they are OT. I always learn something interesting so NEVER feel you are "imposing on or boring other RPers so much."

So...please continue!

Yes! I'd like to second what Janalyn said :)

I've only just read this thread this evening, and it's fascinating.


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Carolyn, I'm glad your daughter and son-in-law got their baby and you got a delightful grandson!

I've heard many stories of couples waiting for years and going on the roller coaster of hope and multiple disappointments and hope again before they were able to adopt in the U.S. It's no wonder to me that many Americans seek to adopt children from outside the U.S. I've heard of what sounds like "baby-buying" jaunts to Central America, Russia, and some of the former Soviet republics, that are reminiscent, I think, of what was happening in the 40s, 50s, and 60s with Americans going to Ireland for Irish babies, as Milotte described in his book.

However, something doesn't quite gibe in the comparison. I understand the reasons for the modern shortage of adoptable American babies -- mostly because of contraception, abortions, and single mothers keeping their babies -- but why was there such a shortage in the U.S. in the just post-WWII decades when those three things must not have played as big a part? No birth control pills until 1960 and other prophylactics were not altogether effective; abortion was illegal; and only a very daring young woman with money would flaunt her 'mistake' in the face of society by raising her child herself. It's puzzling. Does anyone know or have an idea?


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Are you sure there was a shortage in those times? I just did a quick search on that era and have included a link to a book that discusses adoptions during that time. Be sure to read the author question and answers after the book blurb.
Interesting discussions.

Here is a link that might be useful: Girls who went away


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Ah yes, Annpan, it's such a huge subject and so complicated that I find it daunting and hardly know where to begin without some guidance. I'm sure it would take a lifetime of being an Australian to really get a complete grasp of the situation, just as the American situation is seldom understood by non-Americans or even many Americans themselves. It doesn't help that it's such a thorny subject either.

I took a quick look at Mabo v. Queensland and will get back to it for a more thorough reading.

I've read quite a bit of Australian history, and something that strikes me about the early histories (the ones written in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century) is how infrequently and shallowly the Aboriginals are mentioned. In recent decades the history is more inclusive, but not as informative as I would prefer. Maybe I'm not reading the best-written histories, although some are quite famous.

In 2009 I was in Cairns with some local folk as my companions. We were walking in town when I saw just off the pathway a woman lying face down with her legs sprawled and her dress hiked up. My reaction was to run over to see what was wrong with her. I thought she was in a fit or maybe even dead. But one of my companions caught up with me and took me by the arm, saying, "It's all right. She's sleeping."

"Sleeping?! How do you know she's asleep?" I was frantic. About that time the woman moaned and rolled over onto her back and opened her eyes. She flopped her hand toward us, as a sort of greeting, I guess. My companions steered me back to the pathway and explained that the woman was a local Aboriginal, well-known for drinking and passing out, and most people knew to just leave her alone and let her sleep. I didn't know what to think. Directly we came to a shop and on each side of the entry door was a man lying on the walk, one in fetal position and the other on his back with his knees bent and his arms extended above his head. I asked my friends, "Sleeping?" and they nodded. The sleeping Aboriginals are my indelible impression of Cairns.

I'll think of some questions to ask you, Annpan.


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Janalyn, that's what I mean about things not gibing. Many, many unmarried American women of that time gave up their babies for adoption, so there shouldn't have been a shortage for potential adoptive parents. Yet according to Milotte, many Americans sought to adopt babies in Ireland because there weren't enough available in the U.S. The inference I draw from that: There weren't enough of the right sort of babies, the desirable ones. You see where I'm going? :)

Thanks for the link. It's a good piece of work.


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Sheri, I'm glad you found the reading fascinating! Is there a particular part of the discussion that interests you most? I'd love for you to give us some of your ideas.


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Frieda, from what little I understand of the US adoption question 50/60's is possibly the wanting-to-adopt 'parents' couldn't get through all the hoops/come up to the mark when applying though the regular US channels. In those days even though the bar must have been set much lower than it is today, it was often easier (though more expensive) to go down the adopt abroad, no questions asked route.
I have a few friends of my own age, mid to late 60's, who had been 'born out of wedlock'. In the years after WWII there was a surfeit of these babies Three were brought up by family members, often grandparents, the others were adopted. One woman told me her Mother went to the local orphanage and walked along the line of baby girls and chose the prettiest.
I have now finished Philomena but will start a separate thread.

And Frieda, I always find your threads interesting and thought-provoking . . . often more so than the good-old 'books I have read'. Even the discussion on a chosen book so often trail off where no firm hand keeps us on our toes.
As Ann says I know almost on-one here who reads more than the paper or magazines or has a view on anything other than the local burning issue of 'let's build some more supermarkets in the town 'cos we only have three and our population of less than 10,000 doesn't have enough choice'. ;-(


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Frieda, you have such wide-ranging interests and knowledge I always learn something when these posts meander a bit off topic! And I'm always interested in anything having to do with England or Australia.

The subject of adoption also piqued my interest as I have two dear friends who adopted with very different results. One family went to China for their baby (after about 2 years of jumping through the proper bureaucratic hoops) and now have a lovely, healthy, 15 year-old daughter. My other friend and her husband adopted two older girls (7 & 8 at the time, I believe) from Ukraine and have had nothing but heartache as both girls have deep psychological problems, learning disabilities and one has PTSD. At 14 & 15 and after years of therapy and a loving home they are still very difficult kids. The agency they went through never told them this would be a possibility and painted a very rosy picture. And as they had wanted a family for years, they were easily led down the garden path. I think some of these agencies are unethical, but their clientele are often desperate and are unwilling or unable to think clearly when their dream is close to becoming reality.

I think a lot of adoptive parents still try to go abroad because to adopt a baby from the US in the US often ties them to the birth mother for life. For some, an open adoption is ideal, but I completely understand wanting your child to be only yours, without strings or a birth mother who may decide at the last minute or after the fact that she wants her baby returned to her. The emotional wear and tear would be horrible for all parties involved. Another woman I know has adopted privately three times, twice from women serving long jail sentences. She remains in touch with all three birth families, and for her it seems to work.

As Vee said, many out-of-wedlock babies were brought up by grandparents. One of my husband's uncles is actually his cousin. In the 1950's, everyone in the small town they lived in knew his actual parentage (and there didn't seem to be much of a scandal about it as far as I can tell, I've read old family letters in which "Ann's baby" is routinely mentioned), but he was brought up as, and universally considered one of, the sons of the family.

I wonder, do orphanages even exist in the US anymore?

From a genealogical perspective, too, adoptions are of interest. In my husband's family tree there is a 4th or 5th great grandmother who is described in a written record as an adopted daughter. As the family stories insist there is some Native American in his family tree (and I have yet to find it), not knowing her ethnic background raises lots of interesting questions.

Forgive the long ramble, as I said, all this is fascinating.


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Sheri, over here if you (the Mother) give your baby/child up for adoption you relinquish your 'rights' as a parent. However if you 'foster' a child the parents still have 'rights' to it. We have friends unable to have children of their own and they adopted a baby girl. They then were asked to foster two more little girls who had had a hard time, but their parents were unwilling for them to be adopted. This made things difficult for the 'new' parents as the 'old' parents would come and visit and the children would become very distressed. I know the three girls continued to live with my friends but don't know (and can hardly ask) if they managed to adopt the younger two.


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Annpan, how are the PC police doing in Australia? Does it seem they DO or DON'T get their way most of the time? For many years in the U.S., the wannabe PC arbiters pretty much had everyone scared to death of offending anyone, but recently a backlash has been developing. Is it similar in Australia, you think?


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Vee, your point of Americans seeking to adopt outside the U.S. in the 40s, 50s, 60s seems a likely part of the explanation, although there was no real shortage of U.S. babies for the "right" people.

Sheri, my interests may be wide but my knowledge is not very deep. That's why I'm continually appealing for help in threads such as this one, because the collective knowledge of RPers is amazing and enlightening to me.

So glad you 'rambled', Sheri! Your friends' adoption experiences are fascinating to me, too, because of the differing outcomes, so positive for one family and so difficult for the other family. And I had not thought of the adoptive parents who don't wish to deal with birth parents. It seems the 'open' adoptions -- which I'm sure do have their advantages -- have replaced the old-fashioned no-strings-attached adoptions (after finalization).

Has the fostering system succeeded the orphanage system? Orphanages may still exist in the U.S. but they're not called orphanages much anymore. I've heard both good and horrible things about fostering programs. There just might never be a perfect solution to this dilemma. It's one of those sad things in life.

Sheri, I'm intrigued with genealogy, but my own family's history is unknown and probably unknowable previous to about my great-great grandparents (that's the last generation we can trace the full set) and only a few of the ancestors before them are known by name much less with any detail. I have read some census records and such, and I've noticed how adopted children and 'extraneous' children dwelling in a particular household are often noted parenthetically (husband's nephew, wife's cousin, son's sister-in-law, and even wife's natural child). Families and households were less 'nuclear' than today, and quite confusing to me. I need the family trees diagrammed before I can make much sense out of them.


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Frieda, have you started Call the Midwife?

Here is a paragraph from the introduction:
"The Pill was introduced in the early 1960s and modern woman was born. Women were no longer going to be tied to the cycle of endless babies, they were going to be themselves. With the Pill came what we now call the sexual revolution. Women could for the first time in history, be like men and enjoy sex for its own sake. In the late 1950s we had eighty to a hundred deliveries a month on our books. In 1963 the number had dropped to four or five a month. Now that is some social change!"

But in Ireland, there were "no contraception" rules so maybe the birth rate continued to be much higher? I am one third the way through the Midwife novel, but I think you will enjoy the history. I wont talk about it anymore because we will be discussing this in a few weeks. :)

Genealogy is fascinating. My dad's family in Cornwall goes back 400 to 500 years. One of my ancestors was knighted for service during the Spanish Armida. I found another one, an Admiral in the Poldark saga books. No one mentions those hung for smuggling or in Bodmin, I am assuming those ones were swept under the carpet. Must have been a lot of bulges in the carpet.


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No, Janalyn, I haven't received Call the Midwife yet, so thanks for the tantalizing bit. :-) I'm looking forward to reading it, but I don't want to step on the toes of that discussion either. However, I will say here that by the time I arrived in London in 1972, the young women I knew were so unlike their older sisters in attitude it was hard to comprehend that they were siblings, so many things had changed in twelve or so years. I met some of the older sisters too, who thought all the young ones were heading straight to hell. And the truth was many of them were. Still, I think there was a bit of envy in the older ones who thought they had been deprived of similar freedom -- born too soon.

Ooh, I loved those Poldark books and the TV series. I enjoyed Cornwall, too, for the most part, every time I got to go there (don't ask me about the bedbugs in Penzance, though, or the camera thief at Restormel Castle). What colorful ancestors you have, from a colorful place! Reminds me of:

They used to hang men at Four Turnings in the old days.
Not anymore, though.
-- the first and last lines of DduM's My Cousin Rachel (from memory)


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Now if you want a ramble, get me started on genealogy! My family runs and hides when I start talking about it, and most of what I've been able to research is for my husband's family, not my own.

I've been very, very lucky that his family lines are English and Irish, and all arrived in New England (one in 1620) and stayed in New England -- everything is well-documented for the most part. In contrast, most of my side of the family arrived in the late 1800s from all over the place and the tree is riddled with name changes, purposefully misstated birthdates (some of them now graven in stone), secret divorces, and one possible bigamist.

I love genealogy.


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Frieda, I just saw your post above about my brother's Christmas gift to me of a true crime book. Actually I think he chooses them from the remainder pile! He chooses things that are from places other than the U.S. because of my love of travel and my previous job as an international flight attendant. But I don't think he puts much thought into it. I haven't read the book yet, but it is on the top of the pile. We'll see! I'm still deep into my Everest/K2/mountaineering books.


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Sheriz6, as a genealogist, you may like this story. My practically perfect mother "purposefully misstated" her own birth date on her tombstone. She was three years older than my dad, and he was born in January and she in November so that looked like another year older. He died young, she bought a double monument, and she had her birth date carved to be a year later. Her older sister was our family genealogist and told me that the birth date was wrong. When I told her why, she laughed until she cried. None of us kids ever knew her real age until she wanted to retire and had to confess. You would have to have known her to know how funny that was.


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Carolyn, that is a great story. And to have it engraved herself ahead of time shows quite a lot of commitment!

My great-grandmother purposefully gave an incorrect birth date for something official when she first came to the US and it stuck -- I was never clear on why she did it, something about insurance I think -- she shifted the date by about three years.

Before she died she wrote a note to her daughters explaining that this was the wrong date, gave them the correct one, and told them to be very sure they put the correct year on the headstone. Unfortunately, something was missed somewhere, and the wrong date remains engraved in stone.


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Friedag, to answer your query about PC in Australia (I didn't before as I couldn't log into reply!) I think that it went a bit OTT for a while but eventually simmered down after howls of derision.
Aussies, as you probably know, are very down on pretension!
Some of the points made were valid and more sensitivity has been achieved. I noticed the difference in some areas when I returned from the UK after 12 years away but I can't give you many examples really, as I know you would like! I do hear that a warning is given before TV reports, to Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders viewing, that images of dead people will be shown, as this is offensive to their culture and some names are not given if requested.


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Annpan, glad you managed to get logged in. It happened to me too, as I think it did to most of us RPers, but when I was first denied access, I got a bit panicky: What did I do? What did I say? Paranoia, probably, on my part, but with all the political correctness today foisted on everyone, it's not difficult for me to imagine some sort of PC police getting their wedge in.

Thanks for your reply. I figured Aussies, from the ones I know, wouldn't put up with the stupidest PC-ness for long. Still, I was somewhat surprised at the euphemistic use of 'sleeping' by my acquaintances in Cairns re the Aboriginals I described upthread.

There's such a long list of PC imposers in the U.S., that it's hard to think of all of them: Word Police, Green Police, Inequality Police, Race Card Players, Food Police, Health Police, Don't-Mention-Anything-About-Religion Police, Anti-Loners Police (loners and lovers of solitude are the most dangerous people in the world; they are likely plotting mass killings), the More Rules & Regulations the Better Politicians, and the largest PC group: You Don't Have to Think for Yourself, We Will Tell You Exactly What to Do Since We Know Best. Has the whole world gone mad?


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Frieda I had a good laugh at your PC list. The Australians I know would stand for little of those 'groupings' nor would most of the folk from this side of the Pond. And the older I get the more I am driven to fury by what we call the jobsworth brigade. The petty official who tells you "It's more than my job's worth to let you park your car there." "It is more than my job's worth to let you in to watch this film if you cannot prove you are over 18." (when you are obviously over 60)
One US expression that I have come across a few times here is Anti-American/ism. Usually someone has made a statement that seems perfectly reasonable/harmless to me yet they will add " I hope this doesn't appear Anti-American." Surely, you all in the Land of the Free are not looking over your shoulders in case some Big Brother is unhappy with any remarks you might make and, even if you did, what could they do about it? I'm not talking about making libelous(sp?) comments that might land you up in court.
If no one feels able to reply I will take it that it better left alone . ..


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Well, Vee, according to some we don't have to look over our shoulders. "They" are listening in to our phone conversations and reading our emails. Actually, I believe "they" only list calls, etc., and look at ones that go out several times to suspicious people or sites. Shades of Snowden.

Frieda, you left out the homophile police.


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Vee, the way I've usually heard anti-American used is by non-Americans: "I hope this doesn't appear anti-American, but..." and then they proceed to bombard the listener (an American most likely) with all the failings and evils of Americans. It's similar to the way Great Britain used to be blamed for everything.

Then there is a segment of the American population (think Left or liberal) who feel they must blame the U.S. for all the ills in the world, from the most recent back to before the U.S. even existed. It seems to be some sort of compensatory effort to assuage their guilt for being over-privileged. Hollywood-types are especially noisy about doing this.

It's a bit rich that those who once screamed loudest in protest of Big Brother are now the ones who think Big Brother is not doing enough. Carolyn summed it up.

Yes I did forget that group, Carolyn, and at least ten other really absurd ones such as the Fashion Police and the Standards-of-Beauty Police: all Americans must have perfect teeth and any hair that sprouts anywhere on the body below the chin (on men) or the nape of the neck (on women) must be gotten rid of.

My conclusion is people aren't happy unless they can find fault with or blame somebody else. I'm a cynical old bag, I suppose. :-(


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Frieda, I would take the "sleeping" remark as a short version of "sleeping it off" which is the usual way of saying that someone is recovering from a hangover after getting drunk. This could apply to anyone!
I was very amused that the charming Carrie Bickmore's response to criticism of non-traditional families went viral. A good example of an Aussie standing for no nonsense. It was just a passing remark but seems to have resonated! Good for her! Or as Aussies would say "Goodonyer, Carrie"!


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I had to look up Carrie Bickmore and her response to the Australian senator of "He can get stuffed." Blaming mothers (especially single mothers) for 'criminality of boys and promiscuity of girls' is a perennial in the U.S. But lately there's been more blame centered on the absent fathers as well. I don't think it's nonsense so much as a gross oversimplification of a complex problem.

There's another to add to the PC list: The-War-on-Women Police.

Hey, I got the edit button to work to correct a typo! First time for me.

This post was edited by friedag on Sat, Jan 11, 14 at 10:03


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Friedag, is this the murder case to which you referred earlier?

Here is a link that might be useful: 1903 murder trial in Perth


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I think that's it, Colleen. It has many of the factors I remember: a picnic outing by 'demi-monde' and escorts, an argument about wine, etc. Except it was the killing of one man, the Swiss farmer, by the French fisherman, and not several people winding up dead as I thought. Perhaps I conflated accounts of two different crimes because I read several in a compilation.

You are quite a sleuth! I recall you figuring out for me the year a menu was issued from the month, day, and day of the week that was printed on it. I think you said you learned some of your skills from reading mysteries. Whatever way you do it, you're good. Thank you so much!


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You're welcome :-) I've always liked research.


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I have to say that I really enjoyed the writing style of that report.

Into the dinginess of Perth's Criminal Court of 1903, filed a few priveliged persons, persons necessary for the proper trial of alleged murderers and murderesses, persons from the Press, who could transcribe the proceedings soon to take place behind those barred doors for the expelled public's peculiar information, persons of pomp, portents and pencils.

my fav part There were not many. Some of them on trial this day were women. Women of easy habits. French women: demi=-mondes to be polite.Maybe that was why the doors were closed and guarded.

The only thing that would have made this story better is an opening line akin to : "It was a dark and stormy night."


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I had to grin when I read that florid account. I can imagine the editor's face these days when checking the printout!
Exterminate...exterminate!


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Believe it or not, that's one of the less florid examples of true-crime reportage from that era. Since this one came from a 1941 newspaper about a 1903 incident, if it wasn't taken from the original wording, the writer still nailed the earlier style. I find these old accounts very entertaining in spite of the nastiness of the crimes. Read a few hundred of them and you'll feel you've been plopped into an overstuffed chair, a very cozy one.


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