Monday, May 3, 2010

Orphanage, Part 6: Lillian's Story

Last May 2009, I did a post giving a brief history of having been adopted, and how every year on my birthday I wonder anew what it was like for my mother to give up a baby, and what those three months I spent in the orphanage were like.

Here it is almost a year later, and I'm once again talking about Lake Bluff Orphanage. Only this time I have answers to many of the questions I've asked myself over the years. Thanks to that original post, a door was opened, and a kind man named Kraig xxx walked thru with a map of sorts, of the journey my mother took toward my birth and relinquishment to the orphanage, a record of the mysterious three months I was in the orphanage, and the beginning of my journey with the new adoptive parents. A greater gift has never been received.

Coming to Georgia from Lake Bluff, Illinois to interview me for a documentary he's doing on the orphanage, Kraig sweetened the deal with the delivery of two sets of records: (1) four typewritten pages of a letter written by Women's Service Division, Family Service Bureau, United Charities of Chicago in April 1948 to Lake Bluff Orphanage, and (2) twelve typewritten pages of records kept by Lake Bluff Orphanage beginning April 1948 and ending in August 1949.

The information in this post is taken from the letter from United Charities, who were acting as a liason between the unwed mother's home and the orphanage. It's waaay too long to tell every word, so I'm going to chose only those areas that were the most important or interesting, though it's still long. Seriously, both sets of records are so detailed, stating every occasion and what was said or done. I could paraphrase certain areas, but really - these are 61 year old records, and I think it's kind of cool to see what was said and done back then! Also, I think you could replace Lillian's name with any unwed mother's name, and it could be their story.

Remember the version of the story I've had for over 30 years? That Lillian hitchhiked to Chicago to find Don Miner, my supposed dad who was from there, and she either couldn't find him or was rejected by him, ended up living with a policewoman until the neighbors complained about an unwed mother in the neighborhood? And she was putting me up for adoption because her dad said if she brought the baby home he would kill the both of them? True and False. Here's a summary of what is reported in their records: (In the reprint of the original records, all names are blacked out with marker, but some can be assumed as I already knew many of the names I was dealing with. Every 'Miss Crawley was marked out!)

"Miss Crawley was referred to us through the Municipal Court, Court of Domestic Relations, when they learned that one of their policewomen had taken her into her home. This policewoman had met Miss Crawley when she walked into the police station, and rather than reporting her request to her supervisor, with whom there have been frequent quarrels, the policewoman extended her hospitality, and Miss Crawley went home with her. During her ten days stay, the policewoman telephoned Miss Crawley's parents in order to identify her, and at the same time gave them the information that Miss Crawley was pregnant. Miss Crawley had not wanted to notify her parents of her condition and claims that she ran away from Texas in order to prevent them from learning of her pregnancy."

"When the police department learned of the policewoman's action, they sent two policewomen out to the home to pick Miss Crawley up, and, unfortunately, kept her overnight in a police lockup, referring her the following morning to us for help in planning. By this time, Miss Crawley was thoroughly confused, wondering why the police were in on the situation at all. Also, the policewoman who had taken her in had arranged for private medical care, and Miss Crawley was perfectly content to continue with these arrangements. It was not until after we explained to her that the policewoman who befriended her had violated the rules of her job, and therefore had gotten both of them into trouble, was Miss Crawley able to express her desire to live with other girls where she would be free from interference."

"Once Miss Crawley was moved into Sarah Hackett Stevenson Memorial Home, she was quite relieved and was willing to break off the private medical arrangements planned for her by the policewoman. We talked to the doctor at one point when we needed the results for the Wasserman and Kahn tests so that Miss Crawley could be admitted to Sarah Hackett Stevenson Memorial Home. Our own impression of the doctor was that he had been too willing to offer her free medical care, so that we suspected that he might have been interested in the adoption of Miss Crawley's baby. Arangements were made for Miss Crawley to be delivered at Illinois Research Hospital and she has kept her appointments regularly." (In case you haven't figured it out yourself, the assumption is that the doctor and the policewoman were probably in cahoots in 'private' child adoptions.)

"Miss Crawley impresses us as being an extremely naive and unsophisticated girl who is quite gullible. She was extremely bewildered by the amount of controversy she stirred up in the police department when she hadn't done anything wrong. In our planning with her, she has assumed responsibility for appointments, and has been very adequate in finding her way around Chicago, and in carrying through her responsibilities. She also has a very good sense of reality and her common sense usually produces good judgement on her part."

(Next is a long listing of family information regarding her mother, father, grandparents, family history, etc., some of which I knew, some not, but very detailed about her family and the various relationships. Apparently her maternal grandfather lived with them and was very strict, and they did not get along, and that is why she left home at sixteen to live in the YWCA.)

"Miss Crawley could give very little information about the putative father. The name he gave her was (name blacked out), and he was twenty-three years old. Because she observed that he wore a high school graduation ring, she assumed that he had finished high school. He talked of being the only child and said that he was spoiled because of this."

"Last July, Miss Crawley met the putative father at a roller skating rink in Houston, Texas, and claims that on August first had intercourse with him at a hotel in Houston. In the morning he left saying that he would return and that they would go to Galveston to be married. When he did not show up, she began to wonder, and soon learned that he was not returning to her. She made several return trips to Houston to find him, and finally decided to hitch hike to Chicago with the hope of finding a cousin here who could take care of her." (So, not there to look for my father, as I had been told by Aunt Helen, who would have been eleven at the time.)

"The putative father's complexion was quite a contrast to her family. He had black hair, dark eyes, and an olive tan skin. She thinks that he was about five feet eleven inches tall, and weighed about one-hundred and seventy-five pounds. She said that he was built very well and had wide, broad shoulders."

"As we considered how Miss Crawley got into this pregnancy at this time, she felt it was because she was completely overwhelmed by his attention, and very unprotected being away from home in a strange hotel."

"We have arranged with Illinois Research Hospital that Miss Crawley is not to be given her baby at any time. We will let you know as soon as we hear that she is in the hospital so that you can begin planning to move the baby to your nursery." (Not to be given her baby at any time? Then how could she make an informed decision about what to do? Of course I know that they were trying to take the 'sentiment' out of the equation and have her make the decision with her 'brain', but this also means that my romanticized version of her having held me lovingly and having a mother to child soliliquy before making the decision was not a reality.)

Next post, the difficult decision by Lillian to relinquish her baby for adoption. Most babies at the orphanage were adopted within the first two weeks, a month at the most. I was there for almost three months before Lillian signed the final papers to relinguish for adoption. (to be continued...)


glnroz said...

goodness, how do you keep track of it all or going into "overload". Very interesting.

ethelmaepotter! said...

Wow! What a wealth of information Kraig supplied! I'm pleased that you know so much more, but saddened by the thought that some of your fantasies were not realities.
Yes, it does sound like the cop and doctor were in cahoots to get the baby. How sad that people like that exist.
Lillian was beautiful, classically beautiful. She reminds me of some movie star of old - maybe Deanna Durbin - I'm not sure.
Looking forward to the rest of the story!
PS - I'm so happy y'all missed the worst of the storm!

Jeanie said...

This is so interesting and I'm glad you included so much of what the letter said. I think you must be just blown away to learn these thing and to know so much more of what is true. You are so right that it could be the story of untold numbers of unwed mothers. The part about the policewoman and the doctor is very intriguing. Thank you for writing this so well and for sharing it.

Bernie said...

Linda, I think the truth is so very important, even if it is for your grandchildren and generations to follow. You could rule out or even rule in by DNA test. I mean you could determine if Don Miner was your father be testing his children....if it is important then do it, it not then let it go. Only you will know how much of this you want to keep moving forward with. I only want you contented and are a wonderful bloging friend. I wish I could help in some way. I will say this Mr. Kraig sounds like he really cares about you and your story. I love and appreciate this about him, that he seems to care so much for you and yor family........:-) Hugs

Mattenylou said...

You're learning so much about your story, it must be nice to fill in the blanks a bit. Something didn't sound right about the doctor and policewoman, sad to think these people she had entrusted with both of your futures weren't looking out for either of your best interests.

Hope you are okay, it must be a lot to 'digest'... I've got you in my thoughts this week.

Wine and Words said...

I am flashing between Lillian not being allowed to hold/see her baby, and my own biological mom, requesting to be blindfolded so that she could not see the baby...not be persuaded by sight. I loved my babies before they were born...before there was sight involved. It is almost inconceivable to me, but then it is a path I have never be pregnant, alone, and afraid.

Oz Girl said...

I can imagine how it may seem confusing at times, to read all these documents, with so many people referenced and different timeframes... I've been digging into our family ancestry and it gets very, very confusing!

But wow, how interesting!!! And how awesome for you that certain items have been clarified. :)

yaya said...

Your blog is so interesting and this story could be made into a movie. It's interesting how we view unwed mothers in this day as compared to then and even when we were young. I'll look forward to the continued story!

Timoteo said...

Fascinating stuff, Linda. Neighbors complaining about an unwed mother in the neighborhood? What kind of busybody bigotry was that? So amazing the contrast in attitudes from then to now, where it's a total non-issue.

One thing this reinforces for me is the pressure that must have existed on these mothers, which may be another clue in the mystery of why my biological mother gave me up.

lakeviewer said...

This must be such a treasure for you to retrieve all these tidbits and recreate your beginnings.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Fascinating. I wish I knew more of what you are thinking. I hope you'll share with us as you process it all.

Found the details most interesting - naive, gullible, putative father, high school graduation ring. I wonder how this compares to what is observed today.

Hitch hiking to Chicago. I suppose times were different. Still, she had the wherewithall to find someone to help her. Do they give any clue as to the cousin might be?

Thank you for sharing this, Linda. I know it must be most difficult.

Wendy said...

I think my brain would explode from hearing all of this. How are you holding up?

It was certainly a different time, wasn't it?

Wendy said...

Oh and I love that picture of your mom. She's gorgeous.

Ginger said...

How sad not to be able to hold your baby after giving birth. Times were so different back then.
You look so much like your mom in the picture below your post.
Do you ever find out who your father is, for sure?

Bernie said...

What an interesting story. There was a program on just last night on Public Television on Independent Lens on this same topic of single moms and how our attitudes toward them have changed in the past years. How hard it must be for you to keep on this story of your life but yet how rewarding.

Thanks for visiting my blog again. I picked myself up off the floor with Julie's help and she bandaged my arm and I didn't feel too bad at all. She wanted to take me to the hospital for stitches and I didn't think it was necessary. So we went. It really didn't start to pain until the next day and the day after and all
the days since.

Donna said...

You look like your mom...what an interesting saga! You should write a book!!

Michele R said...

I'm thinking of you today and hope you had a great day with your daughter and your grandsons.
Thanks for sharing your story--it is really interesting. I never realized how someone would document all these observations of your mother's situation.

kobico said...

I can't imagine what must have gone through your head as you read and parsed through all the new information. I also think it interesting they did not want her to hold you. I would think a good deal of bonding occured during the nine months she carried you!