by Michele Kriegman

The “Illegitimate” Daughter Tells Her Birth Mother’s Story

The woman who gave birth to me did so in a very different age. lt was the 1960s, and my arrival was what would now be called an out-of-wedlock birth. At the time the language was firmer: I was “illegitimate.” That label meant that the woman who gave me life could never be called simply, “mother.” Nor the even jauntier-sounding “single mom” (which is what I have become since my divorce). She would almost always, if she were middle class and white, be forced to surrender her child to adoption. Then she was a “biological mother” or a “birth mother,” at best, and a few cruder terms from less sympathetic lips. My search for words is part of a larger search to understand the woman who gave me away and who 30 years later spoke to me, her only child, for the first time.

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Sex and Shame in a Different Era

The articles in this special section:

“Get Rid of the Baby. Let’s Go Home.”

by Campbell Armstrong

Plus...Oregon’s new legislation on "open adoption" and an update from Roseanne Barr on reuniting with the baby she gave up