chapter  5
39 Pages

The Disposition of Illegitimate Babies I: The Postwar Adoption Mandate

The public and private treatment ofan unwed mother between 1945 and 1965 was clearly structured by society's disapproval of women who violated female norms ofsexualpurity and obedience . But throughout this study, ideas about the "value" of the illegitimate baby surface again and again as central to an unmarried mother's fate. In short, after World War II, the white bastard child was no longer the child nobody wanted . The black illegitimate baby became the child white politicians and taxpayers loved to hate. This chapter and the next consider how these racially specific postwar attitudes toward illegitimate babies, and ideas about what to do with them, shaped the experiences of the single mother. The babies themselves will be relegated to the background, a position they rarely occupied at the time.