Georgia Tann was born in 1891 in Mississippi. Her father was a local judge who wanted his daughter to be a concert pianist, something she despised. Georgia decided to become a social worker because it was one of the few occupations for a woman at the time.
Georgia worked for a short time in a child placement agency but was fired because of questionable placement of children in homes. While in Mississippi, Georgia began a relationship with another woman who followed her to Tennessee.
Georgia was employed at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. She quickly maneuvered herself into the top position in society. As soon as she took over the society, she began to traffic children. Tennessee prohibited the selling of children so Georgia arranged for out-of-Georgia would acquire children through a number of questionable means. In some cases, the children were kidnapped. The children’s records were falsified to make them more attractive for adoption. Children who weren’t quickly adopted were often abused. Over time, at least 19 children died from the abuse they received.
Over 5,000 children were stolen. While a number of states had vowed to take action against Georgia, none did. Since Georgia placed most children in higher-status families, adoptions became more acceptable because most people didn’t know the source of the children. Many of the practices used by Georgia to cover up her illegal adoption practices have become the norm for adoptions (e.g. hiding the biological parents’ identity). The evil that was Georgia Tann unfortunately has led some to call her the mother of adoption.
The State of Tennessee finally investigated Georgia and they were ready to file charges against her when she died of uterine cancer at the age of 59.
Beginnings can be created out of evil. We think of adoptions today as an act of humaneness and caring without realizing how its start was based upon the actions of a horrible person doing irreparable harm.
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“Grief is the last act of love we have to give to those we loved. Where there is deep grief there was deep love.”– Anonymous