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Old 03-23-2004, 05:08 PM   #1
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Exclamation Georgia Tann

Do you remember Georgia Tann from the Unsolved Mysteries segment? Before I go to ANCESTRY.COM to look for records of my great-grandfather, Arthur Cornelius Durrant, I want to tell anyone here who uses this message board and was a child at Georgia Tann's orphanage that it is safe no to go looking for your birth families and that the adoptions were all illegal, as indicated in the segment itself. I want to make it clear that no harm will come to you since Georgia and everyone involved with her died years ago.
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Old 07-03-2008, 08:54 AM   #2
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Author spent 16 years delving into the power Georgia Tann wielded and the victims she left



By Fredric Koeppel (Contact), Memphis Commercial Appeal
Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The kind woman shows up at the door of the poor abandoned girl who has recently given birth to a baby. "I will feed and care for your child," says the kind woman, "until you are healthy and able. Just sign this little paper." And the kind woman takes the baby and the girl never sees her baby again, because the kind woman sells the baby to new parents in a distant city or, if the baby is sick or otherwise unsalable, she allows the baby to die of neglect and malnutrition or even of abuse.

That scenario may sound like the dark side of a fairy tale, but that seemingly kind woman, accepted for most of her life as a model of civic virtue, lived in Memphis.

From 1924 until her death in 1950, Georgia Tann sold babies and children to couples around the United States and especially in Los Angeles and New York, earning millions of dollars in fees. Many of those babies and children were stolen from their mothers, who were poor and uneducated or incapacitated or frightened; many of those babies and children died in Tann's large house on Poplar Avenue in Midtown, the Memphis branch of the Tennessee Children's Home Society.

Not until the late 1940s did adoptive parents begin to complain about Tann's methods and investigators begin to doubt the benign nature of Tann's activities, though by then she was ill with cancer; she died three days after articles about her nefarious dealings were published in the local newspapers.

Barbara Bisantz Raymond examines Tann's career and the effect it had on adoption policies in America in the recently published "The Baby Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption" (Carroll & Graf, $26.95).

The author will be at Davis-Kidd Booksellers tonight at 6 to discuss and sign the book. Raymond, a noted magazine writer on social and childhood issues, spent 16 years researching and writing the book, visiting Memphis "six or seven times," she said in a telephone interview from her home in Brooklyn.

Q: Sixteen years is a long time.

A: Well, yes. It's because so many people were involved and because there are so many stories. And everyone was dying off. I spoke with 12 physicians, all of whom are dead. Nurses and social workers who were in their 90s, and most of them are dead. But no one was going to come behind me and write this because these people were dying.

Q: You begin the book with a prologue that explains how you learned about Georgia Tann through someone you interviewed in 1990 for a magazine article.

A: That interview was the origin of the project. The woman's story was so sad, how she had allowed Georgia Tann to take away her sick 10-month-old baby to care for her and two days later Georgia lied to her and told her that the baby had died. That article was published in Good Housekeeping and got a huge response. People were sending me their birth certificates and wanted to tell me their stories, many of which were even sadder.

Q: How was Georgia Tann able to or allowed to get away with everything she did?

A: It's difficult to assess now, so many years later, but one thing is that she had Mr. Crump's (E.H. Crump, Memphis mayor from 1910-1916 and a chief influence in city politics until his death in 1954) protection. I don't think that he or anybody else saw her as anything but a wonderful social worker, doing so much good. And she had that kind of personality. She was very manipulative, and she could be very threatening. She could scare people with her power.

Q: The power she had seems amazing now.

A: It was amazing. She bribed nurses and paid people off. She worked through manipulation and intimidation. Deputy sheriffs went to the homes of poor people and hauled off babies and children. I don't think there was a lot of questioning.

Q: I think the category "poor people" is important in this story.

A: It is. Class and status were important issues for Georgia Tann. She had no hesitation in taking babies and children from poor or destitute people and selling them to what she called "people of the higher type." This included movie stars like Dick Powell and June Allyson or Joan Crawford.

Q: How did she find the children?

A: She was completely organized. She was always scanning newspapers, always looking for children to take. If it was mentioned in the paper that a woman died and had left children, she would show up. She ran ads that said "Young Women in Trouble Call Miss Georgia Tann."

Q: The subtitle of your book says that Georgia Tann "corrupted adoption." How did she do that?

Q: It's a complicated situation. I mean, she made sure that prominent people adopted children and in a way this took the onus off adoption. It made adoption nothing to be ashamed of for the adopting parents. On the other hand, she treated children like commodities and made them marketable. She commercialized adoption. And the other thing is, she was the first to issue false birth certificates for adopted children, a practice that became standard throughout the United States. She didn't do it to protect the children, though. She did it to cover her tracks so no one would know that the children had been stolen.

Q: This is a very personal book for you.

A: Oh, my goodness yes. I'm sure some of my friends and family members thought I was nuts to get so involved with this and spend so much time, but I felt that I owed it to Georgia Tann's victims. I felt that I was rescuing a piece of history. People in Memphis know the story, but they might not know how she affected the adoption process. I do have to make the point that not all the children Georgia Tann placed for adoption were stolen. Nobody knows what the figures really are.

Q: And the children who died in her orphanage?

A: Nobody knows what those figures are, either. She didn't record the deaths of many of them. They simply disappeared.
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Old 07-03-2008, 03:22 PM   #3
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Was there more than one case like the one depicted on Unsolved Mysteries--of her literally snatching a child off the street, and the mother not only saw the car, but was later TOLD where her child was being held? (Meaning someone knew the identity of the mother somehow--perhaps she at least filed a kidnapping report?) Why would any mother not come storming down by any means and snatch her child back?
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Old 07-03-2008, 11:48 PM   #4
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For you wrestling fans out there, Ric Flair states in his autobiography that he was adopted out of this Tennessee Children's Home Society. It was mentioned in his adoption papers that his mother abandoned him but he suspects she was probably told that he had died after she gave birth. He never had any desire though to seek out his birth parents.
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Old 07-04-2008, 12:49 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DP1
For you wrestling fans out there, Ric Flair states in his autobiography that he was adopted out of this Tennessee Children's Home Society. It was mentioned in his adoption papers that his mother abandoned him but he suspects she was probably told that he had died after she gave birth. He never had any desire though to seek out his birth parents.

I thought about mentioning this, but with the current state of wrestling being what it is I am somewhat ashamed to venture down that path.
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Old 07-06-2008, 12:05 AM   #6
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Quote:
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I thought about mentioning this, but with the current state of wrestling being what it is I am somewhat ashamed to venture down that path.

soooo true .. ! what ever happened to the good ol' days of wrestling .. ?
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Old 07-06-2008, 11:52 PM   #7
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Those days went to...Parts Unknown!
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Old 07-07-2008, 11:04 AM   #8
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I actually purchased this book by Ms. Raymond on Ebay. It was very well done. When I re sold it on ebay, it was purchased by a lady as a gift for her brother because they were both adopted thru the Tennessee Children's Home.
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Old 07-07-2008, 01:34 PM   #9
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Did anyone see the Lifetime movie "Stolen Babies" from the 90s? mary Tyler Moore played Georgia Tann. She was creepy...did a super job.

Anyway, I heard that Christina Crawford was adopted from the society by Joan Crawford, as stated by the author as well. I am not sure about Christopher or Joan's other adopted kids. But it boggles the mind. How awful is it, to be literally abducted from your family and sold to someone else. And this was less than 80 years ago that this was going on...
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Old 07-08-2008, 01:49 AM   #10
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Yes, Christina Crawford noted that a previous Christopher had been recognized by his mother due to a birthdate and after that Joan changed the birthdates on all her adopted kids. (Chris #1 and Chris #2, just like The Partridge Family). This does seem to imply the mother of Chris #1 did not give him up willingly. Then, if Georgia Tann was already faking birth certificates, maybe he didn't come from there. Christina also claimed Joan adopted two unrelated girls and "called" them twins, but according to the twins, they were born at the same time from the same mother and father. They also look very similar.

Did the book about the Tennessee Children's Home address the questions I raised above?
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Old 07-08-2008, 03:59 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Cori aka ChrisSCrush
Yes, Christina Crawford noted that a previous Christopher had been recognized by his mother due to a birthdate and after that Joan changed the birthdates on all her adopted kids. (Chris #1 and Chris #2, just like The Partridge Family). This does seem to imply the mother of Chris #1 did not give him up willingly. Then, if Georgia Tann was already faking birth certificates, maybe he didn't come from there. Christina also claimed Joan adopted two unrelated girls and "called" them twins, but according to the twins, they were born at the same time from the same mother and father. They also look very similar.

Did the book about the Tennessee Children's Home address the questions I raised above?
I do not recall that they did. I will have to go back and check that out.
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Old 07-09-2008, 06:38 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cori aka ChrisSCrush
Yes, Christina Crawford noted that a previous Christopher had been recognized by his mother due to a birthdate and after that Joan changed the birthdates on all her adopted kids. (Chris #1 and Chris #2, just like The Partridge Family). This does seem to imply the mother of Chris #1 did not give him up willingly. Then, if Georgia Tann was already faking birth certificates, maybe he didn't come from there. Christina also claimed Joan adopted two unrelated girls and "called" them twins, but according to the twins, they were born at the same time from the same mother and father. They also look very similar.

Did the book about the Tennessee Children's Home address the questions I raised above?
Years ago I read a book called "Joan Crawford, a Biography" by Bob Thomas. In it Thomas claimed that Crawford disclosed too much information about Chris #1 in an interview that she gave right after she adopted him, and that his biological mother actually showed up at her Brentwood estate. Joan gave the child back to her, thinking that letting him go rather than fighting for him was in his best interest. His mother then gave him to another family.

I don't know if that's true or not, and I don't think I really believe that statement, but yours is the first comment I've ever read/hear that relates to that story.
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Old 07-10-2008, 03:38 AM   #13
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Why would the mother take him back and then give him away again? But then, maybe she knew what she was doing, placing him with a family rather than a single actress. At least some poor kid somewhere knows he escaped being strapped to a bed every night for 12 years.

Very interesting followup on Crawford twins here: http://www.joancrawfordbest.com/articlememphis95.htm

Evidently Joan flipflopped as to whether they were actually twins, as obviously twins would be much less common than single children, and so easier to trace. The twins were exceptionally fortunate to be kept together when adoption policy was often to separate twins.

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Old 06-24-2018, 03:08 PM   #14
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This just in: (So-called) "Secretary of Education" Betsy DeVos is involved in an adoption mill in which children are forcibly removed from parents and sold to wealthy bidders!

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/201...nd-In-Michigan

Obviously this is not an Unsolved Mystery as it's going on right out in the open, but the human impact falls well within many of the "Lost Loves" segments featured on UM. At least one article stated that a boy who was seized was already given to Americans and the mother will not get him back. If these cases affect you please pursue every legal means of putting a stop to these atrocities.

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