Tennesee Black Market Adoption Information

Personal Letter From Georgia Tann Adoptee:

I was pleased to get your response. I am happy to report that my Mother is still living and is in very good health for 82 years of age. My mother and my sister (whom I did not know about nor she about me) received me with open arms and ended years of serach and questions. I have copies of all correspondences between Ms. Georgia Tann and Ms. Elrod who was her assistant in these adoptions. As I understand, many of these babies placed for adoption were taken from the mothers without the mother ever knowing her baby was alive, as Ms. Tann and the physician would tell the young mother that her baby had died or was stillborn. She would then ask the mother to sign the papers for her to take care of the burial of the infant. However, the paper the young mothers were signing was actually a form giving up custody of the infant to the Tennessee Children's Home Society of which Georgia Tann operated. I was born in the Ella Osborne Home for Unwed Mothers in Memphis and evidently everything was prearranged. My mother has not yet opened up to provide this information to me. My observation of the papers that were filed concerning this adoption procedure is that all the signatures of so-called physicians, my mother's signature, and others were all the handwriting of Ms. Georgia Tann, as the handwriting does not match my mothers, but is almost identical for that of Ms. Tann. My mother went back to the home and tried to find me when I was a year old and was told that I had been taken to the Chicago area. I have documentation in my records that this did indeed occur. She asked for a picture of me and was told that one could not be obtained. My date of birth is 03/19/35. I would be happy to look over the registrant list if you tell me where I might obtain a copy. Also, if you know of anyone who might have a copy of the movie "Stolen Babies" starring Mary Tyler Moore, please let me know as I have never seen this movie about the Georgia Tann story and I have heard so much about it. Thanks for your interest. I will help any way I can.


Georgia Tann
"The woman Who Stole 5000 Babies." Good Houskeeping, March, 1991, P 140.

Book Reviews

There was a lot of publicity about this woman during the early 1990s, including a well-done TV docu-drama starring Mary Tyler Moore.

Tann organized Tennessee Children's home Society in Memphis to remove children from the slums and put them into the hands of the rich, who would educate them. She took children out of hospitals, homes, parks, anywhere she could find a poorly dressed or dirty child. Her system started doing what it was intended to do, but the huge profits blinded her and turned the system into outright baby trafficking with little regard to what kind of person the purchaser was. The "Mommie Dearest" baby was one of her victims. She left behind a legacy of hate, broken families, stress disease and other disruptions that would have put her in prison if she hadn't died before the Tennessee Attorney General could finish the investigation.

In 1950, the Governor of Tennessee called for an investigation of the Tennessee Children's Home black market baby operations, said to have grossed $1 million for Georgia Tann, the superintendent of the local branch of the home. Tann was accused of fraudulently persuading pregnant mothers to relinquish their children. A number of Hollywood celebrities adopted children through the home, namely Joan Crawford, June Allyson, and Dick Powell. During the investigation, local attorneys and justices were found to be part of the scandalous network of adoption that allowed adoptive parents to be out-of-state residents. The story is dramatic and shows southern politics at its worst--congenial, respected public figures running shady deals in the back room. Thousands of children were placed in adopted homes during the agency's operation. Each case is a fascinating story involving the search and reunion of adopted children with their natural families.

** Contents **

-- Background to the Scandal
-- Crump's Memphis
-- Matriarch of Juvenile Court: Judge Camille Kelley
-- The Scandal Unfolds
-- The Scandal's Aftermath
-- Congress and the Black Market
-- The Right to Know: The Adoptee's Dilemma
-- Conclusion
-- References
-- Index

** Author **

LINDA TOLLETT AUSTIN, an attorney in the state of Tennessee, has a Ph.D. in American History with a specialization in the history of the South.

More information on Falsification of Birth Certificates

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