Giving a Voice to the Girls Who Went Away
Ann was nearly 56 when she first met her biological mother, who was then 75. Ann was prompted to make contact with her birth mother whilewriting her groundbreaking book, The Girls Who Went Away. She was the first person to thoroughly research and document what happened to all of the girls who were unwed mothers during the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
She collected oral histories from over 100 women who had relinquished their children during the time when being an unwed mother was unthinkable for the girl and her parents. The stories are remarkably different, and eerily the same. The American culture was beginning to embrace the idea of a sexual revolution and premarital sex, but was very anxious for unwed mothers to simply go away.
While she was interviewing women for the book and film, many of her participants asked her why she had not yet met her own biological mother. Somehow she knew everyone else’s story, but not her own. In her own courageous way, Ann conceded that it was a legitimate question, and began her journey and her reunion with her mother.
Ann is a professor of photography At the Rhode Island School of Design. She began to make short films and videos in the 1970s. She has just finished a documentary on the same subject called A GIRL LIKE HER. Since the release of the book, Ann has appeared on Good Morning America and been interviewed on NPR. Her book was chosen by the National Book Critics Circle as one of the top five nonfiction books of 2006. She is also the recipient of the Ballard Book Prize, an annual award honoring a female author who advances the dialogue about women’s rights.
The other courageous heroes of the story are the women themselves who agreed to tell their stories.
You can read a more thorough review of the book in our Collections, this week see a preview of the documentary in the section in Sounds in the Silence, and read one girl’s story in the feature article, She Was Just 17 by our new contributor, Leslie MacKinnon.