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Voice of the Women's Liberation Movement-
(January, 1969) 12 pages total

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Fallen Women

I used to teach art in a private home for unwed mothers, most of them. twenty year old, white middle-class women from small towns who had come to the city to hide and put their babies up for adoption. The fund raising brochure lists one of the main functions of the Home as helping to "conceal an unwanted pregnancy from the community", This is one of the unexamined. unconvincing explanations the house gives for its existance--unconvincing, when you consider fact that the mothers are not accepted into the home until they they four to five months pregnantIn maternity clothes some with legs already swathed in Dr. Scholl's flesh colored stockings for varicose veins and tired muscles, In general everyone in their hometowns already knows that they are pregnant, especially their fathers who have been told that they are studying fashion design in New York city.
The motives of the Methodist chewing gum manufacturer who first endowed the home sixty years ago, and whose trust fund is still called The Fund for Fallen Women w ere probably suspect as hell. He's not, alone. There are hundreds of similar institutions across the country respectable staffed with concerned social
workers, psychiatrists, nurses, dieticians, pediatricians obstreticians and volunteer Republican club women.. All their statements of purpose sound relatively harm less; they assure good prenatal care in a controlled environment, carefully chosen adoptive homes therapy is offered, usually insisted upon, it doesn't sound any more paternalistic and authoritarian than most social welfare institutions, but it is a good example of the particular way institutions oppress women in our society. What must be seer is that the basic reason for the existence of *his institution is punishment of ''fallen women ".


Consider the unnatural situation the uncomplaining woman finds herself in. In,, ing in an alien, isolated. crummy Victorian mansion with twenty other women, each with a belly as full as hers, with back aches varicose veins, stretch marks, piles, and a matching story of failure and loss. People at times of birth, sickness and death are probably their most vulnerable and most in need of their community friends and family for support. These young women go to give birth to a baby without without a friend or relative to hold their hands, and they give up that baby without the support and understanding of the people who love them. They aren't even allowed to grieve properly because it might endanger the morale of the institution as it certainly would, because only a hererogeneous community can absorb grief naturally.
My job at the home was peripheral, I taught arts and crafts a few hours a week, In the beginning. when I didn't it all too clearly I could, deliver a sincere and sensible decision to give up their babies for adoption. My program was to provi,de them with a sublimation of their condition, They conceive an idea, nurture it. and finally produce an object d'art they could appropriately return home with—this wa's to make up for the baby. This justified my job to the director. The problem was that it didn't work. Very little the mothers did was important to them. They really took little interest in keeping what they had made. Lining the shelves of the craftsroom like a tiny motley parade were dozens of their rejects--funny, lumpy clay forms, some woodcuts and a few paintings of the most aggressive, spikey butterflies I've ever seen. The little figures they modeled were very poignant to me. They made nude women of clay with strangely distorted breasts and bellies, perhaps revealing fear and the lack of control the pregnant women felt over their bodies. Cont. p. 5 )

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