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Booth Girls

$ 18.95

Pregnancy, Adoption, and the Secrets We Kept

Author Kim Heikkila

Minnesota Historical Society Press (March 2, 2021)

A thoughtful, multigenerational story of contested motherhood, equal parts biography, oral history, history, and memoir.

Description

“In this powerful, beautifully written book, Kim Heikkila recounts the dramatic and painful story of her mother’s first child, born when she was a young unmarried woman in the early 1960s. Weaving together her personal family story with her scholarly knowledge and insight, Heikkila uncovers the emotional and social toll experienced by unmarried mothers who bore not only the babies but the weight of stigma as the fathers walked away.”
Elaine Tyler May, author of America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation

Kim Heikkila’s mother had a secret: in 1961, two years before her marriage, she became pregnant. After several months hidden in her parents’ attic bedroom, she gave birth to a daughter at the Salvation Army’s Booth Memorial Hospital, a home for unwed mothers in St. Paul, and surrendered her for adoption.

Kim’s older sister reunited with her birth family in the 1990s. Kim’s mother wrote about these experiences, but after she died, Heikkila still had questions. Using careful research and sensitive interviews with other “Booth girls,” she tells the stories of the Booth hospital and the women who passed through it—and she learned more about her own experience as an adoptive mother.

Author information

Kim Heikkila, PhD, is an independent scholar and president of Spotlight Oral History. She has also taught courses on US history, US women’s history, the Vietnam War, and the 1960s at colleges and universities in the Twin Cities area. She is the author of Sisterhood of War: Minnesota Women in Vietnam.

Reviews and news

"With its vivid historical detail, and careful examination of the emotional lives of
parents on either side of the adoption process, this book is recommended for parents of adopted children, and for readers of memoir." Library Journal

"Heikkila, an independent scholar and president of Spotlight Oral History, seamlessly moves between her mother's story and her own, and those of the young women at Booth who played cards, mopped floors, made brief friendships, entered the hospital room with no preparation for labor or delivery, and usually left within weeks of giving up their babies. Their talk sometimes turned to anger at the double standard that sent them into hiding while the fathers went about their lives unscathed." Pioneer Press

Advance Praise:

“Searching for answers to heartbreaking questions she never asked her mother, Heikkila brings her gifts as a researcher and oral historian to bear. The family connections lost leave a reader gutted, while reconnections made fill a reader with hope. In so skillfully pinpointing the personal within its historical context, Heikkila delivers a must-read for all those touched by adoption––and for anyone seeking to better understand a loved one gone too soon.”
Kate St. Vincent Vogl, author of Lost & Found: A Memoir of Mothers

“Kim Heikkila combines powerful and evocative memoir with deep historical research to explore the changing experiences of unwed pregnancy and adoption. Driven to understand her mother (and the depth of a secret kept for thirty-three years), Heikkila also explores her own experience as an adoptive mother in the early twenty-first century. Her mother’s writings, oral history interviews, and rigorous historical research allow Heikkila to contextualize what her mother went through, shaped by changing class, racial, and gender norms. This is a rich read, offering a unique, multivocal perspective against a landscape of dramatic cultural change.”
Sara M. Evans, author of Tidal Wave: How Women Changed America at Century’s End

“In this powerful, beautifully written book, Kim Heikkila recounts the dramatic and painful story of her mother’s first child, born when she was a young unmarried woman in the early 1960s. Weaving together her personal family story with her scholarly knowledge and insight, Heikkila uncovers the emotional and social toll experienced by unmarried mothers who bore not only the babies but the weight of stigma as the fathers walked away.”
Elaine Tyler May, author of America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation

Related Resources:

Star Tribune essay by Kim Heikkila, "My mother 'got in trouble' in 1960s Minnesota" (April 7, 2016)

Minnesota History article by Kim Heikkila, "'Everybody thinks it's right to give the child away' Unwed Mothers at Booth Memorial Hospital, 1961–63" (Summer 2017)

Ramsey County History article by Kim Heikkila, “'Brighter and Better’: Building the New Salvation Army Rescue Home of St. Paul, 1913” (Spring 2016)

Practical Thinking 9.2 article by Kim Heikkila “To Bear the Mark: Unwed Motherhood at the Salvation Army’s Booth Memorial Hospital" (December 2014)

Broad! article by Kim Heikkila, “Sparring with Infertility” (Summer 2014, p. 14)

WCCO Television Reports with Dave Moore "Unwed Mothers" (November 1960)

The Grief Diaries articles by Kim Heikkila, “After My Mother Died,” (September 1, 2015) and “White Sand Rising” (June 15, 2018)

Videos


  • This title is also available at your favorite e-book vendor.
  • 256 pages
  • 21 B&W PHOTOS, NOTES, INDEX, BIBLIOGRAPHY
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • ISBN: 9781681341903

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