Booth Girls: Pregnancy, Adoption, and the Secrets We Kept
A thoughtful, multigenerational story of contested motherhood, equal parts biography, oral history, history, and memoir.
Author Kim Heikkila
“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.
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.