Who Is a Worthy Mother?
An Intimate History of Adoption
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
232 Pages | 6 x 9
The history of adoption is rarely told from an adoptee’s perspective. Wellington remedies this gap by framing the chronicle of adoption in America using her own life story. She describes growing up in a family with which she had no biological connection, giving birth to her own biological children, and then enduring the death of her sister, who was also adopted. As she reckons with the pain and unanswered questions of her own experience, she explores broader issues surrounding adoption in the United States, including changing legal policies, sterilization and compulsory relinquishment programs, forced assimilation of babies of color and Indigenous babies adopted into white families, and other liabilities affecting women, mothers, and children.
According to Wellington, US adoption practices in America are shrouded in secrecy, for they frequently cast shame on unmarried women, women struggling with fertility, and “illegitimate” babies and children. As the United States once again finds itself embroiled in heated disputes over women’s bodily autonomy—disputes in which adoption plays a central role—Wellington’s book offers a unique and much-needed frame of reference.
“Rebecca Wellington carefully explores the history of ranking mothers by race, socioeconomic status, and made-up norms about who is fit to mother. Who Is a Worthy Mother? is a must-read for social workers and prospective adoptive parents.”—Nefertiti Austin, author of Motherhood So White: A Memoir of Race, Gender, and Parenting in America
"Wellington interweaves deep scholarship and wrenching memoir to produce a history of adoption that reveals brutal government practices, demeaning societal norms, and unintended outcomes for all of us. My naive eyes, mind, and heart were opened by Who Is a Worthy Mother?—essential reading for all whose work, stories, aspirations, friends, or family are connected to adoption.”—Dolly Chugh, author of A More Just Future: Psychological Tools for Reckoning with Our Past and Driving Social Change
“Through her well-researched, historical scholarship of—among other topics she discusses—governmental policies designed to bring an end to Native American cultures and peoples, Wellington’s memoir-history challenges America’s belief that the only good mother is a white mother. An important read.”—Susan Harness, author of Bitterroot: A Salish Memoir of Transracial Adoption
“Artfully weaving memoir and history, Wellington speaks to broad questions of how privilege, race, protection, and worth shape our most intimate decisions about parenthood and family. This is a thoughtful examination, skillfully delivered, that brings the reader on a journey from personal reflection to sociopolitical analysis—a necessary journey for our time.”—Gretchen Sisson, author of Relinquished: The Politics of Adoption and the Privilege of American Motherhood