Ep. 5: Like a Raisin: The Tennessee Children's Home Society
This week Shannon tells Emma about the Tennessee Children's Home Society and the awful, evil, scary lady, Georgia Tann, who kidnapped, scammed, and abused children and families in the early decades of the 1900s. There are families still waiting for an answer and people realizing that their stories are eerily similar to the horrors of the Society, so listen along and freak out with both of us!
Speaker A: Hello. Hi, I'm Shannon. I'm Emma, and welcome to this podcast. Doesn't exist. What have we got today? What uh are you going to tell me? See, I don't want to disappoint you, but it is not a conspiracy, nor is it an unsolved case. It's just some history that has some uncertain elements and is very sad. Fun. Yeah. It can't all be ghosts and spooky houses. Fair enough. That's fine. I will say at the top here content warning for child abuse and family separation for anyone who maybe is not in a space where you want to learn about that. We bid you well come back next time. Yeah. Join us for the next episode. Join us next Friday. All right. So today we will be learning about Georgia Tan and the Tennessee Children's Home Society. Okay. Yeah. Georgia Tan is a person. Yes, that's the name. Do you have any idea? I have no clue where I'm going uh at all. Well, on that note, I first learned about this topic when I was listening to the audiobook of a novel by Lisa Wingay. It's called Before We Were Yours, and I honestly thought it had to be fictional because it seems so outrageous and so terrible that there's no way it could have happened for real. There's no way that people could have let this happen. Spoiler alert. It's all real. So sad, and I haven't even heard any of it. Yeah. So walk alone, folks. All right, so our story starts with an individual named Georgia Tan. Now, I'm going to show Emma Photo. All of this will be on the Instagram. But this is Georgia Tan. She looks kind of scary. She looks like she sucked in her lips. She's just gone to her lips a little bit. I mean, granted, I think when we look at images, knowing the history of someone, we read into it. Right? Like, if we know someone is terrible, you look at images and you're like, oh, they look sinister. But that's fair. There are contemporary reports at the time of people saying she was very intimidating and scary. Okay. But anyway, we'll get there. We're starting at the beginning. Bula George, Georgia nickname Tan, was born in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Whoa. There's a twist. We only have five names for anything in this country. Like, if you go to any train station, it'll probably be called Penn Station. That's Fair, Denver or New York, New York City, whatever. There's a lot of units, too. Yes. So um she was named for both of her parents. Her mother's name is Bula. Her dad's name is George. That's kind of cute. Bula George. Bula is a name. I mean, 1800 Mississippi Fair, but she went by Georgia Georgia Tan. She uh had an older brother named Rob Roytan who was potentially adopted, which um will come back into play. Well, its significance will present itself. Um and this was only mentioned in one source that he was potentially adopted. Um it wasn't really elaborated upon. So just a brief mention, but we won't go into it. Her father was a powerful judge down in Mississippi, and she really wanted to pursue law as well. She had a very close but complicated relationship with her father. I think she really looked up to him, but maybe he had desired another son or just wasn't comfortable expressing love um and affection. Toxic masculinity. What's up? Um so she wanted to pursue the law, but her father deemed it too masculine, too Manly. Not an option. Again, this is the early 1900 at this point, so not too surprising. So in 1913, she graduates with a degree in music from Martha Washington College here in the state of Virginia, and she tried out a career in teaching for a little while, but it was not a good fit whatsoever. Did you say Martha Washington College? Yes. Do you mean Mary Washington? No, there's a Martha Washington College. Well, now you're making me, because Mary Washington is where Liam goes. What? Liam my little brother. He's not really that little. Martha Washington College was established as an educational institution for young women by the Independent order of Odd Fellows in the Cave Lodge, number 56 in 1853, when they purchased the land for the construction of the College, it looks like they maybe um got absorbed by Emery and Henry. Oh, okay. So that makes more sense to me. Abington. All right. I don't know where that is anyway. Okay. Yes. Established Martha Washington College. It was a real College at some point. Yeah. Martha. Martha. She deal with a lot of stuff anyway, so she tried out teaching. It was not a good fit whatsoever. You uh will soon see why I'm really trying to not upsell the treadmill. No, but you're baiting this hook. I mean, I'm trying um anyway. So then teaching not a great option. Music. She didn't really have any interest in music. From what I could tell from the research, it was just a degree in music while she wanted to pursue law. And her parents were like, no. So I think she was just. They just were like, do this. And she was like, okay, um annoying. Yeah. So she turns to the relatively young field of social work, and one article posits that she'd been doing a version of this since her teen years where she would go volunteering with the poor, the less fortunate, instead of going to parties and dances. The article was pretty shady. It was kind of implying that she wasn't getting invited, so it was kind of a shield that she had. Well, it's kind of sad. Um oh, I'm not getting asked out, so I need as well, but I have so much volunteer work to do, so. Which um is kind of sad. I thought it was a little odd that the article was so shady. I was like, do you have any evidence of her writing this in journals or anything of like visiting Kelly's dance, and I didn't get invited, um but yeah. So she's turning to the field of social work. Okay, we're going to Zoom out for a moment um to a broader scope. Adoption regulations at this time were incredibly lax. At this point in history, children were seen more as belongings than as feet, tiny humans. And in the early 1900s, formalized adoptions were pretty rare. Just kind of got absorbed into a family. Yeah. Shout out to you, Mama and Dr. Kay, what's up? Uh so it was not a formal thing, but in the 1920s, adoption was actually sold as a benefit to help out society. And I'm going to read you this quote, which really just sums it up, I think in uh all of the great and not so great ways, according to one ad from the National Home Finding Society, adopting wood reduce divorces, banditry, murder, and control births, fill all the churches and do real missionary work at home and abroad, exchanging immigrants for Americans and stopping some of the road leading to war. End quote. Wait, it would essentially stop pregnancy? No, they're trying to say that. Sorry, I absorbed all of that. I got all of that. However, I got kind of stuck on the idea that it would reduce the amount of children that you end up having yourself like that was somehow. Never mind. Never mind. All of that is a lawyer. I also can see the confusion in how uh adoption would control maybe it would control births um if somebody had had the misfortune of losing a baby before it was born and they didn't want to try again themselves, maybe that's what they mean. But yes, I could see that that's a little counterintuitive um of like, adoption is popular that'll help you not have kids that they don't want. Somehow that should be adoption is birth control. I don't know. Sorry. But obviously there's some really problematic parts of that. Yeah. Uh the uh trading immigrants for American thing was a little odd. Uh i don't know. Was international adoption a thing at this point in time? I would assume. No. Then how does that maybe. I don't know. Sorry. I'm getting wrapped up. And I did not go deep into the uh bigotry of the National Home Finding Society. Just got very wrapped up in that quote. I apologize. There was a lot going on. Yes. So at this time again, the 1920s eugenics were totally a thing, barf. So certain types of babies, aka blonde haired, blue eyed Angels from quote, good families, were more desirable in the adoption market. And I do say market, which we'll get into shortly. Also which I thought this was an interesting historical fact. Baby formula was a product that was also gaining popularity during this time and effectiveness. So that would allow busy, wealthy women to feed an infant that was not theirs by birth. So um just an interesting thing that I never would have considered. But yes, you wouldn't have a need for a wet nurse. You wouldn't have a need for exactly any of that. All right. So that was our broad scope. We're zooming back in on Georgia Tan. She started at the Kate McWilly Powers Receiving Home for Children McWilly in Jackson, which is affiliated with the Mississippi Children's Home Society. So Children's Home Society is worth, I gather, from this research. Uh so she was fired from this first position in Jackson for her child placing methods, aka removing uh children from poor households without just cause or both parents permission. Wait, so she would just go to a house and basically kidnap a kid? Um let's keep going. Okay. Yeah. Emma's not going to. I'm not okay already. I like this. I mean, not that I liked it. None of us like it, but still fascinated. I'm morbidly fascinated by all of this. Come closer. You have a piece of hair that has been bothering me since we started recording. All right. I feel better now behind the scenes. Sorry. Just like sitting on your shoulder waving. Did you see Easter eggs that we all care about? Okay, you're welcome. So after this in Jackson, she does a brief stint in Texas during which she adopts her own daughter named June in 1922. Did she kidnap this kid? It did not say. Okay, sorry. I'm now very concerned. I should have been concerned at the top when you gave the Disclaimer. Your concern is valid. Okay. And then on an unexpectedly related note, she adopted someone else in 1943 named Anne Atwood Hollinsworth, who is suspected thought to be Tan same sex life partner. Adult adoption was common between queer couples because it was the only way to ensure the legal passage of property and everything. Now that gay marriage is legal, God bless. That's not necessary. But before that, even up into the 2000s, people were doing this, adopting um their partners so that they could leave their home to them if they passed. Okay. That makes sense. When they passed. Yeah. So this person wasn't an actual adult when they were adopted? Yes. Okay. Correct. Also, um on the note of adult adoption, Emma and Lewis might have to take me in if they move to uh the UK to escape this dumpster fire of a country. Depending this will come out after the adoption. Hopefully, by the time you're listening to this, we will know the results. Um and we'll also know whether or not we'll be recording in the UK. Yeah. Hopefully the dance industry is really able to support Lewis during this challenging time. But we know there's lots of old books in the UK for you to fix. Yeah. So hopefully you can adult adopt me and I, too can get out of the country if necessary. I'm fine with that. Okay, great. Yeah. I mean, I'll ask Lewis, but we'll know by the time this comes out, whether or not you're going to be doing anything like that. So one article that I did not source from because um most of the information I was getting from other places, and also this note kind of rubbed me the wrong way. But one article posited that as a quote, Butch lesbian. In the 1940s and 50s, Tan conducted her nefarious business practices as the only form of societal power that was attainable to her. Wow. Because as a Butch lesbian, she was not able or chose not to um bear children, which in that time and in some people's, modern day eyes, was the only source of power for women. Basically, if you weren't able to be a wife and mother, society didn't care about you. But in um doing what she did, then she's exerting power. That was her way of doing that. Um was this, like, a recent article, I'm assuming. I don't recall the date. Okay. To be honest, I'm wondering the etymology of Butch for that specific. Yeah. I don't know. I think that viewpoint is far from nuanced and kind of gross, and I'm not really going to get into it. Fair enough. I don't think um her sexuality has any bearing on her evilness. Yeah. Because I can tell she's evil. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. All right. I didn't put um this in my notes, but one of the articles, I believe it was from the La Times, which um is in my sources in the show notes. But they interviewed one of her victims, and um this woman just had such a brilliant quote. It was like, the Bible tells you not to hate anyone. But if I saw Georgia Tang, she summed it up uh so well, I should have written it down. But basically, I would spit on her grave and not feel bad about it. And I was like, yes, well, okay, so now we're getting more into the meat of the situation. So between 1922 and 1924, sources differ, which was really driving me nuts. But uh somewhere in there, the early 1920s, Tan moves to Memphis, Tennessee, to take a position as executive Secretary at the Memphis branch of the Tennessee Children's Home Society. She was able to get this position because her father is a very powerful judge in Mississippi. He has connections. So even though she was fired, she was able to get that's frustrating. Yes. Okay. I'm sure they didn't say you're fired. I'm sure they, in their Southern way, were, like, removed or relocated. Relocated is probably a good word. Yeah. Looking at you. Um catholic Church. Anyway, by 19, um 29, she stages a takeover and makes herself the executive director. Right. Stages a coup in the home. Yeah. Details were not listed. There was a takeover, and she doesn't think so. That would probably be Shannon's mad at me now. She's like, no, no, we have so much to get to. I'm so sorry. I'm talkative because I'm very nervous. So 1929, she's now the head of everything. And thus begins what I have deemed her reign of terror, because. Here we go. All right, so the broad view. Georgia Tan was in the business of selling children to desperate would be parents who could afford it. Between the years of 1924 and 1950, it's estimated that over 5000 children were stolen by Tan and her network, with as many as 500 dying while in the care of the Tennessee Children's Home Society. Wow. And it's believed she made more than $1 million from taking and selling children, which is about $11 million in today's money. Holy crap. Her tactics. To give you an idea of how the heck this could happen, Tan had a network of watchers uh so nurses, doctors, social workers, police that would track usually poor children at riversides shanty towns, even just walking home from school. And she would also visit prisons and mental institutions to prey upon uh scared women, usually single mothers, out of wedlock and prey um upon their fear and their shame of being pregnant, usually in not great situations. Sometimes kids were literally snatched from yards or from the Riverside. Tan was also fond of traveling uh in fancy black cars, and she would offer rides to these kids. Most of these children had never seen a car before, never been inside one. And she's like a white lady. Also, stranger danger was probably not really. That was amazing. Yeah, thanks, serial killers. Um but over here, put it on that March. Uh but, yeah. So she would just offer to give them rides and they would be like, sure, you've seen the photo. You will see the photo listeners on the Instagram. She is a relatively intimidating person. If she told me to do something, I'd probably be like, yeah, she reads as an authoritarian figure. And also all of the people in her network are also authority figures. Right. You're not going to tell a police officer or doctor. No. Yeah. Okay. So sometimes it was literally kidnapping, snatching children from yards. Other times she would play the role of a benevolent uh helper. So if she uh had been visiting an apartment complex or was around and she would approach the family and say, oh, I noticed your baby is sick. I could take them to the hospital for a free checkup. But she would explain away any uncertain parents by saying that if they came, that there would be a large bill for the checkup services. So also keep in mind, she started in 1929. The Great Depression is upon us. So people are desperate. She's preying upon poor families that live on houseboats and in shantytowns. So those parents were likely wracked with guilt for the rest of their lives. Sure. But trust a good Samaritan, seemingly because you just want your child to be safe and healthy and you don't have the resources to do so to provide those. Yeah, that's so sad. So um whether she took the child with permission um or the children got in the car for a ride, those children never came home. So she uh and her associates were known to lie to new parents, saying that their newborn had died and that the burial had been taken care of. Meanwhile, the baby is being handed out the back door to one of Tan's associates. Sometimes mhm she would approach mothers who were still under sedation from giving birth and ask them to sign papers. They thought they were authorizing care for their newborn when in fact, they were signing away their parental rights. So both are terrible. One, you think your baby is dead uh and you haven't even gone to hold them, see them or two, when you come to, you think you still have a baby. And then you go and the hospital is like, we don't have a baby here. That's yours. Oh, my God. Like, these kids are with the Tennessee Children's Home. Uh sorry for that. Oh, my gosh. Yes. So in order to continue beyond the initial kidnapping of these children, Georgia's Hand would lie about everything. She would change their names, their ages, their birth parents backstories. Because again, going back to the idea of eugenics and good families, she would lie and say, oh, yes, this baby's mother is a beautiful, smart musician, and the father is in medical school. They just can't afford to have a baby. So then rich people are like, oh, yeah, a baby who's probably smart. She would lie about their religion. So a lot of different um societies would not adopt to people who were Jewish. So she would just Shoop, your parents are no longer Southern Baptists. You're from a, quote, good Jewish family. And she would sell those babies off to these families. They were raised Jewish. And then later on in their life, they find out they are not culturally Jewish, not genetically Jewish at all. Basically, um she would just lie about anything to make a sale. So sometimes she would keep siblings together because it was a good aesthetic. In the novel um that I mentioned at the top, she kept several of the siblings together because they were all beautiful little blonde, little package little children. But the one sister who had really dark hair and features gone. Yeah. Because that said, while the main market was for newborns, she would take children to fill her quota, uh her inventory. Yes. She uh would place ads in the newspaper for newborns with titles such as Yours for the asking. And they'd like to be your Christmas gift. Whoa. Every year there was a Christmas uh raffle. You could buy tickets, and there were 20 to 30 children to raffle a kid. But to the public, they thought these were poor, unfortunate orphans who had been given up or whose parents died. And they were thinking this was a way to help. So none of that money went to the society. Of course not. It all went into Chance pocket, of course. And then I have a couple of um examples of the newspaper uh ads I'm going to show Emma, but you all can find them on the Instagram. So here's one baby with a cute, smiling baby, and it says, Nancy, just eleven months old, needs home. Can you say no? And then here's one of the Christmas um ones. They'd like to be your Christmas gift. That's uh so sad. It was poor babies, sweet looking white children put in the um newspaper like their puppies or something. Seriously. Although animals are also not Christmas gifts. Sorry. No. Unless you're responsible and you're prepared to have an animal for all of its life, don't do that. Living things are not gifts unless they're plants sentient. Living things are not gifts. Yes. As I mentioned, Tan was not working alone. Right. She has her network. Yeah. And in order to get away with all of this, she has some co conspirators in very key positions. First one we're going to talk about is a man called Eh Boss. Nickname Krump. What a name? Krump. Like Krumpkey. Yeah. So throughout Tan's career, sometimes he was the Mayor of Memphis. Even when he wasn't the Mayor, he was the head of a very influential political machine. Okay. So he was able to deflect inquiries into her activities in exchange for kickbacks. No man the welfare of children. But you gave me some money, so we don't have to talk about it. The other key person was an individual called Judge Camille Kelly. She presided over the juvenile court in Shelby County for 30 years. And she and Tan had an associate in the welfare office. So whenever a single and or impoverished mother would apply for benefits, that person would be calling up Judge Kelly. Ring, ring. Hey. And the judge would send a deputy out to pick up the children uh and place them in Tan's care because she would claim that the children were not being cared for adequately and needed to be placed in the care of the Tennessee Children's Home Society. So awful. Yep. All of this is awful. And we're not even at the really bad stuff, are we? No. Oh, God. I think it's truly awful that anyone could do this, but I guess it's me leaning into societal stereotypes about gender. But the fact that it's another woman who is allowing this to happen and benefiting from this just as gross to me. Yes. It means gross. It's all gross. Anyway, Tennessee law stated that adoptions should be done in state for a fee of $7, which is about $75 in today's money. Okay. So Tan, however, did business with anyone who could pay her fees, which could range from $1,000 per child, which is about ten K today, up to five uh thousand dollars in any state and as far away as the UK. So earlier you mentioned, is international adoption a thing? The answer was not so much. Tan, however, made it a thing, made it a thing. And she would slap on uh extra charges for everything. So travel for clothing, home visits, escorts for the children to transport them to their new homes, lawyer fees, nickel and diming these parents who are buying a kid. Yes. Correct. And it all goes into her pocket, of course. Yes. And you're going to be I was so mad. You're going to be mad. We're all going to be mad. Sometimes she would even come back after the adoption had been completed and black male parents for more money. How? Either on the basis of late payments or she would claim that a child's birth family uh was trying to get them back. But if they paid Tan's lawyers more money, she could take care of the problem. She'd make it go away. Meanwhile, these parents, most of them don't even know where their kids have ended up. And even if they do know where they are, they can't get to them. There are, like bars on the gates of this yard. It's so sad. In the novel, at one point, some of their family friends and maybe the father, I don't recall. But they are able to find the children and she talks to them through the gate. But she has to make a plan to get it's a whole thing. But there were uh very rarely any parents who are actually threatening to sue. Also with what resources? Yeah. You live on a she's a shanty boat uh in the river. Yes. She's victimizing poor communities purely because she knows that they can't do anything about it. Yes. And she is being terrible to everybody along. The people who are losing their child, the people who are getting a child because they're being nickel didn't dined. Many of these wouldbe parents came from out of state because their age usually they were in their 40s or their 50s disqualified them from adopting in their home States. So there was an age limit. People thought they want to put a baby in with a young, healthy family so that you don't want to adopt someone in their 60s who might die, and then the child is lost again. Okay. Things are different now with modern medicine because it's like the 30s, but like. Exactly. Okay. Precisely. So she did a lot of business in New York and uh California, specifically with performers and uh politicians. Here are some notable names of people who adopted from Georgia Tan. You have performers Dick Powell and June Allison, Smiley Burnett and New York Governor Herbert Layman. In 1947, Joan Crawford adopted twins Cathy and Cindy. I knew that I was just doing, like the weird Wikipedia thing. Yeah. A little photo also on the Instagram. Oh, goodness, they're very cute. Um but again, like twins. She got them together. Tan did. All right. And now I'm just going to renew the content warning for child abuse and other terrible things. Maybe we could put a time stamp in um the show notes of when we kind of end this section. So the main receiving home of the Tennessee Children's Home uh Society was a beautiful home. Oh, that is really pretty, but just full of lies and horror. Great. So children who were deemed defective or ugly, what made you defective? If you had some sort of congenital disorder or an obvious physical melody or something was up, um which I take them anyway. Exactly. But, yeah, I take them anyway. If it's not, perhaps there were some people who legitimately surrendered children of their own accord. I would assume if this is an orphanage, that there has to be some legitimate child abandonment policy. But like, yeah, boy, I was only focusing on the terrible things. I didn't look into the legitimate aspect of this, but children who were um deemed defective or ugly would be neglected uh and in some cases, left to die, just not fed um or taken care of. Just like left in the sun. Left in the sun. That's what it said in the art. It's a raisin. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. Just to let you sit in that for a second. I'm going to sit here. I apologize. My brain is on high alert. I'm trying to make it out of this as much as I can. All right. So some of the children who passed away were buried in the backyard of the main house, but many are unknown where their final resting uh places. Tan favored cremation because it left no evidence. That's so awful. Right. She's thinking through this stuff, and I think that's what makes me hate it. Oh, it's terrible. Yes. I mean, I hate it anyway. It's calculated. It's cold. It's a business venture. Yeah. There uh was a Memorial um erected in 2015 in one of the cemeteries in um Memphis to honor those whose final resting places are unknown. And I'm just going to read you a little excerpt from the inscription on that Memorial in memory of all the hundreds who died under the cold, hard hand of the Tennessee Children's Home Society. Their final resting place unknown. Their final piece a blessing. And the picture was um really sweet. There were little children's toys on one of the little ledges. Yeah. Uh um So in 1945, between 40 and 50 children died due to an untreated Dysentery outbreak. Just really unfortunate. Don't have more details on that, but just proof that Tan did not care about the individuals that were under her care. It was all about merchandise and moving the merchandise. That seems like that follows the tracks with what we are learning. Yeah. Sexual abuse was also. No, I was so afraid of this. So sexual abuse was also rampant, both from Tan herself and from hired staff, particularly male drug addicts and pedophiles that were hired to supervise the children. So she would just hire whoever she could pay to be like, yeah, go ahead. Babies and toddlers were drugged to keep them quiet and drubic until the finalization of the sale. Because who wants to adopt like a red faced, screaming baby? A normal kid. Yeah. All babies cry. Yeah. So what would happen um is that the children uh would be bathed and dressed nicely for viewing parties with potential parents. So uh sometimes they were held at the receiving home, sometimes they would be taken elsewhere in the big black cars that Tan liked to drive to present this um picture that everything's great. Everything's wonderful. They're well taken care of. But when they were not in those viewing parties, they were very uh much left to their own devices. Children had to care for other children younger than them and would be punished for doing a poor job. Um doing a poor job. How. How could they possibly do any worse than this woman? What is she expecting from them? Oh, good luck. Hope you feed them like that's. The minimum. Sorry. Yes. So also, I didn't read this in specific articles, but in the novel, there's the impression that Tan is very much handling the business side of things. She doesn't get involved with the day to day, so she's not in the home yelling at children and feeding them and doing that. She has staff that she just acquires them, drops them off, and then works with the numbers. Yeah. All right, we're moving on to some more positivity. Oh, the uh downfall. The downfall of Georgia. Thank goodness. So in 1948, Tennessee. That's a long time. I'm so sorry. She's mad at me. She just wants to get this over with. I'm not letting her. I appreciate your emotions, your exclamations. Sorry. It's not so much discourse this episode, just emotions. Yeah. So in 1948, Tennessee elects a new governor, Gordon Browning. He actually was the governor way back in the day, in the teens. He gets elected again in 1948. So Bot Crump, if you remember him, uh and his political prophecy. Yes. No. Good. Sorry. Cromp and his political machine lose power. So that helps because there are fewer people protecting um Tan. Governor Browning appoints a special investigator to look into Tan and her adoption practices. Yes. Thank you. Yes. Okay. Never mind. No, it's good, but it's not going to be as satisfying as you want it to be. It's going to be incredibly frustrating. Um okay. Which is proof that this is real life and not something fictional, because if this were a historical novel or a movie, it would have wrapped up much more satisfactorily. Okay. On September 12, Governor Browning holds a Press conference bringing Tan's profiteering practices to light. So that's good. Okay. People are now learning about this. However, even so, most of the accusations focus on pocketing money from a state funded enterprise rather than on kidnapping or abuse and murder. Yeah. Of children. Yeah. They're more concerned with the stealing of money than the stealing of children. Yes. I don't know. You weren't there. I wasn't there. I didn't read the report. But perhaps it's a case of it's easier to prove. Like Al Capone. Yes. We got you on text um on technicalities kind of thing. And this is where it is really just not satisfying. Three days after this press conference, Georgia Tan dies. No. Due to untreated uterine cancer. Oh, that's sad. But also like, oh, golly, I mean, yeah, I was going to say kind of karmically relevant. And here's the kicker. There are so many kickers. She left no money to children's causes or to the Tennessee Children's Home Society. And how much money did she have? A lot. $1 million at the very least in that day's. Money. So 11 million today. Okay. So all of her money went to her adopted, quote, unquote children? I potentially would assume so, yeah. And then the home was closed two months later. So the end of 1950. Thankful. Yes. And so what happened to those kids? Well, that's why it was two months. They had to take time to find safe homes for all of those children. Because you can't just shut the doors of an orphanage. I would hope not. No. And then the dissatisfaction continues. Her accomplice, Judge Kelly, was permitted to resign in November of that year and face no prosecution. Basically, they were like, just go ahead, step down and we won't do nothing. Yes. Thanks to the lingering support of Crump's political machine. And then she dies of a stroke five uh years later. Who Judge Kelly? Oh, I didn't know it was a woman. Yeah, Camille Kelly. Oh, I remember first name. I did all uh the time about gender and how it felt terrible. I thought that you meant that was like the Secretary who was doing that of, like, found the person. Here you go, Judge. Okay. Interesting. But also like. Yeah, now I agree even more with that. Boss. Prompt dies in. The former Mayor never faced any consequences. And there's a street in Memphis named after him. So basically, they said, okay, well, she's dead. We can't do anything about it. All right. So in 1951, the special investigator, Robert Taylor, submits his formal report about Georgia Tan and the Tennessee Children's Home Society. And this leads the state of Tennessee to seal all adoption records. Okay. And this is where I just am so frustrated because it feels like that's so unhelpful. The hits just keep coming that these victims who have faced um horrors from the time they're very young are then hit with more things. So adoptees have to pay a $150 processing fee to access their records, records that are probably not even accurate. Because of Tan's tactics, many adoptive parents were afraid to look into their children's origins. Like, was my kids stolen or was this a legitimate process because they were afraid that then their children would be uh taken away from them. That's such a hard place to be. So this led to a lot of families, some of them not even acknowledging that their children were adopted or not telling them till much later. Um some of these families, some of these cases, the adoptive parents have since passed away. And the children are left wondering how much of what I was told about my adoption history is true. Some of those kids might not actually even know if they were adopted if they weren't told. In the 1990s, a historian named Marian Glad founds an adoption nonprofit called Right to Know that helps these adoptees access their records and try and figure out more about their past. That sounds awesome. Yes. And lots of families have been reunited and or connected with distant relatives through the increased popularity of DNA tests like Ancestry.com. All that good stuff. Not just catching a murderer, you're also finding someone's family. Yes. You're like, wait, why do I have distant cousins in Kentucky who knew? So the legacy of Georgia Tan and her practices in a positive light. She really did normalize the practice of adoption when it was previously seen as weird or shameful. Kind of kept in the shadows, kept in small communities during her time at the Children's Home Society. Relevant, yes. But publicly being the benefactor of this very successful children's organization, she had key political figures reaching out to her. Eleanor Roosevelt, for example. But now I'm questioning myself because I forgot to put it in my notes, that face. But yeah. So she was seen as the kind um of the spokeswoman for adoption. That's terrifying, right? Because behind the scenes, it was all gentle. But it is um positive that at that time and even now, today, adoption is much more accepted. It's seen as normal. So that's good. The negative is that she also normalized the secrecy of adoption, closed adoption, which has now been institutionalized at state level in many places. That makes it more challenging for individuals who have been adopted and maybe would like to know more about their history, either health wise or family wise. So that's not um great. And then now I'm going to share some notable media that's related to this. So George Attan and her terrible practices were exposed in 1989 on season two, episode twelve of Unsolved Mysteries. Woohoo. And actually from this episode, they had lots of individuals and families writing in with their own stories because they were watching these and being like, wait a second, this is my story, both from the adoptee standpoint and the birth parents of Weight. Uh a woman came in a black car and told me my child was going to the hospital or like, I woke up from Sedation and they told me my baby was dead. And so they had people writing in. And this actually led to several family reunions through this show. Nice. Which I just love because it's uh 89. Right. So the Internet isn't really prevalent at all. The fact and so many of these articles um shared, like, so and So wasn't a regular viewer of the show. She was just flipping through the channels and happened to find this. I mean, it's all good journalism. It's good storytelling, but it's just really awesome. So in 1993, there was a TV movie called Stolen Babies starring right to the point. Starring Mary Tyler Moore as Georgia Tam. Aw, yes. That was going to be my note. Just right to the point. Uh we're not covering it up. It's Strolling Baby, it's Stolen Babies, and it's Mary Tyler Moore of the 60s bubbly personality that um seems very counter, but I guess expand your 90s were weird. Yeah. In 2007, there was a nonfiction book released by Barbara Bizantz Raymond called it's, like the longest subtitle in the world. Oh, my gosh, the Baby Thief, the Untold Story of Georgia Tan, the baby seller who corrupted adoption, which actually I would be very interested to read. I did my research two days ago, so I um didn't have time to read a whole book. That's fine. But if anyone is interested in this case, in this history, that seems like a great resource. You can start with you read a whole book that introduced you to this topic. This is true. Yes. So then in 2013, um Investigation Discovery series Deadly Women had an episode on Georgia Tan. Great series. And that's actually what inspired Lisa Wingate's initial research binge into this topic. And that led to her novel Before We Were Yours in 2017. And the book itself follows fictional families. But I think it does a wonderful job sharing the emotional and challenging experiences of both the stolen children and their unknown descendants. Just cause it flips back and forth between a timeline. One is set during Georgia Tan's time with a child and her siblings um that have been taken, and then another one is more modern day. And this young woman discovers that her family history may not be what she thinks it is, and it connects the dots, it goes back and forth. But that can be very challenging, um too, I imagine, to think you have an idea of, oh, this is my mother. This is my mother. My mother's mother. Oh, that's my grandfather. But she had a first husband. Whatever. Yeah. You think you know what you know, and then you find out that you don't. And in the case of very powerful um families, you have to question, did my great grandparents buy a stolen baby? It's a whole thing. Yeah. So highly recommend the novel. I did the audio book, which is also very good because they have two narrators or one narrator who's very good at two different voices. And then before and after uh is a nonfiction follow up that follows the real stories of Tan's victims and their families as they gather for a reunion. Okay, so Lisa Wingate and another author, Christie is the last name. Um they wrote that. So they were interviewing these families. It's more just real life accounts, which I think is very interesting. I would definitely read the novel first and then the nonfiction follow up, but that's just me. But highly recommend for anyone who is interested in learning more about this. Also, professional Moment Bookseller Corner If you are planning to order books from your local uh bookstore this holiday season, please do order sooner rather than later. Covid-19 has caused a lot of printing delays, and they're going to be prioritizing new releases and bestsellers. So if there's like a weird backlist paperback book from 2013 that you want to get your mom for Christmas, order it now, because if you order it in December, it probably won't get to you and you small businesses in your community because they're struggling. Hardcore. Correct. All right. Well, that's kind of it for me. I have one final kind of wrap up note, but I'd love to check in with you. How are you doing? That was so much obviously, this podcast is about unknown things. And the most unknown thing um that I can think of right now is, like, how many lives this has affected is completely incalculable because it's the desperate parents, probably of these kids who were thinking, this person will take care of my child, whether or not they were given up freely, as, like, I can't take care of them or they were signed off or anything like that, or the poor people who don't, like, never knew what happened to their kids. That kind of desperation I can't even fathom. And then this woman goes around and is like, yeah, I do great things. Turns out she's an awful human being. And these poor children are having to not only take care of themselves, but take care of each other to make sure that they're not abused. And oh, my gosh, this makes me want to adopt children more than I already do. Louis and I have already planned, like, eventually in our lives we would like at least to adopt one child to make sure that they can have a wonderful and good life and we can enjoy another human being on this planet. But I cannot fathom the feeling of losing a kid. Not to just, like, potential death, like to lose them and know, okay, they're gone, but to lose them and not know where they are. Missing people are. That's terrifying to me. Get ready for next week, because that's a missing person's case. You're welcome. Me? Well, I think that ties in beautifully to my next point, which is, as we previously mentioned, this episode will be coming out after the US presidential election on November 3. But there's still a massive amount of work to be done to protect children in this country, and particularly at our borders. Amen families are being separated. Children are being kept in dirty and dangerous conditions. Even when they're sick, children are dying. And then there are children that we don't know where they are. There are children that are missing. And it's up to those of us with a voice um that have privilege to speak out for those who can't. So I have a little quick list from the Women's Refugee Commission of things that you can do to help migrant families and children so you can learn the facts. Do your research and share those facts with those around you. Call your representatives to tell them where you, as a constituent, stand on this humanitarian issue. You can donate goods to private migrant shelters because most government centers can't or won't accept them. So if you are close to the border, you can donate in person. If not, um you can research potentially mailing supplies to private shelters. You can support migrant families in your community, whether it's through child care, through financial assistance, any way that you can support them and help them acclimate um to your community. You can apply to be a foster parent or a family. Offering migrant individuals and families a safe space can help facilitate an eventual reunion. Obviously, we do not want any child to be separated from their parents, but in the case of our current administration, this has been happening more often than not. And having more foster families um available to take in children helps keep them out of detention centers and um hopefully could lead to them being reunited with their parents further down the line. And of course, if you are in a position to do so, please consider donating to organizations such as the Women's Refugee Commission. Again, using our privilege um and using our power to help those who are in less fortunate positions is really all we can do. We should be doing yeah. So, yeah, that's the end of my presentation for today. I'm sorry. It was a bummer. I hope that you have someone that you can go hug or a dog you can pet, or a YouTube video you can watch, something to lighten your mood. As always, you can find photos um from today's episode on our Instagram at this podcast doesn't exist. Uh no apostrophe. Because that's how handles work. And if you would like to send us an email either. If you're an adopted kid, I guess from this horrible woman and you have a story, I can't imagine why you're listening to uh us. You probably have many more things going on in your life. Uh but if you would like to send us an email for any reason whatsoever, you can email us at this podcast doesn't um firstname.lastname@example.org. No apostrophe. And if you would like to play bingo to make this episode a little lighter, hopefully you already knew that. And you don't have to go back and listen to this episode or you can remember it, you can find the bingo card. It generates a new order uh every time you click on it on our link tree, um which is in the bio of our Instagram. It's fun. One of uh my friends, Jordan, has been listening to our podcast uh and has been playing it and was very disappointed when the first episode got her no bingo. She was so upset because she was like there was so much there and I knew I had it. I knew I always had it and it was the last one that she couldn't get. I was very upset. It was just the way that the bingo card was generated. So it's fun. Apparently, Shannon plays it every week. I do. I play it while I listen to our own podcast. I don't play it because I edit these podcasts and so I don't necessarily listen to our podcast I'm sick of our voices by the end of the process I'm not sick of your voice. I am sick of my own voice. My own voice is very jarring to me. Isn't that just the way it goes? I guess if you are not sick of either of our voices please consider subscribing so you don't miss an episode and if you really love us in the podcast if you could rate and review that would be amazing. It would make us happy. Yes please. And since I am awful at self promotion don't worry, I will still be not doing great on my own social media but you can find all of our little updates on our Instagram so we'll be alive and kick in there. Yes and now after the longest out show ever remember this podcast.
Insider / Erika Celeste: https://www.insider.com/georgia-tann-tennessee-children-home-society-survivors-speak-out-2019-12
Newton County, Mississippi Historical and Genealogical Society / Lois Cooper: https://www.nchgs.org/html/a_story_of_stolen_babies.html
New York Post / Nick Poppy: https://nypost.com/2017/06/17/this-woman-stole-children-from-the-poor-to-give-to-the-rich/
Los Angeles Times / Beverly Beyette: https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-08-20-vw-882-story.html
The Baby Thief by Barbara Bisantz Raymond: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781402758638
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780425284704
Before and After by Judy Christie and Lisa Wingate: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780593130148
Women’s Refugee Commission: “Here’s How You Can Help Migrant Children” - https://www.womensrefugeecommission.org/how-you-can-help-migrant-children/