Is it in the interest of the state, the family, or the child
to remove it from its own mother’s custody
if her only crime is nonconformity?
Whose interests are being served?
Since a mother loses her rights not by mothering poorly
but by violating patriarchal rules for women,
then ‘parent’s rights’ are but a subterfuge for men’s rights,
such as they are. ~ Phyllis Chesler, 1986 from The Baby Scoop Era

My father’s mother was unwed.  She gave birth to him in a Salvation Army home in Ocean Beach, California in 1935.  They released them, still together, after 6 weeks.  But unable to make a go of it without any familial support, they agreed to hire her and moved them still together to El Paso, Texas.  There, she was eventually convinced to give him up for adoption for his own welfare.

When I got lucky and discovered who his paternal father was, I was shocked when his step-granddaughter, branded my grandmother “a Scarlet”.  He was a married man, married to an old woman almost 30 years his senior.  He was a Danish immigrant not yet naturalized (though he would become a citizen in due time).

I was a bit angry about her assertion.  I doubt my grandmother knew he was married at the time she was first seeing him but he certainly did.  And as the self-reliant woman she was, she handled it the best she could.

Branded A Scarlet


When I was a schoolgirl, we were made to read The Scarlet Letter.  Now as a grown woman, I wonder about that.  Who’s idea was it that young girls should read literature of that sort and what was the intention in making us do so?

Imagine my surprise, when upon discovering the granddaughter of the second wife of my grandfather, she writes to me –

“Another thing about your grandmother as heartbreaking as it was a women having children outside of marriage was considered a total disgrace usually  branded a scarlet and forced to relocate and start their life anew, which explains your Dad’s adoption and I feel pretty certain abortion back then was not a common practice.”

My dad’s mother was unwed.  My dad’s father was much older and married to a woman way much older (27 years older) than he was.  It isn’t a wonder to me that he was unfaithful and found a vulnerable young woman to attract the romantic attentions of.

I’m pretty certain that my grandmother didn’t know he was married when she started seeing him.  I’m also pretty certain that she did know he was married by the time she discovered she was pregnant.  Because her childhood was difficult, she learned at an early age to be self-reliant.  She took herself to a home for unwed mothers run by the Salvation Army.

My dad was with her until about eight months of age.  She was still breastfeeding him when the Salvation Army who had taken legal custody of him, adopted him out.

What is amazing to me is that this step-cousin was still blaming the woman for her grandfather’s lust.