Monday, January 22, 2018

The Child Thief - Georgia Tann



Headquarters of Tennessee Children's Home where adoptions took place


By Marilyn Turk   *Drawing for free book*


For thirty years, large-scale child abduction was carried out in Memphis, Tennessee, thanks to a woman named Georgia Tann and her political connections who benefitted from her child-selling business.

Hiding behind the pretense that she was rescuing poor, neglected children, Georgia Tann was lauded for her innovative social work. Only her accomplices and the people who had their children taken away from them knew the truth. But for almost thirty years, Tann became wealthy by stealing over 5000 children and selling them to adoptive families at exorbitant fees.

Georgia Tann told the public she was giving the children a chance for a better life, for education and opportunities they never would have received at the hands of their natural parents. But these kids were stolen – from hospital nurseries, as they walked home from school or even as they sat on their own front porches. Often a birth mother was told her child had died at birth, never knowing the child had been given to Tann.

Those parents who discovered their child had been taken by Tann had no recourse to get them back. Tann told them the children had become the property of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, and most of these were too poor to pursue Tann in court. Those who tried ran into another roadblock – Judge Camille Kelley, who was a friend of Tann’s and probably getting a cut in the profits. Kelley would take Tann’s side and sign the children over to the woman. Another one of Tann’s friends was the corrupt Memphis politician, E.H. “Boss” Crump, whose pockets she lined.






Tann’s favorite “products” to sell were blonde, blue-eyed children. She purchased newspaper ads displaying photos of these children, advertising them for adoption as though they were puppies or kittens.


The adoptions were closed and secretive, preventing adopted children from ever learning the identities of their birth parents. New documents were created changing the children’s names, and other information about the child and its parents was fictionalized. Tann believed children were “blank slates” who could be made into any kind of person the adoptive parents wanted to change them into.







In the state of Tennessee, the standard rate for adoption was $75, so Tann found her greatest resource selling children across state lines, especially to the wealthy in California who paid as much as $5000 per adoption. Several well-known actors and actresses adopted their children from Tann’s adoption society.

It is believed that most of the adoptive parents did not know the truth about Tann’s black market of children. No doubt if they had, the operation would have been shut down long before it was. Former victims of Tann’s kidnapping have testified to the abuse and starvation of the children kept in the home. More than 500 children are thought to have died as a result, but no proof was found.

When Crump’s popularity declined, and a new governor and Crump rival was elected in 1948, Tann’s business began to unravel. The new governor got wind of the “baby racket” and ordered an investigation. However, Tann was only charged with pocketing money from state-funded associations instead of kidnapping, and she died from cancer in 1950, never having to pay penance for her crimes. Her co-conspirators died just a few years later. And most of the children taken never found out who their birth parents were.




I discovered Georgia Tann’s notoriety by reading Lisa Wingate’s best-selling novel, Before We Were Yours. Lisa’s book tells the story of several children taken from their home on a houseboat by Tann’s people.

Lisa is giving away a copy of Before We Were Yours to one of you who enters the drawing by leaving a comment (with their email address).






Marilyn Turk lives in and writes about the coast and people who lived there. Her books include Lighthouse Devotions, Rebel Light - a Civil War love story, and The Gilded Curse - a World War II romantic suspense. The sequel, Shadow of the Curse, will release July 2018. Connect with her at www.pathwayheart.com. 

82 comments:

  1. I read it about ten months ago and the plot still haunts me. Read it!

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    1. A book I couldn't put down, Stacy, and an eye-opener.

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  2. How did I never learn about this before now?! Those poor families and children! I can't imagine the corruption and abuse of power. I heard this book was amazing, I can't wait to read it.

    colorvibrant at gmail dot com

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    1. I didn't know about it either, before reading the book. Even if you don't win the book, you should read it.

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  3. I'd heard of Native American children stolen from hospitals and adopted by wealthy Jews around the same time. The Natives feared taking their sick children to the hospital. Again it was years before anyone put the pieces together and gave the Native American parents a voice. I'm very intrigued by the book. Have it on my to purchase list.

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    1. I didn't know that about Native American children! But I do know they were often taken from their homes and sent to boarding schools where they were taught to unlearn being Native American!

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    2. Jubileewriter, I need your email address if you want to be entered in the drawing.

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  4. This is horrendous!
    bcrug(at)twc(dot)com

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  5. I learned about Geogia Tann years ago someone had told me. Also it had mad news because of questions about celeberties who had adopted children were thought to have maybe adopted through her but it turned out not true. What I didn't know was how bad the kids were treated by her and her gang.

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    1. And the celebrities didn't know either. Kim, if you want to be entered in the drawing, please leave your email address.

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  6. What a horrible crime against children and their biological parents. Tears reading this. Thank you for sharing this historical information. Before We Were Yours sounds like an intense but worthwhile read. Thank you for sharing this post, Marilyn.

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  7. I have always been fascinated by this story and it wasn't a good fascination! I. can.not.imagine. how. this. happened. I've been wanting to read Lisa's book but I didn't realize that it was based on this situation. Thank you for sharing.
    Blessings!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Hi Connie, it is one of those "truth is stranger than fiction" books.

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  8. This is a fascinating book, shedding light on a horrible thing. Thank you for sharing about it on your post!
    lindajhutchins@gmail.com

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  9. How horrid! I'd never heard this story before. Today, we would call Tann's crime "human trafficking"

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    1. You're exactly right, Barbara! If you want to be entered in the drawing, please leave your email.

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  10. This is horrible. I never knew about her. I had heard about the taking of Native American children and the abuse they went through. So sad that this kind of stuff went on with the help of a crooked judge.
    lattebooksAThotmailDOTcom

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  11. Wow. I had never heard of this person. How horrible for the children and their families.
    susanmsj at msn dot com

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  12. Oh my gosh!! I can't even imagine anyone being so awful and then to totally get away with it boggles the mind! Thanks for the giveaway. I would love to read this book.
    bettimace at gmail dot com

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    1. Isn't it sad how long she got away with it?

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  13. I have heard of this evil woman before. I’ve wanted to read this book for a while. Thanks for the information and the giveaway. paulams49ATsbcglobalDOTnet.

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    1. Hi Paula. Thanks for your comment. Hope you win the drawing!

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  14. I would love to read this. It is so horrifying that it went on for so long! I hope nothing like that could happen again but I guess she was an early trafficker. jeaniedannheim (at) ymail (dot) com

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  15. Let's hope we can put an end to all traffickers!

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  16. I never knew this story until reading Lisa's book. I agree with the previous poster that this was trafficking that no one recognized. The worst part is all the police and judges that were in on this. The children really had no one to turn to at all! If I win, I will be giving this book as a gift. I think everyone should read it! julieburr14@gmail.com

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    1. Julie, thanks for your response. I totally agree with you!

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  17. This is a horrific tale! I first learned of it in the 80s or 90s after seeing two TV movies, one starring Mary Tyler Moore as Tann. Lisa's books is one of the most powerful books you'll ever read.
    This was one of the greatest and most heinous acts in history, in my opinion. I will give this book as a gift to a young woman at church who is a reader likie me if I win.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Susan. I did not see the TV movies, but now I want to. Lisa's book was one I could not put down!

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  18. This brought tears to my eyes because it is true. Heartbreaking. In the book Before We Were Yours this tragedy in our country is unveiled. Amazed at the wonderful writing who shows us such strong characters who never give up hope.. despite everything. Read today if you have not.

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    1. Thank you for your comments. I couldn't agree with you more!

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  19. I did not know there were movies about the Tann tragedy. Ty for sharing.

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    1. I found out about the movies when researching the story. Wonder if we can find them now?

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  20. Such a tragedy! Families torn apart because of a woman's greed! Our book club read this book and all members found it interesting and couldn't put it down. My heart goes out to those taken. Would they be able to do a DNA test, like on Ancestry.com, to learn of other family?

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    1. Sue, that sounds like a possibility and I'm sure there are those trying to find out. Of course, if they came from poor families, the matching DNA might not be available. I guess both parties would need to be searching for each other.

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  21. I loved the book, Before We Were Yours, and was fascinated by the whole story - a mystery I had never heard. This was not as long ago as you may think. Most of my friends were born in those years of her crimes -- that's a scary thought that makes it real indeed!

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    1. You're right,Joan. It wasn't really that long ago.

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  22. I have heard a lot of good things about this book.

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    1. And with good reason, Jill. I need your email address to enter you in the contest. Even if you don't win the contest, you should read it!

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  23. I would love to read this book—thanks for the chance to win a copy!

    skkorman AT bellsouth DOT net

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  24. Wow... Could you even IMAGINE?! Makes me think. Probably lots of things still going on like this right under our noses!
    Elly -Indiana
    jcservantslaveATicloudDOTcom

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    1. Elly, I hope not, although we know child trafficking is real.

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  25. I look forward to reading this book. Thanks for sharing the story.
    Cheri-Newark, DE

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    1. Cheri, you definitely should read it. If you want to be in the drawing though, I need your email address.

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  26. This was our book club's January selection, and it led to an interesting discussion. I hope to win it to share with a friend or to donate to our local library. The book is a page-turner, and should be read by all. I am still amazed that I'd not heard of this before I read Lisa Wingate's book.
    tprien@juno.com

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    1. It was book club's January selection too. Good luck in the drawing!

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  27. I can't imagine experiencing this horror. Thank you for chance to win Before We Were Yours.
    psalm103and138atgmaildotcom

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    1. Caryl, thanks for the comment. Good luck on the drawing!

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  28. I preordered this book and was unable to put it down until finished. A very different book from Lisa's previous books.

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    1. I agree, Gabby. Great book, but different that Lisa's other books. She's a very versatile author!

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    1. Dear Anonymous, If you'd like to be entered into the drawing, I'll need your email address. If not, you should still read the book!

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  30. This was truly horrible! How could she look at herself in the mirror everyday? I have not read Lisa’s book but I would love to. Thank you for the giveaway.

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    1. Linda, I'll enter you in the drawing if you leave me your email address.

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  31. Awful. Unimaginable but it happened. Welcome to The Whipping Club. www.deborahhenryauthor.com

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  32. This is a great but sad story
    Ms.sherri.conrad@gmail.com

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  33. OMG! I am going to have to read both books now! Sounds so sad and appalling at the same time! Rjackson7@att.net

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  34. My comment had disappeared! What a horrible person she was. I feel so bad for the children this happened to and their parents. I would love to read the book. Cnnamongirl@aol.com

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    1. Deanne, thank you for your comment. You would enjoy the book!

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  35. Such a horrible story, so sad for the children and their natural parents. mtmom57@gmail.com

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    1. Rhonda, thank you for your comment about this awful woman.

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  36. I heard this book was amazing, I can't wait to read it i love the history books of the south. gapeaches2000ATyahooDOTcom

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    1. Kristy, it's a great book. You won't be disappointed.

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  37. I would love to read this book, it sounds fascinating. Thanks for the chance. dsps1991(at) hotmail(dot) com

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    1. Doreen, I know you'll enjoy the book. Good luck in the drawing!

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  38. So sad. Have not read the book but would like to. Thank you for the chance of winning a copy. gramoncall@yahoo.com

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    1. Hi Grammy! Hope you get to read the book!

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  39. Wow! I would love to read this story although I am sure it is not a happy book! Never knew about this before.

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  40. The story sounds horrible and fastinating. I just finished reading Mail-order Kid by Marilyn J Coffey and it has a similar ring to it - children taken and given away. Psuebhoneyatgmaildotcom

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  41. Read this book for my book club will meet in 2 days, can’t wait to discuss, pallemeier@gmail.com

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  42. This is just incredibly sad that it happened. One would think it was fiction itself. I’ve held off getting this book. I’m adopted and it’s going to be a tough read. But one I want to do!

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