Resources on Illegitimacy and Discrimination Against Illegitimate Children and Bastards*:
British Broadcasting Company. Messiah at the Foundling Hospital. September 2014.
This documentary explores the masterpiece by George Frederich Handel, The Messiah. One of the first concerts of this celebrated choral work was the first-ever celebrity fund-raiser, used to raise money for abandoned and bastard babies cared for at London’s Foundling Hospital, forever linking one of the greatest sacred choral music scores with illegitimate bastard infants scorned by society. The brutal treatment of illegitimacy toward mothers and their infants is highlighted in painful detail.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Report to Congress on Out-of-Wedlock Child Bearing. Hyattsville, Maryland: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1995.
The CDC’s study is the most thorough record documenting the rise in out-of-birth infants starting in the 1940s. Between 1940 and 1993, the ratio rose from 38 to 310 per 1,000 births, or a change of nonmarital births from 4 percent to 31 percent of all births. The CDC found stigma had fallen by the late 1970s toward unmarried mothers, just as the adoption rate began to drop dramatically in the United States.
Hartley, Shirley Foster. Illegitimacy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975.
Foster Hartley’s seminal text explores the universal phenomenon of illegitimacy, showing that it is a “social fact” that all societies prefer children born through socially accepted family units. Those born out of these conventions have, globally, worse outcomes in all health and societal measurements. This book is hard to find, but critical to understanding underlying societal views that fueled the United States’ adoption system.
Laslett, Peter. “Introduction: Comparing Illegitimacy Over Time and Between Cultures.” Bastardy and Its Comparative History. Edited by Peter Laslett, Karla Oosterveen, and Richard M. Smith. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980.
This is a superb analysis of the sociology surrounding bastardy and illegitimacy, all meticulously documented in historic records in Europe and Colonial America. Adoption as a large-scale American social engineering experiment is a byproduct of deeply held societal views toward illegitimacy that are described in the historical essays published here.
Maldonado, Solangel. “Illegitimate Harm: Law, Stigma, and Discrimination Against Nonmarital Children,” Florida Law Review 63, 345 (2011). Http://scholarship.law.ufl.edu/flr/vol63/iss2/2.
Solangel’s article shows that discrimination and stigma associated with illegitimacy is still clearly documented in contemporary US society: “Societal biases against nonmarital children also remain. A majority of Americans believe that the increase in nonmarital births is a significant societal problem and almost 50 percent believe that unmarried women should not have children.”
Walker, George. The Traffic In Babies: An Analysis of the Conditions Discovered During an Investigation Conducted In the Year 1914. Baltimore: The Norman, Remington Co., 1918.
Walker’s study is a seminal work in public health and muckracking investigative journalism, exposing the mass sale and murder of illegitimately born infants in Baltimore, all managed and condoned by health providers who viewed bastard infants as unworthy of basic health care.
*I use the word “bastard” because scholarship in the field of bastardy is accepted as a legitimate discipline in history, sociology, and pubic health research. As an adoptee, I embrace the identity being a bastard, and own it proudly. My book explores this issue at length.