A Mother, a Child, and the Shadow History of Adoption
By Gabrielle Glaser
Much has been written recently about what went wrong in the adoption world between 1950 and 1975, a period known as the “Baby Scoop Era” when the number of domestic adoptions exploded to, by some estimates, nearly four million. One agency receiving particular scrutiny in the post-mortem is Louise Wise Services, a now-defunct entity that promised to match “blue-ribbon” Jewish babies with “good” Jewish homes in the aftermath of the Holocaust. The 2018 documentary “Three Identical Strangers,” about triplets deliberately separated as part of that agency’s nature-versus-nurture “research,” is the most visible example of the growing realization that old-style adoption was not always what it seemed.
“American Baby: A Mother, a Child, and the Shadow History of Adoption,” by the veteran journalist Gabrielle Glaser, is the latest addition to this body of work, and the most comprehensive and damning one. Like “Three Identical Strangers,” Glaser tells a singular story to illuminate a universal truth. There are no one-in-a-million triplets here, just a teenage girl and a baby, who could be any young mother, any infant son. In fact, Glaser argues, Margaret Erle Katz and her son David Rosenberg are every sealed, secretive adoption, and in their intimate tale are the seeds of today’s adoption practices and parenting norms, as our past continually redefines our present.