Student kidnaps hotel worker, takes her on bizarre ride: Though her tale is fictional, it stems from the true, terrible events of the Tennessee tragedy. Tann and her associates would tear apart one family to benefit another, creating wounds not easily healed. The loss would linger, like a phantom limb, for generations. And they have genetic tendencies and. She was born in in Hickory, Miss. Movie stars including Joan Crawford left and June Allyson adopted kids from the society.
Forced to study music, she taught for a time before finding a job in the nascent field of social work in She began placing poor children in adoptive homes, without the consent of both birth parents. But Tann was not careful with her work, nor with covering up her trail, and at least one birth parent sued for return of her children. It seemed Mississippi was not the right market for a baby-resale business.
Soon after, she launched her adoption racket. To drum up business, Tann placed advertisements aimed at potential adoptive parents in newspapers. Tann presented herself as a kindly matron and pioneer of a new kind of social work — all the while destroying lives and families. Tann was abetted by the famously corrupt political machine in Memphis, headed by E.
Crump, also a transplanted Mississippian, was the sometime mayor and leader of politics in the city for much of the first half of the 20th century. He developed a cozy patronage relationship with Tann — she paid him off and brought the fame of her society to Memphis. Like Tann, Kelley pretended to act in the best interests of children. With the stroke of a pen, Kelley would remove parental rights and transfer them to Tann, clearing a path for adoption. Tann was essentially waging class war.
She held to the belief that there were two kinds of people: She fattened her own coffers in the process. Most of that fee was pocketed by Tann, who was given to traveling in chauffeured Packards. Lana Turner, Pearl S. Buck and New York Gov. Herbert Lehman were also clients. But, in many cases, Tann had these people over a barrel — they were complicit in her operation and feared losing their children. Whispers and accusations went nowhere.
In the mids, Tann was diagnosed with uterine cancer and could sense that her adoption racket was beginning to unravel. Gordon Browning, a Crump enemy, was elected governor in Even then, the brunt of the accusations against Tann had to do with her pocketing money from a state-funded enterprise, rather than kidnapping.
Georgia Tann was 59 years old when she died at home of cancer. She never had to face the music for her terrible crimes. The home was closed two months later. But though Tann had placed children in every state, few attempts were made at the time to connect birth parents with their children.
Protected by the Crump machine, she, too, avoided prosecution and died in from a stroke. Boss Crump preceded Kelley in death by a year. Memphis drivers honor the former mayor by taking Crump Boulevard across town from Route 55 to Route Ironically, an accidental benefit of her work was popularizing adoption for parents unable to conceive.
Before Tann, adoption in the United States was uncommon, but after she became known, the stigma over the practice was largely lifted. At the same time, a damaging legal procedure was put in place: Tann championed the practice of closed, secretive adoptions. Adoption records were sealed, and adopted children were barred from learning the identities of their birth parents.
This legislation is still in place in many states. Tellingly, Tennessee was the first state to lift these laws, in Thousands of families were torn apart; parents never saw their children again and siblings were permanently separated.