Friday, March 30, 2012

Sweet Saturday Sample - March 31

Our Sweet Saturday Sample for today is a little more serious than some we’ve posted in the past.

We sometimes wonder if women really remember how things were back in the 1960s. During that time, birth control pills were just becoming widely available for married women. In 1964 eight states still prohibited the sale of contraceptives, and laws in Massachusetts and Connecticut still prevented the dissemination of information about birth control.

Abortion was illegal in the United States until January 22, 1973, when Roe vs. Wade gave women a safe and legal choice. Up until that time the majority of abortions were performed by unqualified practitioners in back rooms using things like coat hangers instead of sterilized surgical instruments. This resulted in the untimely deaths of many young women.

Single motherhood was socially unacceptable among the majority of the middle class. Therefore, keeping a baby and raising it as a single mother was simply not done in most cases. It would stigmatize the child who was illegitimate and the mother who was the one committing the sin of sex without the benefit of marriage.

Regardless of your beliefs as to the rights or wrongs of these options, this was the reality in which June (from I.O.U. Sex) had to make decisions about her pregnancy in 1966.

June sat at her Aunt Betty's kitchen table, tears streaming down her cheeks, as she told about her pregnancy. "I just feel so stupid."
Betty patted her niece's hand and listened, not speaking until June had finished. Her first words gave June hope. "I'm glad you came to me, honey. I'll do anything I can to help."
Over hot chocolate and with a box of tissues nearby, the two women discussed June's situation. Throughout her teenaged years, June had heard whispers about girls who were "in a family way." The solution to their dilemma was either a hurried marriage or banishment until after the child had been delivered and given up for adoption. It was hard for her to believe she faced the same bleak choices. The thought of entering a home for unwed mothers depressed June. The only other option, a backstreet abortion, terrified and repulsed her.
Right away, June admitted she was not ready to raise a child, especially as a single woman without the support of a husband or her parents. "Mom and Dad would never forgive me," she said. "I would be miserable and so would the child. I can't bear to tell them I'm pregnant." Just the thought of having that conversation filled June with dread and fear.

Judgment of an unwed mother during this time in history was harsh indeed. “Dread and fear” are exactly what young women like June must have experienced in the 1960s. What did June decide? Next week we’ll talk about June’s eventual choice.

If you’d like more information about the history of  The Pill and about the legalization of abortion in the United States, the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) has aired documentaries on these subjects.
You'll find more delicious novel excerpts here: Sweet Saturday Samples

Our sources:


  1. I'm on pins and needles to hear June's choice. Yes, you are so right. The 1960's was not a kind time for young women who had sex and risked pregnancy. Thank God that has changed.

  2. Your assessment of the way young women were treated is right on the money. Great excerpt too.

  3. Love your excerpt and I'm right there with her! You've definitely hooked us!

  4. My heart goes out to June. Your excerpt bleeds with emotions that it's impossible to read it without feeling something for her.

  5. I remember those days and hope enough women will rise up and prevent us from going back there!

  6. Poor girl, it was a terrible time to be a single mother.

  7. My heart goes out to her. I can't imagine the choice she faces. I wasn't around during the 60s, so it's really interesting to read your whole post and see how things were. *Very* different from my own teenage years, for sure.

  8. I feel horrible for June and am so thankful I was born in 1979 and never had to know a time like that (though I do feel like the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction). I read Ann Fessler's 'The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade' when it came out about 5 years ago, and couldn't believe that was still going on as recently as the early Seventies.

  9. Thanks for all your comments. We feel like I.O.U. Sex is a funny book, but there are some messages in it too. We're glad you didn't mind a little bit of seriousness for a change.

  10. I remember girls "disappearing" from school for a semester and the whispers about them when they came back. It was a scary time to be pregnant and unmarried. But I agree with Carrie-Anne - the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction! Great sample.

  11. The poor girl. I'm so sorry for her. I hope things work out for her. I'm so curious where the child is now!

  12. I was born in the sixties, but was too young to realize what women faced with an unplanned pregancy. Interesting topic.


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