Rebecca Wellington with Sara Easterly — 'Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption'

Wellington’s timely and deeply researched account amplifies previously marginalized voices and exposes the social and racial biases embedded in the United States’ adoption industry.


Third Place Books is delighted to welcome Rebecca Wellington to our Ravenna store! Wellington will discuss her new book, Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption, and will be joined by Sara Easterly. This event is free and open to the public.

For important updates, registration is highly recommended in advance. This event will include a public signing and time for audience Q&A. Sustain our author series by purchasing a copy of the featured book!

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About Who Is a Worthy Mother?. . .

Nearly every person in the United States is affected by adoption. Adoption practices are woven into the fabric of American society and reflect how our nation values human beings, particularly mothers. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, the renewed debate over women’s reproductive rights places an even greater emphasis on adoption. As a mother, historian, and adoptee, Rebecca C. Wellington is uniquely qualified to uncover the policies and practices of adoption. Wellington’s timely—and deeply researched—account amplifies previously marginalized voices and exposes the social and racial biases embedded in the United States’ adoption industry.

The history of adoption is rarely told from an adoptee’s perspective. Wellington remedies this gap by framing the chronicle of adoption in America using her own life story. She describes growing up in a family with which she had no biological connection, giving birth to her own biological children, and then enduring the death of her sister, who was also adopted. As she reckons with the pain and unanswered questions of her own experience, she explores broader issues surrounding adoption in the United States, including changing legal policies, sterilization and compulsory relinquishment programs, forced assimilation of babies of color and Indigenous babies adopted into white families, and other liabilities affecting women, mothers, and children.

According to Wellington, US adoption practices in America are shrouded in secrecy, for they frequently cast shame on unmarried women, women struggling with fertility, and “illegitimate” babies and children. As the United States once again finds itself embroiled in heated disputes over women’s bodily autonomy—disputes in which adoption plays a central role—Wellington’s book offers a unique and much-needed frame of reference.
 

Praise for Who Is a Worthy Mother?. . .

“Rebecca Wellington carefully explores the history of ranking mothers by race, socioeconomic status, and made-up norms about who is fit to mother. Who Is a Worthy Mother? is a must-read for social workers and prospective adoptive parents.”
—Nefertiti Austin, author of Motherhood So White: A Memoir of Race, Gender, and Parenting in America

"Wellington interweaves deep scholarship and wrenching memoir to produce a history of adoption that reveals brutal government practices, demeaning societal norms, and unintended outcomes for all of us. My naive eyes, mind, and heart were opened by Who Is a Worthy Mother?—essential reading for all whose work, stories, aspirations, friends, or family are connected to adoption.”
—Dolly Chugh, author of A More Just Future: Psychological Tools for Reckoning with Our Past and Driving Social Change

“Through her well-researched, historical scholarship of—among other topics she discusses—governmental policies designed to bring an end to Native American cultures and peoples, Wellington’s memoir-history challenges America’s belief that the only good mother is a white mother. An important read.”
—Susan Harness, author of Bitterroot: A Salish Memoir of Transracial Adoption

“Artfully weaving memoir and history, Wellington speaks to broad questions of how privilege, race, protection, and worth shape our most intimate decisions about parenthood and family. This is a thoughtful examination, skillfully delivered, that brings the reader on a journey from personal reflection to sociopolitical analysis—a necessary journey for our time.”
—Gretchen Sisson, author of Relinquished: The Politics of Adoption and the Privilege of American Motherhood


Rebecca Wellington has taught high school social studies, as well as undergraduate courses and graduate level courses in education history and curriculum and instruction. Her higher-education teaching adventures have taken her to universities across Western Washington, including University of Washington, Seattle University and the University of Puget Sound. She holds a doctorate in Education History from the University of Washington, where she taught in the undergraduate program of the College of Education. Rebecca's career in education started on the ocean, sailing around the world on a traditionally rigged tall ship. Through this two-year global circumnavigation Rebecca trained for a US Coast Guard captain's license and went on to work in non-profit outdoor education, teaching kids to sail on the Charles River in Boston and later on the Puget Sound of Washington State. Rebecca's scholarly articles have been published in the History of Education Quarterly, the American Indian Quarterly and the Pacific Northwest Quarterly. Rebecca was driven to write a history of adoption in the United States from the perspective of an adoptee and to honor the memory of her older sister and truth of brave women everywhere. Rebecca's proudest accomplishment is mothering her two daughters, Maria and Victoria. She and her husband and daughters live in Seattle, Washington on the traditional homelands of the Duwamish people.

Sara Easterly is an award-winning author of books and essays. Her spiritual memoir, Searching for Mom, won a 2020 Illumination Book Award gold medal, among many others. Sara's adoption-focused articles and essays have been published by Psychology Today, Dear Adoption, Feminine Collective, Godspace, Her View from Home, and Severance Magazine, to name a few. Sara is the founder of Adoptee Voices and resides outside of Seattle with her husband, two daughters, and a menagerie of rescued fur-babies. 


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