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April 25, 2024 46 mins

Georgia Tann was a bad human. We feel safe in saying that because she kidnapped babies from poor families to sell to wealthy ones. Listen in if you can stomach it.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Hey, everyone, do you live in Washington, DC? Are you
sitting around fretting about this upcoming election? Maybe you're even
working on one of these campaigns. Well, we've got a
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Speaker 2 (00:17):
Yeah, we guarantee zero political jokes, one hundred percent zero
political jokes if you come out and see us. We're
gonna be in Medford, mass on May twenty ninth. The
next night, we'll be in DC on May thirtieth, and
then the night after that we'll be at our old friend,
the Town Hall in Manhattan Town, NYC.

Speaker 1 (00:34):
That's right, So check out tickets. You can go to
stuff youshould Know dot com, you can go to the
theater websites themselves, avoid those secondary ticket brokers, or check
out our link tree, right, Josh.

Speaker 2 (00:44):
Yeah, link tree sysk Lot.

Speaker 1 (00:50):
Welcome to Stuff you Should Know, a production of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 2 (01:00):
Hey, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh, and there's
Chuck and Ben's here too, So this is Stuff you
should Know.

Speaker 1 (01:08):
Yeah, a big trigger warning upfront, and we may issue
even in a second one after breaks or something. This
is about a human monster. It's a story of a
human monster who did awful things to children. So don't
listen to it if that is a trigger, and don't
let your children listen to this.

Speaker 2 (01:28):
Yes, for sure, So, Chuck, I'm always on the lookout
for somebody who's grave i'd like to spit on, and
I've never found anybody before before we started researching this.

Speaker 3 (01:39):
Yeah, boy, no getting around it.

Speaker 2 (01:42):
If I ever make it out to Hickory, Mississippi, I
will definitely go out of my way to spit on
Georgia Tan's grave because she deserves it.

Speaker 1 (01:49):
Yeah, we'll get to her sort of upbringing here in
a sec but just very quickly. Georgia Tan was a
woman who worked in social work, and she made a
long and wealthy career. Got rich by kidnapping babies, falsifying

birth records, stealing kids from generally poor families, uneducated mothers,
and selling them to rich people.

Speaker 2 (02:19):
Yeah, she was hands down the wealthiest social worker to
ever live.

Speaker 3 (02:25):
Yeah, I'm having a hard time already.

Speaker 2 (02:28):
So Chuck, let's set the scene a little bit, because, like,
the idea of adoption is not that old in the
United States for a very long time. If you were orphaned,
if your parents abandoned you, whatever led you to this

position where you were no longer under the care of
a grown up, you were extraordinarily vulnerable. If you were lucky,
relatives might take you in, maybe a kindly neighbor, but
you were also very much at risk for basically becoming
somebody's indentured servant. It was like, without that whole idea

of that's what became of orphans, we wouldn't have Dickens today.

Speaker 1 (03:14):
Basically, Yeah, for sure, there were a lot of you know,
we've talked a lot about sort of the movement after
industrialization from more rural farming communities to the city. That
increased a lot of the kind of the rate of
orphans in cities because in a lot of these poorer neighborhoods,

you had outbreaks of cholera, you had yellow fever. A
lot of these urban communities were decimated, killing parents, leaving
a lot of children behind abandoned. One thing that happened
during that period was something called the orphan train. Starting
in eighteen fifty four, for about sixty five years, about
one hundred and fifty thousand orphan kids were shipped from

the northwest and cities to rural towns. But again, most
of the time it looked more like a slave trade
than like they weren't being adopted as family members. They
were being kind of auctioned off at train stations and lineups.

Speaker 2 (04:16):
Yeah, they were basically adopted as hands. I wanted to
say hired hands, but I don't think they were hired.
In some cases, they didn't even get room and board,
Like if you were fostered out, if you made it
into a foster home, you very often had to work
to repay the family for your care. Yeah, so this

was how it was for a very long time. Adoption
just it wasn't It didn't click with Americans in particular,
at least because kids that were in that situation were
viewed as like inferior, morally inferior, potentially genetically inferior. It

was a very mean time. So you didn't want those kids,
You didn't want to bring them into your family. And
it wasn't until I think about the nineteen thirties that
the idea of adoption as we understand it today, where
a couple or a family want to include a child
that's not biologically theirs into their family that's less than

a century old. That concept in the United States.

Speaker 1 (05:23):
Yeah, kind of like adoption as we know it, out
of if you were out of wedlock. It's horrific to
think of how we thought of these kids and the
women that were in that situation. Just recently, I went
to Memphis, and that's where this story takes place, is
where my mom grew up in her family. And so
we went there on a trip to kind of show

my daughter where grand grand grew up in her high
school and all that stuff. And at one point we
were driving through a neighborhood and my mom was like, Oh,
there's the old house for unwed mothers.

Speaker 3 (05:55):
And I was like, wait, I've heard that term. What
is that?

Speaker 1 (05:57):
And she was like, if you were out of wedlock,
then there's a very good chance that you were sent
to live in a house like kind of removed.

Speaker 2 (06:07):
Yeah, and you told the neighbors that you that your
daughter went off to stay with relatives, ye, to help
like a sick aunt or something like that. And then
she would come back ten months later and everybody would
move along like there was nothing, like nothing had happened.
But there would be a child out there in the
world that was no longer with her.

Speaker 1 (06:26):
Yeah, so that's the sort of stage that we set
for when Georgia Tan came into the world. I was
born in eighteen ninety one in Mississippi, raised in Hickory, Mississippi.
Was the daughter of Beulah and George Tan. Her father
was a very prominent judge. Part of his job as

a judge back then, because of the way things were,
was placing kids, finding homes for orphan kids and abandoned
kids and neglected kids. And because, like we said, adoption
wasn't such a big thing at the time. So that
was part of his job, was placing these kids, sometimes
in foster homes, sometimes with families who you know, sometimes
it was a great situation, but not always, and sometimes

just like to the state asylum.

Speaker 2 (07:15):
And also the idea of like what you think of
in like that old timey orphanage where there's like nuns
walking around like that was a real thing. Like charities
often ran homes for children orphanages. Yeah, but it wasn't
any place she wanted to be, although it was. I mean,
I suppose it was better than the alternative in a
lot of cases. But I think that you were just

so vulnerable that that's not something you could say across
the board, Like, I'm sure there are people kids who
were better off fending for themselves on the street than
in some of the homes that they were put in
or some of the orphanages that they stayed in. It
was just nobody's looking out for them.

Speaker 1 (07:52):
Yeah, for sure. So in nineteen oh six, when Georgia
was fifteen years old, this is kind of how she,
I guess, got the idea for all this. She met
a couple of orphaned kids, a five year old and
a three year old, from her father's court, and she,
a fifteen year old, talked a wealthy local couple into
adopting them. And I guess that's when the light bulb

went off where she equated like placing families with people
who had money, and instead of in a kind hearted
way giving these kids a home, it was like, I
can make some money off of this.

Speaker 2 (08:29):
Yeah, that's crazy, that's a crazy thought. But that was
basically the germ of this whole thing.

Speaker 1 (08:35):
It's a crazy instinct, you know, Yeah, but it says
a lot about her.

Speaker 2 (08:40):
I think that was very much your instinct, and I
think that's it says everything you need to know about her.
Not only did she have that thought, she ran with it. Yeah,
Initially she was going to become an attorney, and she
passed the Mississippi bar. But either her father forbade her
from following that and sent off to be schooled and

to become a concert pianist, or it was just socially,
you just didn't a woman couldn't be an attorney. I'm
not sure which one was the case, but either way,
she didn't end up being an attorney. She also didn't
end up being a concert pianist. She ended up becoming
a social worker and her first her first gig was
with Mississippi, I think the state of Mississippi, basically working

as a social worker, visiting homes and very quickly stealing
babies to sell herself, Like right out of the gate,
she basically started the scam that she would later become
famous for.

Speaker 1 (09:41):
Yeah, there was a woman named Rose Harvey, which, you know,
some sources say it was like her very first you know,
sort of field visit. Other say it was just early on.
But at any rate, she visited Rose Harvey.

Speaker 3 (09:54):
Who was young.

Speaker 1 (09:57):
I've seen that she was widowed, but I also saw
that the father of her kids was forced to sign
a false document basically stating that she was an unfit mother.

Speaker 2 (10:10):
I think it was her father. Oh, it was her father,
That's what I got from it. Yeah, but it could
also be confused that they were.

Speaker 1 (10:17):
Yeah, I thought it was Onyx's father. But either way,
I mean, it's no less reprehensible either way. But she
found Georgia Tan found Onyx, who was a two year
old boy playing at the house, basically walked in and
kidnapped this kid, just walked out, put the baby in
her car, got her father of the judge after, you know,

a member of her family signed that she was an
unfit mother and had the boy listed as an unfit
child or I'm sorry, an abandoned child.

Speaker 3 (10:47):
And that was it. Very sadly.

Speaker 1 (10:49):
Rose Harvey was even able to muster up the money
to hire an attorney. But she was ill, she had diabetes,
she was not doing well. She's very ill and just
stood no chance basically against that system.

Speaker 2 (11:01):
Yeah, and in particular, the father of Georgia Tan got
involved and was like this is not happening, Like do
not let this case go forward, Like he was a
judge in the nineteen aughts, Mississippi. Yeah, I'm pretty sure
he could make that happen. So, yeah, like you said,
she never had a chance. But either because of that

particular case or another similar case, or potentially because Georgia
tan was actually a she had a lifelong partner, another
woman who was a childhood friend, and they actually, I guess,
fell in love and spent the rest of their lives together.
That is also possibly one of the reasons why they
got out of Mississippi. But eventually, I think in the

early nineteen twenties they left Mississippi, the landed in Texas
and then ultimately ended up in Memphis a short time later.
But very bizarrely, in the interim, her partner had gotten
pregnant by a man out of wedlock and had a
son named George. So now they had a son, and
then Georgia adopted a girl named June, so they built

a little family. But when you know more about Georgia's
view on kids and adoption and how she really viewed it,
it's really strange to me that she ever did it herself.

Speaker 3 (12:19):
Yeah, for sure.

Speaker 1 (12:22):
This is another story too that also, like a lot
of times, things happen in history just because of when
they happened. She was definitely fired from her job for
doing what she did. Like she may have left also
because of her relationship, but she was fired. And it
was a time where like no one knows you can
just move a state over right, start over, and it's

not like there's really no way, Like if she didn't
list them maybe on a resume or whatever, or you know,
who knows even how it worked back then, she would
not have been able to get work elsewhere, which is
still a problem today. Yes, with that terrible story about
the fake doctor who just kept practicing in different states.

Speaker 3 (13:06):
It was a podcast. I can't remember doctor death, I think.

Speaker 1 (13:09):
But it's amazing even with technology today that that can
still happen, you know.

Speaker 2 (13:13):
Yeah. And also one of the things that I found
from researching this is that the secrecy that developed at
this time around adoption, that's still around today. We did
a short stuff on it, I think, right that still
is keeping kids in the system vulnerable to exploitation and
predation and including essentially private sales. Rehoming, I think.

Speaker 3 (13:37):
Is what they call it. Should we take a break.

Speaker 1 (13:40):
Let's take a break, all right, We'll take a break.
I'm gonna go wash our mouse out with soap. We'll
be right back, all right. So Georgia Tan makes her

way to Tennessee to the Tennessee Children's Home Society was
where her next job was. And from nineteen twenty four
to nineteen fifty, span of twenty six years, she sold,
kidnapped and sold more than five thousand kids.

Speaker 2 (14:34):
And as you said before, she made millions of dollars.
From what I saw, she made around a million dollars
in her time, which is equivalent to something like eleven
million today. And she sold these kids to some really
high profile customers. A lot of them were in New York,
a lot of them were in California, and some of
them are stars like Joan Crawford adopted twins from.

Speaker 3 (14:56):
Her, apparently. Yeah, and this is maybe you saw the
movie be Mommy, dearist. This was not that girl.

Speaker 1 (15:03):
I believe that was Christina, who was also adopted, But
these were her later adopted daughters, Cynthia and Kathy, but
also Lana Turner, Dick Powell, and June Allison pearl Buck
the author. And then, in a very weird and sad twist,
a guy that we worked with, Rick Flair, the wrestler,

was one of these babies, yep, which is just crazy
to think about and obviously has deep emotional trauma.

Speaker 3 (15:35):
But I think he.

Speaker 1 (15:38):
Elected to not sort of find his biological family, right.

Speaker 2 (15:41):
Yes, biological brother reached out to him and he's like,
I don't I don't really want to strike up a
relationship here. Earlier, man, he's like, what are we going
to talk about? I think is what he said. But yeah,
he said that. In addition to that, it's like just this,
the trauma from it is still with him obviously because
he stolen from his family, Like these kids were stolen

from their families. In some cases, their parents spent the
rest of their lives looking for them. But because of
the way that these adoptions were carried out, there was
no paper trail that these people could access to find
whatever happened to their kids.

Speaker 1 (16:18):
Yeah, absolutely not. She made sure that happened. She very
much was of the mind, like we mentioned earlier, that
like some of society viewed these kids as less than
she was one hundred percent down with that line of thinking.
She thought that poor single mothers were damaged goods. She

called them breeders, she called them cows. She thought they
were genetically inferior she used marketing tactics. She was a fraudster,
but all of this like worked. You don't you don't
adopt out five thousand and children without working really really

hard to do that using the most you know, in
her case, the most reprehensible tactics you can imagine.

Speaker 2 (17:09):
Yeah, let's talk about her tactics real quick, shall we,
because I can't wait any longer. It's just I just can't.

Speaker 1 (17:17):
Okay, Yeah, Well, before we get to the actual tactics
of the adoption, we should say this whole time this
is going on, she's running a house of horrors in Memphis,
she's running an orphanage there, and hundreds of babies are
dying under her care. So that's just sort of the
background of what's going on while she's adopting these kids out.

Speaker 2 (17:38):
Right, And we said that adoption wasn't really kind of
a thing in the United States until about the nineteen
thirties and it started to kind of spread. Here's the
big twist about this whole thing. The reason that we
have adoption today, the way that it is, like the
fact that childless couples will go, you know, take a

kid into their life and like you're like you're my family.
Now you're our family. She started that, Like, you can
trace that almost single handedly back to Georgia tan which
in a way like kind of complicates her legacy, but
really doesn't because the stuff she did was so despicable
that even that it can be you can't even consider

that like a mark in her favor. It just just
immediately is overwhelmed by all the horrible stuff she did.

Speaker 1 (18:29):
Yeah, it doesn't complicated for me at all. That would
have changed anyway, and we did not need a human
monster to make it happen. That's like saying, well, we
got Volkswagens because of Hitler, so you know, right, you go, boss.

Speaker 2 (18:42):
Yeah that's a great point. But yeah, no, she's kind
of like the opposite of where like you really like
somebody's work, but you find out that they're a terrible person,
you have to reconcile that this is like hating the person.
And just you know, there was one piece of her
work that was you know, worthwhile or legitimate, but yet
doesn't do anything.

Speaker 1 (19:02):
Yeah, so her you know, she would adopt kids out
of all ages, but what she really concentrated on was babies,
because you know, even today, adopting a baby is much
more in demand, and especially then when adoption was just
sort of a new thing, she was sort of selling

the idea like, hey, you get a blank slate here,
like these these babies. You know some of them may
be from bad homes, but you've got them right out
of the gate, and you can you can mold them
into whatever you want. And that's when she wasn't lying
about who the parents were, because she also did that
and would say things like, you know, there was a

one night stand basically between a social lighte and a
doctor and it was just a big mistake. But you
should see their genes, incredible genes.

Speaker 2 (19:55):
One of the other things she was very well known for,
especially in Tennessee, was the at every Christmas she would
take out advertising space in the press scimitar of the
Memphis newspaper and it was like a Christmas adoption drive,
a baby drive. But they it wasn't like open your
home to this wonderful child. It was like, so do

you want a real live Christmas present? That was like
one of the one of the ads, could you use
a Christmas baby? And she would like they would vow,
like this is a drive, we're gonna We're gonna adopt
off twenty five to thirty kids. And I think to
the people who were reading this and who saw this
every Christmas, they were taking it like it was an

adoption drive. They didn't realize. And this is the thing,
no one seems to have really realized, at least no
one who had any real power to do anything about it,
knew what was going on, that she was making this
money like this wasn't allowed to go on and open
in o in sight. There was a lot of mechanations

in groundwork laid to keep this as far out of
the public eye as possible, but to let her just
do it as flagrantly as possible. The general person who
was aware of her didn't know what she was doing,
I should.

Speaker 1 (21:14):
Say no, or like you said, they thought that, you know,
they thought she was a hero.

Speaker 2 (21:19):
Right, They didn't realize she was selling kids openly in
the newspaper every Christmas.

Speaker 1 (21:25):
Yes, after kidnapping them so financially. And this one was
a little hard to parse out. I've seen different things,
but what I think I found the reality, which was
in the state of Tennessee at the time, it was
supposed to cost seven dollars for an in state adoption
and about seven hundred to seven fifty out of state.

And I saw that she was charging more like I
think eighty percent of her adoptions were New York and
California to wealthy families, about five thousand dollars instead of
seven hundred dollars, which is close to ninety grand today.

Speaker 2 (22:02):
Yes, for sure, Yeah that was I think average was
about like five grand. Or was that the height of
the whole thing. Was that as much as you would pay?

Speaker 3 (22:14):
I'm not sure. I just saw five thousand.

Speaker 2 (22:15):
Dollars, So the whole thing. Again, it's really tough to
I'm not going to hammer on this because it's just
so nuts. But through those Christmas drives, through introducing the
concept of adoption, it started to spread in Memphis, in Tennessee,
in the South, and it actually spread out of the South.

This trend of adoption grew out of the South in
the nineteen thirties and forties again because of Georgia Tan
and then it just spread and kept going. But from
the outset she was she targeted wealthy customers, clients you
can't really call them anything else in New York and California,
like I said, but there doesn't seem to be any

evidence whatsoever that any of the adopting parents knew that
their kids were anything than what she was presenting them as,
which was kids from good backgrounds, Like you said, maybe
a one night stand and the parents had willingly given
them up. That's what they thought they were getting, and
that the fact that they had to pay through the

nose for them just meant that these kids were like
that desirable, their genes were that good. And it's ironic
to me because you don't think of the South as
being much of a trendsetter, but it set the trend
of adoption in the United States. It started in the
South and just kind of spread from there. But out
of the gate she targeted adoptive parents, wealthy ones in

New York and California.

Speaker 1 (23:42):
Yeah, for sure. You know, we already talked about the kidnapping.
She would sometimes she would drive around a limousine in
a neighborhood so kids would could run out to her
car that were all excited and take them. She would
this is having a hard time even reading this part,

but she would go to new mothers who had just
given birth in the hospital and tell them that their
infant was dead and steal the baby.

Speaker 2 (24:12):
Yeah, that was a common trick. Another one was she
would present mothers who'd just given birth, who might still
be under the effects of anesthesia or something like that,
with papers and said just sign these. These are like,
you know, standard paperwork for having a baby, and they
were actually full adoption papers. So even if you could

say you stole my baby, there were cases where she
could point to paperwork that said, no, you signed your
kid away. Sorry, clearly you're you're crazy. Essentially, she also
had a network of nurses like it's she was in
some cases present in these in the hospital and spoke

with some of the mothers, but she also had like
nurses working for her that would either trick the mothers
themselves or would just outright steal babies from nurseries.

Speaker 1 (25:03):
Yeah, nurses and fake people dressed as nurses. Yeah, I
mean it's literally not her the whole time. This is
a very very big operation. So you know earlier when
you said no one know, one empowered to stop it, like,
no one empowered, that wasn't on the dole.

Speaker 2 (25:18):
Yeah, And in particular, there was one woman, a judge
named Camille Kelly, one of two women judges in the
South at the time, who was a progressive and a
juvenile court judge, and she was fully in Georgia Tan's pocket,
fully cooperated. There's a writer named Barbara Raymond who wrote

probably the most exhaustive account of this whole horrible chapter
of American history. And she estimated that Camille Kelly, Judge
Kelly supplied Georgia Tan with about twenty percent of the
kids that she kidnapped, So that would put it at
about a thousand kids that Judge Kelly essentially handed over
to Georgia Tan to steal and sell.

Speaker 1 (26:02):
Yeah, and that's that's things that Judge Kelly was doing,
as far as bending the rules, ceiling adoption records, signing
off on false paperwork, stuff like that, and fraud to
driving around herself. There was supposedly a Catholic orphanage in
Memphis where the nuns would like hide the what they

called the prettiest children whenever Judge Kelly pulled up outside.

Speaker 3 (26:25):
Yeah, just unbelievable.

Speaker 2 (26:27):
It is super, super, just terrible. I saw an interview
with a woman who is now today and has been
for a while trying to connect these people to their
original biological families. If they want to see her name,
is Denny Glad And she was asked what she would
say to Georgia Tan. She said the exact same thing
I wanted to say, like like how how could you

do this? Like what was your mindset that allowed you
to do this over and over again? Because as bad
as kidnapping got, as bad as the eruption that was
associated with it, and in stealing and selling babies, some
of them were not adoptable, so she had them on
her hands, and as just looking at these kids as products.

If you had a bad product, why would you sink
any more money into keeping that product around if it
wasn't gonna make you any money? And so the kids
who stayed at the home with her, they were often malnourished.
Sometimes they would starve to death there. If they had
any medical issues, they would go untreated, they wouldn't get medicine.

They were just left to die, essentially because they weren't
worth the investment as far as Georgia Tan was concerned.
And her entire job was to help kids like that,
But kids like that couldn't be sold, so they didn't
deserve any of her time or attention or funding.

Speaker 1 (27:56):
Yeah, and this is a horrific statistic, but the toll
at her orphanage's estimated between five and six hundred kids.
Obviously most of them infants and babies, and this is staggering,
but it was so many children died under her care.
She may have actually affected the infant mortality rate in

Memphis because in nineteen thirty two, eight years into her
stint there, Memphis had the highest infant mortality rate in
the country. Yeah, that's no accident.

Speaker 2 (28:29):
So one of the other things too, is she wasn't
reporting these deaths. She reported nineteen children's death Yeah, the
other five hundred to six hundred. The rest of the
five hundred to six hundred were never reported. No one
knows where they are, no one knows where they were buried.
They're just gone. And so I think in twenty sixteen,

Memphis raised a memorial over a mass grave that had
been discovered with I think forty kids are maybe that
was the nineteen I think they found a grave with
those kids in it, and they erected a memorial to
those kids and all the others who were just lost
to history and time. And it was just it was

a terrible place to be. But being adopted out wasn't
necessarily much better. You said that the babies were advertised
as blank slates. Not all of the kids that were
sold were babies, and she didn't screen the adoptive parents,
so there were kids that were extremely vulnerable to the

idea to sexual abuse, and apparently they also endured sexual
abuse in the home as well.

Speaker 1 (29:41):
Yeah, and the just the mental damage of being ripped
away from your biological family.

Speaker 2 (29:46):
Yeah, that too.

Speaker 1 (29:48):
So I say we take a second break, and we
must muster the will to finish this thing. Yeah, and
we'll be back and talk about some of those pretty
high powered people in Tennessee that were on the dole
out of this.

Speaker 2 (30:28):
All right, So I want to say, yeah, I guess
we've made it through the worst part, but it's not
like anything gets much better. We talked about how she
was Georgia Town was able to get away with this.
She did this from nineteen twenty four to nineteen fifty,
like you said, and you can't do that without the
cooperation of essentially the city that you're working in. And

lucky for her, the mayor of Memphis at the time
was a guy named Ed Crump. And if you want
to know anything, all you need to know about Ed Crump.
You just need to know his nickname, which was Boss Crump,
and he was a progressive mayor who really cared about
the city and was extraordinarily corrupt himself.

Speaker 1 (31:12):
Yeah, so there was there was Boss Crump, and then
there was this other guy, an attorney named abe Waaldour,
who she hired as her personal attorney and he also
worked as the attorney for the agency. Was also a
very influential guy and successful lobbyists. In between Waldour and Crump,

she basically got whatever she wanted. She got records falsified,
she got records sealed. If there were laws that didn't
jibe with what was going on, they had the power
to get those laws changed. Crump had a lot of
sway at least and we'll talk about this in a minute,
to at least to a certain point on the governor's office,
and they just you know, they were all getting kickbacks.

Speaker 3 (31:56):
Everyone was on the dole, so they would do whatever
she wanted. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (32:00):
So the operation from what I saw, essentially when she
would go to Camille Kelly, the judge that was in
her pocket, and say, hey, these are things that would
make my life a lot easier as far as laws
are concerned, and then Judge Kelly would go to the
legislature and or Boss Crump probably both, and say, hey,

here at Family Court, these are some laws that are
really kind of making things unnecessarily difficult and hurting families.
Let's get these changed. So they would actually change laws
to help Georgia Tan steal and sell babies more efficiently.

Speaker 1 (32:37):
Yeah, I mean, and this kind of just shows how
manipulative she was. There's actual like letterhead from Judge Kelly
written in her handwriting to the attorney Abe Waldauur, so
like this was the attorney working for Georgia Tan. Instead
of Georgia Tann going to him, she would manipulate go
around him to the judge to get her to write

this congestion to a Walldauer would then lobby and pressure
on her behalf, which was really on Tan's behalf.

Speaker 2 (33:08):
So as like, I guess, kind of alien concept modern
adoption was at the time. Tennessee had a pretty good
law on its books that dated back to eighteen fifty two,
and there were requirements that were sensible and smart. If
you wanted to adopt a kid from Tennessee, first of all,

you had to be from Tennessee. The adoptive parents had
to be from Tennessee.

Speaker 3 (33:34):
Not about that one, but fine.

Speaker 2 (33:36):
Right right, But I'm just saying, if you look at
what Georgia tan was doing, this was Yeah, that was
not in step with that at all. Secondly, if you
were a birth mother, a judge needed to certify that
you were voluntarily giving your kid up.

Speaker 3 (33:50):
Yeah, right, still the case.

Speaker 2 (33:52):
Yeah, orphanages needed to investigate the adoptive parents. Great idea,
and you needed to follow up with the the kid
and make sure that the child was being treated well
in their new adoptive home. These were the eighteen fifty
two laws. And if you look at what Georgia Tann
was doing out in the open, just the stuff people

knew about, none of it checked any of those boxes.

Speaker 1 (34:17):
Yeah, and she, you know, because of that, she got
a lot of these laws changed to suit her racket,
which is just unbelievable that this was going on.

Speaker 2 (34:25):
Yeah. One of them that got me was you didn't
need a judge to certify any longer that the mom
was voluntary surrendering. A notary public could do it. And
so Georgia Tann would have one of her employees certify
that basically falsify these records. There was another thing that
was a really important outcome of all of this, and
that is that she lobbied for secrecy and adoption. Her

whole premise was that it saved unwed mothers the shame
and social stigma of being non and his unwed mothers
publicly having files open available to the public showing that
they had had a child out of wedlock, and that
that that was in the in the family's best favor

for these records to be sealed. That's still what people
say today, that there's like it in states where secrecy
is still a thing in adoption. It's to protect the
biological parents rights in case they don't want to be found, right,
that aside all of the the Yeah, in some states,

I think California still has really strict secrecy laws or
owned adoption.

Speaker 1 (35:38):
Oh my god, that I thought that was just for
old adoption records. No, so that's like the current thing.

Speaker 2 (35:43):
No, no, no, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Starting in about
the eighties that it opened up, adoption became much more open,
but it didn't retroactively affect anybody who adoption took place
before the eighties.

Speaker 3 (35:55):
Yeah, yeah, okay, so okay.

Speaker 2 (35:57):
So but those those laws are still in the books,
so those people are still have their records sealed, and
that includes Georgia tans kids. But all that aside, that
whole quandary and argument about whether that's a legitimate way
to do adoption or not, that had nothing to do
with why she wanted to do it. She wanted to
do it because once she got those records sealed, and

she soon was able to do that. As a matter
of course, after that law was passed, there was no
finding the kid any longer. And like you legally could
not get your hands on any records that would lead
you to your biological kid. They were just.

Speaker 1 (36:33):
Gone, yeah, well and not more importantly but more commonly,
probably that kid can't find their parents, Yes, their biological parents,
that is.

Speaker 2 (36:43):
Yeah. And then even if you did, I think, get
your hands on the records, she's so frequently monkeyed with
the records and falsified them that they might not even
lead you to your birth parent to begin with.

Speaker 1 (36:56):
Yeah, So we would love to tell you that there
was an ending to this where Georgia Tan was made
responsible for her crimes. Sadly that is not the case.
I mentioned earlier that Crump eventually had less sway over

the governor's office. That was in nineteen fifty when Governor
Gordon Browning became governor, started getting these letters from people
talking about Georgia tan being blackmailed, keep silent, things like that,
so he launched Browning launched an investigation into the orphanage,

headed by Robert Taylor's special counsel. But here's the thing is,
Georgia Tann had a very aggressive uterine cancer was dying fast,
and Browning held off on making all this public until
she died on September fifteenth, nineteen fifty, at the age

of fifty eight.

Speaker 2 (38:00):
Yeah, which is like, it really ticks you off about Browning,
like why would you extend any modicum of courtesy to
Georgia Tann at all? But Browning's general motivation for this
wasn't to prosecute her. It was to embarrass Boss Crump
and to erode some of his political clout because he
was so powerful he could get governors elected, like he

was a really powerful mayor, and so this really helped
embarrass him and he just became illegitimate in a lot
of people's eyes when this came out that this was
happening under his watch, and how could he possibly have
not known about it? So that was one reason why
he held it back, because Boss Crump was still going
to be round. After Georgia Tnn died. Luckily, in my eyes,

a couple of reporters from different newspapers in Memphis got
a hold of the story and they broke it before
she died.

Speaker 1 (38:53):
Yeah, I think, I mean just a couple of days
before she died. So I like to think that there
was some great shame visited upon her.

Speaker 3 (39:03):
Who knows.

Speaker 1 (39:04):
I doubt it, because I think she felt justified the
whole time, because her whole deal was I'm taking these
babies out of these out of these houses where these
undesirables shouldn't be having kids to begin with.

Speaker 2 (39:15):
Yeah, you know, and so what if I make some money,
I'm going to a lot of trouble.

Speaker 1 (39:19):
I just looked at Boss Crump for the first time
for some reason, I didn't look it up earlier.

Speaker 3 (39:23):
Did you see him?

Speaker 2 (39:24):
He looks more like Boss R.

Speaker 1 (39:26):
Crump you would He looks like you would think he
would look basically.

Speaker 2 (39:30):
So that investigation that Robert Taylor headed up led to
a lawsuit from the State of Tennessee against Georgia's estate
Georgia Tansas State. And apparently so we said that she
was in a lifelong relationship with her partner, Anne Atwood,
who supposedly was a good person. She just happened to

love a monster. I guess, I don't know.

Speaker 3 (39:53):
I don't know, but I don't know how to square
that one her.

Speaker 2 (39:57):
I can't remember who who went to I think her
knee or something, or surviving niece went to bat firm.
It's like, no, she was actually a really good person
at any rate, An Atwood. This is a rather ironic
twist if you asked me. Georgia Tan adopted Anne at Wood,
which was a fairly common technique among gay couples back
in the day to ensure that your partner would receive

your estate. So Georgia Tan, the woman who would steal
babies and sell them out for adoption popularist adoption in America,
adopted her partner in her old age a couple of
years before she died.

Speaker 1 (40:38):
Yeah, and that was a lawsuit that you mentioned. It
wasn't about the abuse or the kidnapping, though, it was
about basically the excess funds. Like the victims in that
case were parents who overpaid in their mind for kids
because like I said, she was I think the adoption
fee was like seven hundred dollars. She was charging up

to five grand. So that was what the Cibil case
was about. She they sued the estate for five hundred
thousand dollars only got a little more than fifty grand
in the end. So you know, there was never any
justice for these families, basically no.

Speaker 2 (41:15):
And some people have actually found one another. There was
a very famous episode of Unsolved Mysteries or a famous
case that came out of Unsolved Mysteries in nineteen ninety
where a woman named Almas Sipple was watching Unsolved Mysteries
as you did in nineteen ninety, I can attest, and
on TV they flashed a picture of Georgia Tan They're
talking about this case, and Almas Sipple said later that

she just came out of her chair and recognized her
immediately as the woman who had swindled her out of
her baby. And from that, from watching that, they ended
up reuniting. She reunited with her birth daughter named Sandra.
And then there's a few other people who've worked to
find their successfully find their biological family. And again Denny

Glad has been really instrumental in trying to sue Tennessee
into opening up these records, in particular for Georgia Tan's
victims so that they can find their biological families, and
her organization is called Tennessee's Right to Know.

Speaker 1 (42:16):
Joan Crawford's daughters found their biological family. Oh yeah, yep,
those two girls did. And hey, you made me laugh
in that last bit.

Speaker 3 (42:25):
I got. You got one laugh out of me?

Speaker 1 (42:26):
What in this episode when you said watching unsolved mysteries
as you do in nineteen ninety I can attest.

Speaker 2 (42:32):
You like that?

Speaker 3 (42:33):
Huh you got a chuckle. I didn't think I was
gonna laugh at all.

Speaker 2 (42:36):
Okay, well then this would works. This episode's finally complete.

Speaker 1 (42:40):
If you want to watch a movie, there's a TV
movie from ninety three called Stolen Babies, A Little on
the Nose starring Mary Tyler Moore.

Speaker 3 (42:48):
She wanted emmy.

Speaker 1 (42:48):
I'm told it was the reviews I read, and you
know said she was pretty remarkable in that role.

Speaker 2 (42:53):
I saw an ad for it. She looked pretty, she
did despicable really well.

Speaker 3 (42:58):
Sure, Mary Tyler wor can do. That's it.

Speaker 2 (43:00):
She got range and Leah Thompson was the woman who
opposed her. I'm not sure if she was based on
anybody or not.

Speaker 1 (43:07):
Oh ninety three. Oh yeah, I guess that was. That's
right in her wheelhouse.

Speaker 2 (43:10):
And if you're like Stolen Babies, that's a great band name,
well you're a little late to the party, because there
actually is a band called Stolen Babies.

Speaker 1 (43:17):
Of course there is so actor and a movie developer,
Octavia Spencer, who was wonderful option that book that we
were talking about.

Speaker 3 (43:27):
Who was the author.

Speaker 2 (43:28):
Again, Barbara bezantce Raymond, and the book she wrote was
Baby Thief Colon The Untold Story of Georgia tan Comma,
the Baby Seller who Corrupted Adoption.

Speaker 1 (43:40):
It's a long title, but I was kind of curious
because Octavia Spencer, I wasn't surprised. It was just like,
I wonder, you know, if she was adopted or has adopted,
like if there was just some some pull for this
story for her personally, and that is not the case.
But she did play an adoption caseworker in a movie

a few years ago. That movie which I didn't see,
Instant Family with Rose Byrne and Macky Mock, So maybe
just being in that role kind of I know that
she studied and interviewed a lot of adoption caseworkers, so
that may have just sort of piqued your interest. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (44:20):
Maybe so. Well, if you want to know more about
Georgia Tan and you can stomach it, there's some stuff
out there to read on the internet, but you will
probably keep running into Barbara Raymond's book, so you might
as well just read that and get it over with.
And since I said that, it's time for listener.

Speaker 1 (44:35):
Mail another Peanuts email. There's gonna be three total because
we got a lot of great emails about the Peanuts seconds,
but the best one is coming soon. This one's pretty
good because it's an actual correction on something I said. Josh, Hey, guys,
Peanuts episode is awesome. Grew up with a series of

Peanuts and they were pretty much the only thing I
read as a child. I'm so glad you were to
me of so many little details. The only thing you
guys said that was wrong, and lish here didn't call
me out, but I remember saying this was it. Sally
was the one talking about her naturally curly hair. I
totally got that wrong. That was Freda. Oh really, yeah,

Freda had the red curly hair. And she's always going
my naturally curly hair because I think I think she
was kind of crushing on Charlie Brown, which obviously wouldn't
have been Sally. So I just got that all wrong.

Speaker 2 (45:26):
I see, I gotcha.

Speaker 3 (45:28):
Anyway, you guys are great.

Speaker 1 (45:28):
I hope you do occasionally do podcasts into your nineties
at least. Thank you for your research, dedication and great
sense of humor. Plus, I was born in nineteen seventy one,
so Chuck and I often sync up to your memories.

Speaker 3 (45:44):
And that is from Lish.

Speaker 2 (45:47):
Lish with the brain meld on. Chuck, how does that feel?

Speaker 3 (45:50):
Feels great?

Speaker 2 (45:51):
Well, thanks a lot, Lish, that was a great Peanuts email.
I can't imagine what the third in the trifect is
going to be. If it's even better than.

Speaker 3 (45:59):
That, I can't imagine. I think you know, but unless
you didn't see.

Speaker 2 (46:04):
It, I don't know if I did or not. I'm
gonna have to go sort through them.

Speaker 3 (46:07):
I'll just say the wall.

Speaker 2 (46:09):
Oh yeah, yeah, okay, I do know the one.

Speaker 3 (46:11):
Yeah, you gotta good one.

Speaker 2 (46:12):
If you want to be like listen get in touch
with us. You can send us an email too. Send
it off to stuff podcast at iHeartRadio dot.

Speaker 1 (46:19):
Com Stuff you Should Know is a production of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 3 (46:26):
For more podcasts my heart Radio, visit the iHeartRadio app,
Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

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