A Safe Haven

By the 1950's, there were 34 Salvation Army Booth Homes for Unwed Mothers in operation.

The issue of teen pregnancy has long been a challenge in society, taking an emotional and physical toll on those involved. It was particularly so in the early part of the 20th century when there was a significant social stigma attached to being an unwed mother. Here’s how one newspaper reacted when The Salvation Army proposed opening a facility for unwed mothers in Richmond, VA in 1923:

“A home of this kind would be a menace to society, encouraging viciousness and immortality . . .  [serving those] who have for any reason become misfits in the social structure of life, thereby disqualifying them for entrance into other places.”

Imagine the pressure a young girl would have felt under those conditions. Today, women from across the country recall specifically how they were welcomed into those homes and were thankful to have a place to go where they could get the care they and their babies needed.

A client from Oakland, CA in the 1960s recalled recently: “Even though so many years have passed, I still remember that everyone was very kind.  I was 17 and frightened.  My parents felt strongly that adoption was best for my future and for the child’s.  The social worker at Santa Clara County recommended I be away from home and with women in my situation.  I was at the Booth Home for the last two months of my pregnancy only.  I came away feeling everyone was kind and supportive and not judging.  I also received good medical care.  I came home feeling a sense of loss, but it was comforting to know that I’d had kind, supportive people around me at the Booth Home who didn’t judge me.”

Major Dorothy Purser of the Booth Memorial Hospital in Cleveland, OH gives the infant to the new mother.

Another resident from El Paso, TX remembers: “Under the circumstances, everyone was friendly.  I never felt out of place or in the way.  There was more of an ‘at home’ atmosphere.  We had lots of classes offered to us; some on prenatal care and health care in general.  They had people there to talk to if you needed to.  I was surprised at what a good support system they had back then.  The girls were all different ages, but they managed to place us in a room with the right person.  I don’t know what would have happened to me if not for them.”

The Booth Memorial Home in El Paso, TX

Over time, societal attitudes have changed dramatically and so have needs. In the 1950s there were 34 Booth homes for unwed mothers in operation. They were typically named after Evangeline Booth, the first female General of the organization. They were run under the guidance of a Salvation Army officer and approved medical staff including obstetricians and pediatricians. The median age of a Booth Home resident was 18, with some as young as 14.

In many cases, the women ultimately gave their newborn babies up for adoption, often on the advice of their families. The adoptions themselves were handled by professional adoption agencies and/or public social welfare agencies – the Army’s role was to provide a safe, confidential place for the mothers to live during their pregnancy. In the 1970s, The Salvation Army began to close or transition all of its homes and hospitals that were solely dedicated to unwed mothers. Instead, the Army focused on addressing the broader needs of single parents through family counseling programs, day care services, transitional housing and other support.

While our services continue to evolve, we still are working to meet the needs of those who once stayed with us. Today, we run a program to reunite mothers and children by sharing available medical and other records. Here’s how our client from El Paso recalls a recent, successful reunion:

“The decision for adoption was made by my mom.  I was older and stable when I had my other children.  But if I’d have kept that child, we would have been at the mercy of food stamps and welfare. My delivery was early, so the adoption was through Social Services only.  But in only three months, my child was placed with a very good family.  Knowing this has been like a weight lifted off my shoulders.  It took me three tries to find him, but the last time I contacted [The Salvation Army], worked.  Whenever we see The Salvation Army at Christmas, we drop in our change.”

For a historic look back at The Salvation Army’s homes for pregnant women, take a look at The Salvation Army: Marching Forward at the 7:50 mark.

47 Comments on “A Safe Haven

  1. does anyone have any information on the home in durham, n. c.

  2. I have been trying for years to get additional information about my birth parents. I have the legal documents – copies my adopted parents had and some notes from their lawyer, a wonderful family friend. My adopted parents and their lawyer have now passed away. The Salvation Army in Ga built a stonewall at my first contact with them – probably 20 years ago. Later, the woman I spoke to said the records had been destroyed. I’m going to turn 70 in February and it seems to me that there is no longer a reason to withhold this information.

  3. Looking for the address of the Evangeline Home for Unwed Mothers in Lowell, Michigan. My wife was born there. Her mother did eventually marry her father.

  4. Rollin – I would suggest reaching out to The Salvation Army in Lowell, MI directly with this question as they would have the records. You can find this contact info by entering your zip code on our website: http://www.SalvationArmyUSA.org. Thank you!

  5. My mother placed a child through the Salvation Home in Durham North Carolina, been searching for over 30 years for my sister. If anyone has insight on finding this information out, it would be greatly appreciated. Please not pay for hire services. I know the home has now been closed, I did reach out many years ago through social services, but to no avail they did not help. Our mother sent a letter releasing her information, just in case the my sister wanted to reach out.

    Thanks!!!

  6. I am looking for a child my mother had in the late 1940′s or 1950′s. She either was a surrogate mother or gave the baby

    away for adoption. My dad said she was a surrogate for a friend of hers. This was before she married my dad. My

    mother’s name was Joyce and I’ve just heard bits and pieces, but I believe she was staying at a Salvation Army home for

    unwed mothers in New York. My mother was born in May 1933 and I know she was young when she had this child. If any

    info, please email me at mtthw3@earthlink.net

    Thanks!!

  7. My mother gave birth to me at Salvation Army booth memorial in Chicago. Do u know where I can find her records?

  8. Does anyone know where I can get a picture of the Salvation Army Booth Memorial Home in Honolulu, Hawaii?

  9. My sister was a resident at Booth Home for Unwed Mothers in Oakland, CA and gave birth to a baby girl on Feb. 15, 1969. I would love to bring my sister and her daughter together. I don’t know where to start looking. Can anyone help us.

  10. Hello,
    I am the 1/2 sibling of a male child born in either Texas or New Mexico at a Booth Memorial Home in October 1967 or 1968. The information I have is sparse. The birth parents are both from Utah. Mother’s first name is Karen. I’ve been looking on and off for over 13 years. Any help is appreciated.

  11. Trying to help my Dad find his family and birth records, He was born in a Booth maternity home for unwed mothers in Boston in 1934. He was adopted by family members and lived in New Hampshire. No one is alive that can help us with search. Just trying to help him have peace of mind. Also, there are myself and my four siblings who would love to connect with our Dad’s family. His mother’s name was Elma Curry, he believes his birth name was Richard Frederick Curry and my grandparents chnaged it when he was adopted to Richard Walter Smith. Any suggestions on where to search for birth records would be great!

  12. Are there volunteer opportunities for the teens from church (Twin Rivers Community Church)?

  13. I was born on 5/5/64 at Booth Memorial Hospital in Queens, NY. My given name at birth was Margaret Bell. I am looking for any information on bio family.

    I can be contacted at princesbaynative@yahoo.com

    Thank you,

    Phyllis

  14. I not only was a teen mom, but I am a former employee of the Salvation Army and I know first hand how wonderful their programs are. I am not a co author of the book “Confessions of a Welfare Mom” which is a collaboration of success stories of women who worked themselves off the welfare system and through touch life situations. I would like to go to this home and speak to these young women and help to encourage them.

  15. looking for my brother my mom is in her 80′s and has alzheimers we recently learned she has a son born in about 1952 in seattle or in the washington area somehwere she was from ketchikan alaska we would love to find our brother or anyone who new a kathlyn ,katie or kay who had a baby in washinton in 52-or 53 in a home somwhere a bus ride away from seattle?

  16. I am looking for a sibling I think a sister who was born in oh area close to cinn. who was born in a salavation army home for unwed mother arounda 1952,1953 her mane was peggy and live in tn

  17. Looking for my sisters son born at the Booth home in Chicago around ’62/’63. We heard he was adopted by a family in Iowa.

  18. looking for infomation on the salvation army home for unwed mothers in grand rapids or nearby. birthchild-boy-richard anthony trippodo born 1-16-1961. i was 15 on the 11th of jan. too young to do anything but adopt. do not know where i signed papers. any info would be appreciated.

  19. I am looking for my 1/2 brother who was born in 1970 at the Salvation Army home in MI. My mother was forced to give him up. Would love any information that can help. My email address is sue@suginscorner.com

  20. Judy, it’s been months since you asked for help in CA…. I can help you with your search, I am a Reunited Adoptee who now does Searches for other California born Adoptee’s and Birth Parents. I can be reached @ Reunions_4_all@yahoo.com

  21. My aunt gave birth at the Salvation Army unwed mothers home …. In tampa, fl May 1958 her father made her give up the child because he was mulotto . Being she knew that her parents would never accept the child she felt best to give it up for adoption. If you are or know how Ivan possibly trace my cousin please email lclark18@comcast.net

  22. I am trying to find information about a half sister born in the Salvation Hospital in San Antonio on Broadway in 1945. Any suggestions where I can find information?

  23. I’m looking for any info I can get on the home in Jacksonville, FL Were all the children born in the home or at any hospital? I’m looking for my 1/2 sister who was born there between 57-59 to Brenda Joan Johnston.

  24. i believe i was born at this place. my mom says most of the girls there, if not all, were planning on adoption. she said many of them were girls from “families” and the plan was adoption. i was born march 18, 1967. i know it was oakland, in alameda county…

  25. I am looking for a brother born April 1st 1957 in El Paso at the home for unwed mothers who was adopted at birth. Mothers name is Ruth Porter

  26. Does anyone know who or where to contact to obtain records of unwed mothers who gave birth at the Salvation Army Maternity Hospital, that was in San Antonio, physical address was 4013 Broadway? My aunt had a baby girl there March, 1945, and even though I have found my cousin, we are looking for more information, hoping that my aunt revealed the father’s name. If anyone knows where to call regarding the San Antonio Maternity Hospital please let me know. The Western Region lists El Paso but not San Antonio.

  27. I am looking for a african american boy born June 1976 at booth memorial in cleveland ohio mothers name is Angela Sullivan

  28. I am looking for my brother born dec 1 1960 in salvation army home sharon mass mother’s name was beth clapper

  29. Looking for Birthmom who was approx 23 yrs old and her mom died weeks before I was born. She was living in a home for unwed mothers for 1 month prior to my birth. This was somewhere in NY. I was adopted from Westchester Family Services. If anyone out there can help, please contact me. I was born 10/3/71.

  30. I am looking for my half brother born around late 1961 or early 1962 in Salvation Army home and hospital located in or near Louisville, Kentucky. I know that he was placed with adopting parents in July 1962. His name at the home was Kendal Grant. I have no idea who gave him this name and believe it was given by my mother as a first and middle name but I do not know. I feel like this is not his name now. I have a letter sent to my mother from the case worker dated aug. 10 1962 in reply to a letter she had sent asking about him. If anyone has any info, please reply to TLSL23@outlook.com

  31. I’m looking for information on a son born June 24, 1962 at the home in Tampa, FL and given up for adoption because it was the only way back then for young unwed mothers with no means of supporting herself, much less a child.

  32. I was born at the Booth Hospital in Grand Rapids,MI on June 8, 1969. My birth mom was 16 at the time and my birth father was 18.

  33. Looking for information on my birth may 1962 born in charlotte nc adopted April 1963 in Columbia sc

  34. I am looking for my fathers biological mother/father he was born july 27 1947 at a salvation army home for unwed mothers in tampa florida. We aren’t sure of her last name but he was always told it was Barnett. IF ANYONE HAS ANY INFORMATION PLEASE EMAIL ME AT CWIRGAU19@GMAIL.COM

  35. I was born at Booth Memorial on Torbinson in Cleveland ,Ohio 1-16-1955.My Mother Nellie Romeo-Weekley then under her middle name of Agnes Weekley-took me home with her.She died when I was 5-she was 36 y/o.She died from Leukemia in one month.She was a wonderful and loving Mother.She had married a man named Charles who soon after went to war and came home with no doubt PTSD and abused her-she was a dutiful wife and they had 3 children.He was abusive and she filed for divorce after a 9 yr relationship with hime-much of that 9 yr. was in communication of 5 yrs while he was away in the war.when she filed for divorce he angrily took the 3 children to his Mothers who gave them away to services and they were adopted-tho she fought 4 yrs she only was given brief visits.She married my Father and had me-nameing me after two prior Brothers.Stess from the heartache took her life.I would love to locate anyone who may have been in the home with her from Sep. 1954-Jan. 1955. janicekinghenry@yahoo.com

  36. Also- if there is anyone who sends me an e-mail please place in the comment area booth hospital of Cleveland-so I will open the message and not delete it .Please read the book The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler.

  37. I am wondering if you know of any other hospitals, which gave maternal care, and delivered the babies of unmarried mothers, besides the Salvation Army Booth Memorial Home & Hospital at 2794 Garden Street in Oakland California, in the late 1950s and early 1960s ~ a place that still exists in the same capacity, even though the stigma of having a child, unmarried, thankfully, has pretty much, disappeared and mothers who have their babies there, most often, keep their babies. Our very much loved daughter-in-law, married to our oldest son, for 33 years, now, was born in Oakland and was adopted, and she believes that she was born in a hospital in Oakland, that was in operation, in conjunction with The Children’s Home Society, which is, I believe, the name of a ‘private’ adoption organization, through which, she says that she was adopted within about 6 weeks after she was born in Oakland, in February 1960. I have been a continuous resident of Oakland and then El Cerrito, since 1952 and I have not ever heard of any other hospitals, besides Kaiser, Merritt, Providence, Peralta and East Oakland Hospitals, in Oakland. I believe that the Salvation Army Home & Hospital at East 28th & Garden Streets is the place where she must have been born. I am trying to get the question answered, on her behalf. Please correct me, if I am wrong. Thank You, Patricia Perez

  38. I believe that I was born in Booth Memorial hospital, New York.
    Born January 19, 1945 searching for relatives.

  39. I’m looking for information about a home for unwed mothers/wayward girls that was located in Stanton, Michigan, during the 1950s. I’m not sure if the home was operated by the Salvation Army, but thought I’d give this a try. ,Any and all information about the home would be appreciated. Thanks.

  40. I was born dec 28 1937 to Helen Noyes a unwed mother in evangeline booth hospital, salvation army in boston, mass. I would like to know if there are any siblings, or is any siblings of my mothers families children do any kind of a search.

  41. Early 1950′s north jersey or a New York area home my mother gave birth to a female in April. Mother’s name Leila Adele Winfield. She was originally from Brooklyn, we know she gave birth to a healthy white female either in April or May. Would love to meet you if possible. Contact sacajaweac@juno.com

  42. Looking for my brother born march 28 1970 at location in Tulsa Oklahoma.
    Both parents are deceased and my sister and I have been looking for years.

  43. My daughter was born Jan. 10, 1980 at Booth Memorial in Cleveland. She was adopted immediately after birth. Would like to know if she would to talk to me.

  44. I am looking for photo of the Salvation Army’s Booth Home and Hospital, on Garden Street in Oakland. I am interested in any photos 1970 or previous. Does the Salvation have an archive of old photos of its facilities?

  45. Looking for my daughter, born Sept,14,1967in salvation army unwed mothers home in La county calif, named her Denise Macmillan phone number 909 3072328, Redlands Calif.

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