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  • Texas Adoption Activist Edna Gladney: A Life and Legacy of Love by Sherrie S. McLe-Roy
  • Sharon Courmier
Texas Adoption Activist Edna Gladney: A Life and Legacy of Love. By Sherrie S. McLe-Roy. (Charleston, S.C.: The History Press, 2014. Pp. 160. Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.)

Edna Gladney founded the Texas Children’s Home and Aid Society in Fort Worth, Texas, where she worked to ensure that more than two thousand of her “children” were placed in loving homes. She was also instrumental in the passage of the so-called “birth-certificate law,” which removed the word “illegitimate” from the certificates. Gladney herself was born illegitimate and the determination to keep this information hidden motivated her to advocate this removal. Late in her life, Hollywood would make a movie detailing Gladney’s contributions to the children of Texas. She died in 1961, but her legacy lives on in the tens of thousands of children for whom she advocated.

In Texas Adoption Advocate Activist Edna Gladney: A Life and Legacy of Love, Sherrie S. McLeRoy explores Gladney’s achievements and the 1941 biopic Blossoms in the [End Page 335] Dust. The narrative is insightful and provides an engaging look at one of Texas’s most compassionate crusaders. The text also presents a clear and concise look at the differences between Gladney’s real life and Hollywood’s portrayal. In detailing the movie making process, McLeRoy presents additional information about Gladney’s life and ultimately how the movie changed her life and how society viewed adoption.

Texas Adoption Advocate begins with a history of the children’s home, and then discusses Gladney’s life, beginning with her out-of-wedlock birth, which was the impetus for Gladney’s becoming an advocate for all children. Gladney’s desire to hide the stigma of the “illegitimate” label on her own birth certificate set into motion a movement that has placed thousands of children into the arms of loving parents. Through the lens of Gladney’s personal and professional papers, McLe-Roy was able to provide an intimate look into Gladney’s remarkable life and the movie that catapulted her to national recognition. Using family interviews and old photographs, McLeRoy presents an accurate and realistic accounting of Gladney’s life and her role in the production of Blossoms in the Dust. It is through these interviews that McLeRoy learns the circumstances surrounding Gladney’s own birth, which for the first time is shared with readers.

After introducing Gladney to the reader, the author explains that a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios screenwriter originated the idea to bring Gladney’s life to the big screen. Ralph Wheelwright and his wife adopted a child from Gladney. McLeRoy reveals that Gladney only agreed to the movie after Wheelwright promised to keep her own “illicit origins” hidden. McLeRoy shows how Gladney took a hands-on approach to every aspect of the movie all in the hope that it would change the national conversation about both illegitimacy and adoption. Gladney would meet with the writer, directors, actors and even the head of MGM studios, Louis B. Mayer.

In Texas Adoption Activist Edna Gladney: A Life and Legacy of Love, Sherrie McLe-Roy vividly profiles a woman who changed the way society thought about the silent subject of adoption. Throughout the book, the author explores the various aspects of Gladney’s life that led to MGM’s desire to turn her life into a movie. Yet McLe-Roy did not write a conventional biography, instead she presents a fascinating look into Gladney’s life and the way Hollywood helped propel Gladney to the national stage and helped to change the lives of women and children from around the country.

Sharon Courmier
Lamar University


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pp. 335-336
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