Georgia Tann, “The Baby Thief”, kidnapped 5,000 babies and sold them all


Thought you’ve heard all of it?

Clearly not.

Often known as “The Baby Thief,” Georgia Tann managed to kidnap and promote 5,000 infants within the black market from 1924 to 1950.

Sure, she managed to commit her crimes within the span of 26 years.

How and why?

Let’s recount the story of Georgia Tann for those who’ve obtained the abdomen for it.

1. Regular beginnings

Georgia Tann had a seemingly regular childhood. It’s actually one you wouldn’t count on a child-trafficker to have.

She was born on 1881 in Philadelphia, Mississippi to George Clark Tann, a district courtroom decide and Beulah Isabella Tann.

Her father, Choose Tann, was domineering and had particular aspirations for Georgia. He wished her to be a live performance pianist and had her educated by the age of 5.

Regardless of hating the piano, she graduated with a level in music. Nonetheless, she confirmed an curiosity within the regulation and by some means persuaded her father to tutor her.

She handed the state bar examination in Mississippi however by no means went into observe. Later, she would use her information of the regulation to assist her in her crimes.

2. She was in a “Boston Marriage”

Georgia moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1924 along with her girlfriend, Ann Atwood.

Throughout that point, authorized cohabitation between two financially impartial females, known as a Boston Marriage, was socially acceptable.

The couple, nonetheless, stored the character of their relationship non-public, as such preparations had been starting to be considered as suspiciously gay.

They lived with their adopted daughter, June, and Ann’s son.

3. The Tennessee Kids’s Residence Society.

Georgia started her social work in Memphis, heading up the Tennessee Kids’s Residence Society.

Earlier than the 1920s, adoption was not very talked-about in the US. As few as 5 youngsters had been positioned every year.

Nonetheless, by 1928, Tann and her charity group managed to position as many as 206 youngsters.

Previous to the invention of her crimes, Georgia and her group had been well-respected in the neighborhood. Some would say she popularized adoption, which was discouraged, even feared on the time.

Her place in excessive society enabled her to determine connections with influential folks like Shelby County Household Court docket Choose Camille Kelley and mayor E.H. Crump.

She used these connections to site visitors infants and youngsters with none authorized penalties for nearly three many years.

4. Kidnapping, Lies, and Bribery.

How was she capable of get her palms on 5,000 youngsters?

By any means attainable, apparently.

A lot of the youngsters she trafficked had been kidnapped from poor households as poor people wouldn’t have the sources to retaliate. Those that reported the kidnappings had been ignored, due to her friendship with mayor E.H. Crump.

Maybe it might have been simpler to consider she genuinely wished to provide these youngsters higher houses if that was her solely technique. However it wasn’t.

Georgia didn’t simply cease at kidnapping. She used stress techniques, extortion, and threats of authorized motion in opposition to dad and mom who didn’t know any higher. She usually preyed on younger, single moms.

Georgia additionally picked up newborns from prisons and psychological wards. Even these born in hospitals weren’t secure. She bribed docs and nurses to grab the infants. The accomplices would then inform dad and mom that their infants had been stillborn.

To fulfill additional demand, she additionally used the facility of the household courtroom to separate youngsters from their dad and mom. With the assistance of Memphis Household Court docket Choose Camille Kelley, Georgia would put circumstances ahead of youngsters that had been “not properly cared for”. She would funnel funds to guage Kelley’s workplace and the latter organized the youngsters’s adoptions into “homes better able to provide for the children’s care.”

5. The adoptive dad and mom weren’t secure from her both.

Georgia didn’t simply train her energy on youngsters and their poor households. She threatened the adoptive dad and mom, too.

When an adoptive mother or father found false paperwork, like medical histories, she threatened them with authorized motion.

She would inform the dad and mom that if they didn’t cease, she might drive them to give up the kid by demonstrating that they had been unfit dad and mom.

With backing from good outdated Choose Kelley, the adoptive dad and mom had been pressured to maintain quiet.

6. What made her do what she did?

We are able to by no means actually know what motivated Georgia’s heinous actions.

Nonetheless, we are able to make an informed guess.

Barbara Bisantz Raymond, author of The Child Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Child Vendor Who Corrupted Adoption, went in-depth into Georgia Tann’s life.

She believed that the frustrations and powerlessness of being a lesbian lady on the time was the explanation behind such evil conduct.

In Raymond’s observation:

“Georgia was a woman unable to directly partake of the traditional source of female power: marriage and the bearing of children.”

As a substitute, she exercised this energy on her victims – the youngsters and the households she harm.

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Astonishingly, Georgia adopted a baby herself, a lady she named June. However, in response to Raymond’s analysis, she wasn’t a greater mom both.

June’s daughter was quoted in Raymond’s ebook, saying:

“Mother said Georgia Tann was a cold fish; she gave her material things, but nothing else. I don’t why she bothered to adopt her.”

7. The kids skilled unspeakable horrors in her care.

This story solely will get worse.

Georgia additionally mistreated the youngsters whereas they had been in her care. There have been varied reports of neglect, bodily abuse, sexual abuse, and even homicide.

Within the 1930s, Tann’s unlawful actions contributed to a record-breaking toddler mortality price in Memphis.

It’s estimated that greater than 500 youngsters died within the palms of the Tennessee Kids’s Residence Society. Only some our bodies had been discovered, buried in graves marked by solely first names.

8. The kids’s fates.

What occurred to the youngsters who lived and had been adopted?

Regrettably, not all of them had blissful endings. The numbers are undetermined however many of the youngsters truly ended up in abusive households and baby labor farms.

One among her prospects told his adopted baby:

 “I want you to know I paid $500 for you and I could have gotten a good hunting dog for a lot less.”

Sallie Brandon was one in every of Georgia’s victims. She recounted her days in Georgia’s care:

“We were herded into the car and brought back to Memphis. When we got here, they dropped my two brothers at another holding place and they took me to the house on Poplar. I remember the parties, when they would dress up the children and take them downstairs for a meet-and-greet. Some of the children would come back, some wouldn’t.”

9. Georgia even made newspaper adverts for her adoption company.

Not solely did Georgia get away along with her crimes for many years, however she would additionally even blatantly broadcast her providers to the world.

She positioned newspaper adverts, full with a well-dressed baby’s photograph. Below the photographs had been headlines like, “Yours for the Asking!” or “Want A Real Live Christmas Present?”

Right here’s an example of an commercial within the Memphis Press Scimitar on December 8, 1935:

“Yours for the asking!

“George desires to play catch however wants a Daddy to finish the workforce. ‘Catch this ball, Daddy!’ How would YOU wish to have this good-looking five-year outdated to play ‘catch’ with you? How would you want his chubby arms to slide round your neck and offer you a bear-like hug? His identify is George and he could also be yours for the asking, for those who hurry alongside your request to the Christmas Child Editor of the Press-Scimitar.

“In cooperation with Miss Georgia Tann of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, the Press-Scimitar will place 25 babies for adoption this Christmas.”

Sure, that basically occurred.

10. She earned some huge cash from the adoptions.

Georgia Tann lived remarkably well-off due to her “adoption services.”

Usually, adoptions in Tennessee value a mere $7. However Tann was incomes 1000’s extra. She would cost exorbitant quantities of cash for investigative charges and medical payments.

She additionally had high-profile shoppers, a few of whom lived exterior the state. Georgia charged as a lot as $5,000 per baby for these out-of-state non-public adoptions – a whopping $84,000 in at present’s forex.

She lived so nicely that she was at all times pushed round in chauffeured Cadillac limousine. By the 1940s she had a number of properties below her identify together with a big farm, a motel, and a lavish dwelling she known as “Tannwood.”

Individuals naturally speculated. Nonetheless, Georgia at all times maintained that she got here from a outstanding and rich Mississippi household.

11. Discovery and scandal.

In 1948, Georgia’s strongest backer, E.H. Crump, suffered a devastating loss within the elections when he determined to again Cookeville Choose John A. Mitchell.

The occasions steamrolled the invention of Georgia’s crimes.

With E.H. Crump’s authority gone, Georgia’s energy over the authorized system weakened. Seated in Crump’s stead was his political nemesis, Gordon Browning.

Whispers of Georgia’s trafficking operations reached Browning’s ears very quickly. He instantly began an official investigation.

Discoveries quickly adopted.

Lastly, it appeared like Georgia Tenn’s reign of terror over Memphis was coming to an finish.


12. She died days after her crime was publicized.

Name it anticlimactic.

However a number of days after Browning’s press convention about his profitable investigation, Georgie Tann died.

She died from most cancers, in her personal mattress, within the consolation of her own residence. Surprisingly sufficient, or maybe not – she by no means sought therapy for her most cancers.

The regulation by no means reached her.

Her accomplices had been by no means punished both. Choose Kelley prevented prosecution however was pressured to retire from the bench. She was 75 years outdated. Crump was by no means tried.

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