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Edna marries Texan Sam Gladney, operator of a wheat mill. Edna discovers by chance how the law treats children who are without parents and decides to do something about it. She opens a home for foundlings and orphans and begins to place children in good homes, despite the opposition of "conservative" citizens, who would condemn illegitimate children for being born out of wedlock. Eventually Edna leads a fight in the Texas legislature to remove the stigma of illegitimacy from birth records in that state, while continuing to be an advocate for homeless children. Written by
Ron Kerrigan <email@example.com>
Much of this movie is fiction, but the fact remains that Edna Gladley was a pioneer in the field of nursery care and adoption and her work to strike the description "illegitimate" from birth certificates as well as insure that these children could inherit from their adoptive parents has changed many lives for the better. Edna was born in Milwaukee; her father died when she was very young; she never had an adopted sister who was herself illegitimate. Because Edna suffered from respiratory disease she was sent to Fort Worth, Texas, when she was seven years old to live with her aunt and uncle. She and her husband Sam were married in Gainseville after which they moved to Wolfe City where they bought a mill to manufacture Gladiola brand flour. They were childless.
Edna began her work in helping impoverished and homeless children soon after moving to Wolfe City where she started a crusade to clean up the county poor farm during which she arranged to have homeless children moved to the Morris Children's Home and Aid Society in Fort Worth. She joined the Society's Board in 1910. She then made trips to settlement houses in Chicago and New York City to study their methods; when she returned she set up a day nursery for working mothers (the movie has her setting up the nursery first when in fact this happened seven or eight years after she became involved in child welfare issues).
As in the movie, Sam's business failed in 1924 whereupon they moved to Fort Worth where Edna continued her work in child welfare. In 1927 she was named superintendent of the Texas Children's Home and Aid Society. Sam died in 1935 after rebuilding his business. Edna spent the rest of her life advocating for children, concentrating on placing homeless and abandoned children with adoptive families. She also expanded the Society to provide health care for unwed mothers and an adoption service for their children. The Society later bought a maternity hospital that it named the Gladney Center.
I loved Greer Garson in this movie, she is strong, brave and gracious. I just wish the director and producers of this movie had used a script that portrayed the real life of Edna Gladney rather than resorting to the fictitious adopted sister who kills herself and inventing a non-existent son who dies in an accident to explain her motives. Edna was her own person who was genuinely involved in her life's work from her early 20s until she died in 1961 -- the movie didn't need these made-up people to explain why she became involved in child welfare issues.
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