Note: Usually, I prefer to avoid names of wicked people as much as possible (because studies show it lends them a certain aura of importance, which affects society negatively, & which is maybe 1 reason why Jews traditionally say "May his name be erased" after saying the name of an evil person). But in this case, avoid names leads to confusion (because there are 3 of them). So I'll use initializations or drop titles, etc., instead.
How It All Began
Beulah respected in the community & devoted to her family.
George served as a local judge. A domineering man who publicly flaunted his infidelities, Judge Tann forced his daughter Georgia into piano lessons & hours of practice from the age of 5, insisting that his daughter becoming a concert pianist.
There was an older brother too, but it's not clear whether he was biological or adopted.
Despite Judge Tann's obvious flaws, he seemed to show genuine concern over abandoned or neglected children, often bringing them home.
The other alternatives at that time were either a child workhouse or a state asylum.
So he brought them home. (The older brother may have been one of those kids.)
"I wish I had a doctor, a school teacher, and a far-seeing minister to sit as a committee and help me decide what should be done with these children," he often lamented.
Highly Educated & Independent with a Veneer of "Helpfulness"
But her real interest lay in law.
She took courses in social work at the Ivy League Columbia University in New York, then studied law with her father and passed the Mississippi bar exam.
GT never showed any interest in getting married. (She only felt attracted to her own gender, and acted on this attraction for the rest of her life.)
But because practicing law was uncommon for women, her father refused to let her do it.
Instead, she became a social worker.
And that was the beginning of the end of the lives of many children.
Setting the Stage
There, GT adopted a little girl named June.
At that same place, GT also met a younger woman who'd given birth out of wedlock, but invented a new last name to appear widowed, and kept her out-of-wedlock son.
Then she & GT ended up permanently living together in "that" kind of a relationship with the 2 children.
(Yes, this is getting weird for the 1920s.)
Here, GT first started displaying "questionable child-placing methods," which resulted in her termination in 1924.
In short, Mississippi parents who never agreed to give up their children took GT to court, where the judge allowed the parents to win & foiled what amounted to kidnapping on the part of GT.
And so GT found work in a children's home in Memphis, Tennessee, where she used aggressive tactics to take control of that home, becoming the manager in that same year.
Mass Abductions Disguised as Adoptions
Before GT took over, there were maybe 5 adoptions in Tennessee throughout the entire year.
Unwed mothers generally married the father of their child.
It was GT who created the modern American adoption system.
And it wasn't in a good way.
The best term to describe GT's operation is "child trafficking."
From 1924 to 1950, GT trafficked around 5000 children with the collusion of her motley staff and authorities like Mayor Crump and Judge Camille Kelley.
While the adoption fee used to be affordable ($7), GT used lies & false promises (unfulfilled background checks, imaginary expenses, etc.) to elicit hundreds of dollars from wealthy couples looking to adopt.
In some cases, GT managed to earn $5000 for an adoption.
She took infants of poor, unwed mothers straight from birth without allowing them to see their baby even once, telling them they'd delivered a boy when they delivered a girl, and vice-versa, or claiming the baby had died—all so that they'd never be able to trace their stolen baby.
(GT obviously needed—and received—the collaboration of the hospital staff to carry this out.)
She lied to couples looking to adopt, telling them a child came from classy educated parents when the child was really from a backwoods uneducated family.
Jewish couples, who found it impossible to adopt (either because homes refused to adopt out to Jews or because so few Jewish babies were available for adoption) found GT willing to deal with them (for a high price, of course) and she sold them non-Jewish babies, claiming they were Jewish.
If couples wished to adopt a blonde blue-eyed child of, say, age 5, GT either went out herself or sent agents to scour playgrounds & streets for a child who fit that description, then stopped by that child in her elegant limousine.
In fact, GT specialized in blonde, blue-eyed children.
With her grandmotherly appearance & promise of candy, GT lured children for an exciting ride in her limo.
She even combed impoverished neighborhoods, looking for children playing outside on the porch.
At that time, it was perfectly safe to leave your baby in a carriage or crib on the front porch of your home (especially in those rural small-town areas), while you worked in the kitchen or took a nap.
GT lured all the unsupervised children from their front yard into her limo, even snatching the baby from its carriage.
In at least one case, the children played outside their home under the supervision of their oldest sister, age 8, while the mother was away giving birth at the hospital.
(Can't remember whether the father was dead or at work.)
GT took all the children.
If you can only imagine the trauma of the mother coming home with a new baby to a completely empty home, with no way to ever find her children.
In another case, a pregnant young widow took a nap while her children played on the front porch.
She woke to find her children gone.
Parents dropped off their children at preschool in the morning only to discover them "taken by welfare agents" when the parents returned to pick them up—in other words, kidnapped by GT.
GT also targeted children temporarily placed in an orphanage by parents struggling with illness or poverty.
Nuns who cared for children were forced to hide the children in attics when GT invaded their institution to seize their charges.
With her access to welfare files, GT targeted poor mothers, making visits to their homes & pretending to discover medical problems in the children, then promising to "help" the family by taking the children to the doctor herself & paying for the visit—yet GT & the children never returned to the deceived mother.
GT sold many children into child labor or to pervs.
GT falsified information & sealed documents or even destroyed records—doing everything she could to prevent biological parents, children, and siblings from later finding each other.
This system of sealed records spread throughout America, as did the adoption industry (although not as lethally or as abusively as GT's personal institution—although abuses still occurred within the nationwide adoption industry).
Myriads of Memphis children found themselves trapped into GT's children's home.
And conditions in GT's children's home later earned it the name: "house of horrors."
The Memphis House of Horrors
Later, it was said that no boy passed through the home without being abused by one of the male employees.
Girls were also molested—including by GT herself.
Physical abuse was also common.
Hygiene & nutrition remained in a poor state.
Children were given sedatives to keep them quiet.
And just when you thought things couldn't be worse...as per the fashionable science of the time (eugenics & social Darwinism), GT saw no use for babies who suffered some sort of defect or seemed weak or whom she considered "ugly."
She ordered her staff to wheel those babies out into the sun and leave them there.
Just like how the term "euthanasia" covers up the act of murder, this oh-so innocent act of wheeling a baby outside to "enjoy" the sunshine & fresh air covered up the intentional death caused by overheating & dehydration.
GT also devised ways to get rid of older children she found hard to place, but it's not clear how.
When the poor hygiene of GT's enterprise caused an epidemic of dysentery in the home in 1945, GT continued to round up children—even when local doctors ordered her to stop.
40-50 children died in that outbreak.
GT's horrific practices resulted in Memphis reaching the highest infant mortality rate in the nation.
It's impossible to know exactly how many children died in GT's custody.
Only 19 graves exist on the property because GT preferred cremation.
But some researchers estimate around 500 children perished under GT's custody.
How the House of Horrors Ended
GT died of uterine cancer not long after the truth went public & so she never faced earthly repercussions for her crimes.
The house of horrors closed down.
Appallingly, no court ever launched an investigation into the black-market "adoptions."
No court ever returned any of the stolen children to their families.
Reunification only occurred decades later, when biological parents, children, and siblings decided to search for each other.
Traumas ran deep, especially in children old enough to remember their parents & siblings (like the 8-year-old twins sold to a well-meaning couple in California).
Debbie Branco was sold as a Jewish baby under the name Catherine Shredder to Jewish parents in New Jersey, then discovered her biological parents weren't Jewish at all.
"Who knows what I am?" she said after the discovery.
Five siblings (of a family originally consisting of 6 siblings) found each other, but lamented over never finding the baby sister who arrived at GT's institution in 1945.
1945 was the year dysentery killed dozens of babies in GT's custody.
It's likely their baby sister didn't survive.
All in all, GT earned $1 million dollars from her racket—$11 million dollars in today's money.
Crummy Corrupt Crump
A combination of factors intertwined to enable this horror.
And it had a lot to do with appealing appearances covering up a complete lack of ethics.
First of all, Memphis elected the Democrat Crump as Mayor and he maintained a stronghold over Memphis, serving more as a crime boss than a mayor.
Crump achieved certain nice-looking goals for Memphis, like giving black citizens the right to vote & paying their poll tax & providing them transportation to voting stations, he gave them parks & sports fields—all so they would vote for him & his policies; he didn't actually respect black people, though; he labeled them as "inferior," and so on.
He gave free milk to poor whites & political positions to young professionals.
Crump paved the streets, made repairs, & lowered taxes.
Yet he took huge bribes that allowed major illegal activities to continue—GT's enterprise was one of them.
He forced city workers to contribute to the fund that provided city improvements—pay or be fired.
That's how he financed freebies & obligations while keeping taxes so low.
He also set up a voting system that allowed him to know how every single citizen voted.
Any city worker who refused to vote according to Crump's demands found himself unemployed.
Those who allied with Crump found easy success.
Yet success came with a price.
In one case, Crump instantly turned one young attorney into a state legislator, and then a senator 2 years later.
But when years of not being his own man ate away at this attorney-turned-senator, he finally criticized Crump's poll tax. (The poll tax was a prime way Crump stayed in charge.)
When the young man refused Crump's demand to resign from office, the man suffered threatening phone calls & police surveillance.
Memphis society shunned his wife & the Red Cross refused to accept her blood donation.
As they walked along a sidewalk one day, a black sedan zoomed at the couple as if to run them over.
The man suffered a heart attack at age 42.
Losing their wealth, the couple moved far away & remained poor.
Crump became so powerful that other Tennessee politicians (like senators & governors) could not win without his support.
Initially, Governor Browning won Crump's support, which is how Browning first gained in politics.
Later, Browning turned against Crump & won.
And that win enabled the shutdown of the house of horrors.
The Little Irish Jinn
While Camille's late husband was a lawyer, Camille never was. (After a few courses in medical school, she settled for being a housewife until her husband died and Crump offered her the bench.)
Yet because Crump was in favor of women's rights (and because her husband was an ally), Crump decided to appoint Camille to the bench of juvenile court.
Again, appointing a woman to a high position, insisting on women's right to vote, & offering privileges to black citizens made Crump look oh-so progressive.
Known as "the little Irish judge," Camille rejected the traditional black judicial robes in favor of colorful dresses, furs, jewelry, and a flower pinned to her shoulder, saying, "Robes would scare the children to death. They're not so timid when they appear before me and see that I am wearing a flower."
Camille insisted on a balance between juvenile justice and sympathetic understanding for human problems.
She focused on taking nothing from a juvenile delinquent "but his mistakes."
She wrote books about her advice & experiences, and gave the books charming titles like A Friend in Court & Delinquent Angels & Kelleygrams.
Camille insisted on treating black & white children equally, seeking to improve circumstances for black children as much as for white children.
She opposed physical discipline in the home.
Doesn't it all sound lovely?
Yet Camille also engineered 20% of GT's "adoptions"!
That means hundreds of kidnapped children passed under Camille's authority.
Later, Camille denied receiving any money from GT and even declared that she obtained favorable results in 85-90% of the 50,000 cases she handled over the course of her career—that includes GT's abducted children.
Yet how could Camille ignore the appalling high death rate at GT's institution?
The dysentery outbreak & GT's continuity of bringing children into the home at that time?
What about all the parents who sought justice in Memphis courts after experiencing the disappearance of their children—obvious abductions?
Records show that Camille also voided the rights of divorced mothers to enable their children to be placed by GT.
It's appalling that children with 2 live parents who wanted them were forced from their home simply because their parents were divorced (and because GT wanted to make money by selling them).
I wasn't able to find more information online about Camille, but at least 2 books have been written that include information on her participation.
Regardless of how much Camille knew about GT's horrors, GT's crimes could not have occurred without Camille's participation.
Camille also died not long after the scandal broke, and she too never faced justice in This World.
The Respectable Grandmotherly Gremlin
She lived in high style and associated with prominent members of society, including politicians.
She adopted a "needy" child herself and seemingly adopted a "widow" with a child into her own home.
Her institution was housed in a beautiful manor and her abusive, addicted, untrained nurses wore formal, impressive nanny uniforms.
She often insisted on these children from disadvantaged families being adopted into high society families.
One impoverished unwed young mother, who willingly gave her baby to GT, boasted later of having made sure her baby went to a more privileged home. She remained proud of this into her old age, certain that GT was a savior who'd done her & her child a tremendous favor.
(However, it's impossible to know what GT actually did with that baby.)
GT appeared open-minded, willing to provide Jewish couples or established single women with children.
People saw well-appointed offices & waiting rooms on the lower levels of the manor, while the children lived in rooms painted pink in the upper floors.
While many children died of murder or neglect (GT refused to follow doctors instructions to give medication to sick children & babies) & while many children were sold into child labor or to pervs, many children were also sold into loving, upper-class, stable families.
Some led lives of privilege with nurturing parents.
With GT's impressive externals & her criminal strategy to provide couples with any kind of child they desire, she gained prestige by providing high society celebrities with children: Hollywood star Joan Crawford, Nobel-prize-winning author Pearl Buck, star performers June Allyson & Dick Powell, New York Governor Herbert Lehman—they all adopted through GT
They did not know she stole the children; she lied to them.
(Also, while Joan Crawford adopted twins through GT, her adopted daughter who infamously wrote Mommie Dearest was adopted from another agency.)
This celebrity support also lent prestige to GT's operation.
It Takes a Village to Support Evil
Memphis looked pretty & oh-so progressive under Crump.
"The little Irish judge" looked so caring & appealing & competent as a judge in juvenile court. She even won awards for her work.
GT appeared respectable, matronly, helpful, and social-minded.
With today's superficial belief that being a non-racist automatically makes you a good person, Crump's wickedness shows that supporting rights for women & blacks confers no halo over your head.
How did everything go so wrong?
It's similar to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, which the Nazis set up to fool the Red Cross. The Nazis made everything look nice. But it was all a façade to allow the genocide to continue.
The deception should have been obvious, but the people involved apparently didn't wish to see the truth.
And that's what happened in Memphis.
But Mississippi shows that it didn't have to happen that way (and certainly, not for so many years).
As described earlier, Mississippi refused to tolerate GT's methods.
The children's home, the social workers, the courts, and the citizens themselves...
GT's exit is described as GT "being run out of town" by Mississippians.
Furthermore, the children's home in Mississippi chose to provide for the children's family.
Meaning, that if an orphaned or abandoned child had relatives, but the relatives lacked the means to take in this child, then the Mississippi children's home provided them with financial assistance.
This was exactly the opposite of GT's method.
The Mississippi home acted in the child's best interests, even if they need to pay out of their own pocket.
Their allegiance was to the children in their care.
GT looked to benefit herself, and not others.
Mississippi refused to tolerate it.
But Memphis accepted it.
And even with Crump's corrupt tyranny, Memphis still voted him out of office at one point.
Black citizens grew tired of his corruption & being under his thumb.
Everyone else grew resentful of his tyranny and corruption.
They ousted Crump.
Too bad they didn't do it earlier.
Where the Path of "Progressive" Policies Really Leads
The pseudo-science of eugenics (invented by a cousin of Darwin) and Darwinism (especially social Darwinism) was all the rage among the elite throughout Europe & America, both academics & the wealthy powerful magnates.
It's chilling to realize that while GT murdered "undesirable" children, the Nazis also rampaged on a program of genocide against the Jews—and a program of eugenics which also saw the seizure of Polish children from their homes, the undesirable ones executed by injection or in medical experiments, and the blonde blue-eyed ones forced into a German identity & into German families—all very similar to GT's crimes.
During this time too (1948-1954), the oh-so progressive secular Leftists in Eretz Yisrael committed similar crimes against not just the Yemenite Jews (although they were the main victims), but also against Holocaust survivors & anyone else they deemed appropriate to steal their baby, later claiming the baby had died and then adopting the baby out into upper-class families—if the baby was lucky.
Some met a more chilling end, if the hearsay is true.
We see that sometimes a certain ruach descends throughout the world.
It may be supported & even promoted by the most successful in society, the most educated, and the most respectable.
It may be backed by "science" and promoted through compelling stories & persuasive words, while also threatening with ridicule & rejection (or much worse) anyone who does not abide by this ruach.
And it takes a truly independent thinker and a true commitment to morality to resist being uprooted by this ruach.
What's behind the Smile & the Charity?
Yet anything seemingly good he did was ONLY to keep himself in power.
Today, many wealthy powerful people speak of the poor, minorities, and women with so much sympathy. They spout "progressive" values. They run organizations alleged to help the disadvantaged.
But it's all a show.
(I'm looking at you, Clintons.)
Today, GT would be lauded as a savior of children. A "brave pioneer in women's rights" for attending a prestigious university and passing the bar.
The media would admire GT's refusal to marry and also her attraction to her own gender.
But they were all terrible, wicked people.
It shows why you can't be superficial about trusting the government or the elite in society or external appearances & emotionally appealing ideas.
It shows how easily people can be manipulated into believing that something is acceptable and even beneficial—when it's actually profoundly evil.
(This same dynamic occurred around the same time in Nazi Germany, BTW. Hitler, yemach shemo, offered people free or affordable stuff, equality regardless of economic class, improved workers' rights & conditions, provided nature-outings for children, instituted laws against animal cruelty...and convinced everybody that if only no Jews existed, then everything would be peachy. The Nazis used science to back up their ideology, and popularized everything through propaganda. Everything GT did parallels Nazi ideology.)
Finding Our Way Out of the Evil Land of Riches
(Except that maybe Rebbe Nachman already did it in his story, The Prayer Leader, in his description of the Land of Riches.)
It's about the influence of popular pseudo-science, and how that science infiltrates so many aspects of life—and is allowed to do so when people refuse to scrutinize what's being presented.
It's about focusing on external appearances rather than actual values.
It's about wanting the easy way & settling for good enough.
It's about ignoring the 7 Universal Laws.
After all, had the mayor & the juvenile court judge realized their duty was to both enforce these 7 laws & punish those who violate, they never would've turned a blind eye to the horrifically high death rate in GT's institution, they never would have condoned the stealing of children (or, in Crump's case, stealing by forcing his workers to pay for stuff or stealing election, etc.), GT wouldn't have abused the children or allowed them to be abused, and so.
The mayor wouldn't have accepted bribes from the crime groups catering to human vice.
If any of them had internalized the fact that every human being is a tzelem Elokim, the Image of God (and not just blonde blue-eyed children or the attractive strong ones, or wealthy people).
There was definitely a certain ruach in the world at that time.
And we also learn that you can't complacently think, "Well, this guy supports minorities, so he's okay. And this guy supports career advancement for women, so he's okay. And we need women in charge because that's only fair."
It was davka men who fought Crump & shut down GT's house of horrors.
The identity politics played today, which encourages people to focus only on gender or race, proves deadly in the end.
We must only look at the actual values & goals of our authorities, and not meaningless externalities or fawning words.
Pirkeh Avot tells us: "Hechacham ro'eh et hanolad"—a wise person foresees the future results of present decisions & actions.
Only people of emunah & rock-solid integrity to stood up to the ruach of that time.
And that's the key now too.