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A Girl Like Her

A Girl Like Her

From 1945-73, 1.5 million unmarried young American women, facing enormous social pressures, surrendered babies to adoption. Lacking sex education and easy access to birth control, they were forced into hiding while pregnant and then into “abandoning” their infants. In her latest film, Ann Fessler, Professor of Photography at Rhode Island School of Design, reprises the subject of her award-winning The Girls Who Went Away (National Book Critics Circle; Ballard Book Prize), which Ms. readers named an all-time best feminist book. Drawing on interviews with 100 women, Fessler lets them have their say and brings hidden history to light. We hear only their voices, which detail wrenching experiences against images from vintage newsreel and educational films reinforcing stereotypes of women’s roles following WWII. This gripping documentary will help today’s students grasp what life was like before the sexual and feminist revolutions had fully dawned.

"***1/2 Highly Recommended...The movie punches up the personal accounts, creating a jaw dropping picture of "ideal" womanhood in an America that existed only 50 years ago."
Video Librarian

 “A compelling glimpse into an era in which voiceless young women had no rights, rarely saw or held their newborns and were threatened with psychiatric commitment if they questioned the mandate to relinquish a child."
Silverdocs Film Festival

 “Heart-wrenching,..precise, daunting, and also allusive, this story recalls those bad old days when ignorance, silence, and repression were the preferred social strategies.”
Cynthia Fuchs, PopMatters

“A Girl Like Her packs an emotional wallop greater than most other films released this year, documentary or fiction.”
Dan Schindel Otste

Of all the films screened by the Indy, Ann Fessler’s A Girl Like Her, stands out as one of the most thought-provoking. This one will hit you in your gut and keep you up at night.”
Bret Wright Colorado Springs Independent

“Quietly devastating.”
Tricia Olszewski, Washington City Paper

“A Girl Like Her”, a new film by Ann Fessler, visually expresses the trappings of an era unthinkable by the standards of today … with a punishment that far surpassed the crime. Scenes in the movie unleashed all too familiar memories. That evening I grieved for all the young mothers and yet felt liberated to see that our ordeal had been real, not imagined.”
Donnie Davis Decree, Journal of the American Adoption Congress

“Women recall … in riveting detail … their parents’ reactions, life in the unwed mothers home and the lifelong emptiness they have felt as a result of losing a child. Think times have changed? Two words: Rick. Santorum.”
Lisa Sorg Independent Weekly

“A Girl Like Her Ann Fessler’s haunting group portrait of women who surrendered their children for adoption in the 1950s and ’60s juxtaposes their voices with stock archival images from an era when wrenching human drama was buried beneath airbrushed images of family and sexuality.”
The Washington Post, “Ten movies not to miss at Silverdocs”

“Fessler offers a sociologically rich and important deconstruction of a devastating double social standard that was in effect in those days. In revealing the painful legacy that permanently impacted so many birthmothers, Fessler has finally and respectfully given them a voice and created a powerful collective portrait that will benefit everyone touched by adoption.”
Geneva Anderson Art Hound


Main credits

Fessler, Ann (film director)
Fessler, Ann (film producer)
Fessler, Ann (editor of moving image work)

Other credits

Original music, Mike Reid; online editor, Mike Majoros; documentary footage, Dennis Goulden.

Docuseek subjects

Distributor subjects

Documentary Films
Human Rights
Gender Issues and Studies


Motherhood, Reproductive Rights, Sociology; "A Girl Like Her"; Women Make Movies