Read More About Our History
In 1964, Maggie Wilkinson gave birth to a baby girl at St. Mary’s Home for Unwed Mothers in Auckland. Against her will, her daughter was immediately taken and given to a married couple to adopt. In her 2016 petition urging the New Zealand government to conduct an inquiry into the decades-long practice of forced adoption, she points out that the history section of the Anglican Trust for Women and Children’s website does not mention St. Mary’s Home for Unwed Mothers. She asks: “Do they believe by erasing it from their history that it will go away? That the evil will fade?"
The history remembers twelve cows on average
were milked, and that an Old Boy sent the secretary
a postcard from the Holy City. Maggie Wilkinson
was told her records were lost in a fire—or a flood.
She was force-fed drops (ergometrine)? . . . bound and given a drug to stop
lactation, stilbestoerol??? The history includes the names of many
bishops and buildings, and the cost per annum of running things.
Yet there is no space for the matron’s soft shoes, her habit of
silently appearing behind Maggie and screaming if her mop strokes were not square.
No room for the Bible on which the mothers were made to swear
never to try to find their children. Look at the rain tonight
in Auckland, how insistently it searches, in hard spirals,
down Queen Street toward the sea. Winter has just begun.
Soon, the moon will infuse the clouds with a color that has
no name—shy of silver, shy of violet. Homes of Compassion,
some were called. St. Vincent’s. St. Mary’s. One girl,
in the weeks after giving birth, eased her ache by carrying
the family cat in her arms as one would a baby.
Italicized language is drawn from supporting articles and letters included in the petition: Petition 2014/80. Inquiry into Misuse of the Adoption Act.
Copyright © 2019 Chloe Honum. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Winter 2019.