Monash University Publishing | Contacts Page
Monash University Publishing: Advancing knowledge

The Market in Babies: Stories of Australian Adoption


The language of adoption is a fiercely contested area. Mothers separated from their children by adoption reject all the terms that have been used to describe them: biological mother, relinquishing mother, natural mother, birth mother. They want to be known only as mothers; anything else denies the reality of their relationship to the children they bore.

Women who adopted children complain in their turn about being called adoptive mothers. They feel that they have been mothers to those children in the fullest possible sense, and that the term adoptive mother diminishes them.

Adoptees are indignant when they are referred to as children. They are mostly adults, well on in years, and determined to be in charge of their own lives.

In writing this book we have not used these offensive terms, except in cases where we are directly quoting the words of our historical actors. We apologise if this causes any distress to our readers.

The Market in Babies: Stories of Australian Adoption

   by Marian Quartly, Shurlee Swain, Denise Cuthbert