Fessler, Ann 1949-
Fessler, Ann 1949-
Born 1949. Education: Ohio State University, B.A.; Webster University, M.A.; University of Arizona, M.F.A.
Artist and educator. Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, professor of photography and videography. Has held residencies at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH; the Banff Centre for the Arts, Alberta, Canada; Nexus Press, Atlanta, GA; and Visual Studies Workshop Press, Rochester, NY. Has exhibited at the Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA; Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD; and California Museum of Photography, Riverside, CA.
Radcliff Institute fellowship, 2003-04; grants from Rhode Island Foundation, Rhode Island Council for the Arts, Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, LEF Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Maryland State Arts Council, and Art Matters.
The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades before Roe v. Wade,Penguin (New York, NY), 2006.
An artist who specializes in photography and videography, Ann Fessler has exhibited her video and sound installations and her works combining text and photography throughout the United States. A number of her pieces have been on the theme of adoption, a subject close to her heart because she herself was adopted. Even so, it was not until 1989 that she began to wonder whether she should search for her mother. She had always accepted the fact that she was adopted before, but one night a woman approached Ann thinking she might be the daughter she had surrendered for adoption forty years earlier. The encounter caused Fessler to rethink adoption from the perspective of the mother and she consequently began a project exploring the subject of women who had surrendered children in the years before the Roe vs. Wade decision of 1973. In those years, giving birth out of wedlock was rarely tolerated, and unmarried middle-class women were expected to give up their children, whether or not they wished to. The result, as revealed in Fessler's bookThe Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades before Roe v. Wade, was deep emotional and psychological scars that damaged these women's lives for years to come. In addition to her interviews with over one hundred women, Fessler frames her book with her search for her mother.
Although a Kirkus Reviews contributor felt that the interviews could at times be "repetitious," the critic added that "individual voices speak clearly of guilt, abandonment, loneliness, helplessness, fear and coercion." Library Journal reviewer Nicole Mitchell attested that the book "successfully intertwines" 152 research facts with the women's personal stories in a work that is "thought-provoking and thoroughly researched." Kathryn Harrison, writing in the New York Times Book Review, felt similarly, calling The Girls Who Went Away "a remarkably well-researched and accomplished book." Additionally, Christian ScienceMonitor reviewer Marjorie Kehe pointed out that Fessler "lets her material speak to us directly—and it does so powerfully—of the unresolved emotions that often last a lifetime."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 2006, Vanessa Bush, review of The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades before Roe v. Wade, p. 37.
Chicago Tribune, May 14, 2006, Maureen McLane, "Childless Mothers," review of The Girls Who Went Away, p. 1.
Christian Science Monitor, May 16, 2006, Marjorie Kehe, "Mothers Only in Secret," review of The Girls Who Went Away, p. 15.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2006, review of The Girls Who Went Away, p. 220.
Library Journal, March 15, 2006, Nicole Mitchell, review of The Girls Who Went Away, p. 88.
New York Times Book Review, June 11, 2006, Kathryn Harrison, review of The Girls Who Went Away.
Publishers Weekly, January 16, 2006, review of The Girls Who Went Away, p. 46.
San Francisco Chronicle, May 7, 2006, Robert Speer, "Deprived of a Chance to Be Mothers," review of The Girls Who Went Away, p. M1.
Maryland Institute College of Art, Everlasting Web site,http://www.mica.edu/everlasting/ (July 12, 2006), information about Fessler's artwork.
Radcliff Institute Web site,http://www.radcliffe.edu/ (April 21, 2006), brief biography of Fessler.
The Girls Who Went Away Web site,http://thegirlswhowentaway.com (July 12, 2006).