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Unwed Mothers

by Ethan Thompson

[commentary by Annalise Noeltner]

I chose a roughly two minute clip from the program Unwed Mothers (Minneapolis, MN) for our project (from 8:18 to 10: 45). Released in 1960 as a public service program, it effectively captures both the public sentiment towards illegitimate childbirth as well as the desire to change the stigma that surrounds it. The program looks at the issue and the women involved in a way that urges the public to sympathize and understand what they’re going through rather than judge or look down upon them. This clip starts out with the narrator saying that while the women are generally happy inside of the home, they don’t face the same reality outside of the home where they are met with stares and criticism. The program then follows three pregnant girls taking a trip to the park with the narrator describing how they deal with the judgments they receive. He says they put on fake wedding rings, and he even mirrors public sentiment by adding, “it’s embarrassing to have to buy your own wedding ring.” However, he is trying to evoke compassion in the audience as the explains the ring as “a bitter reminder of the boy who refused to marry the girl or of the parents who wouldn’t give their consent.” It’s interesting to note that he doesn’t mention the possibility of the girl having any say in her relationship. We continue to see clips of the girls at the park as the narrator notes how viewers would probably judge the girls by only seeing their pregnancy with the absence of wedding rings. He urges them to see the girl as a whole person who just made a mistake and is “unable to hide her wrong.” This clip shows how the program as a whole represents the issue of illegitimate pregnancy and addresses the negative stigma around it, all while looking through the lens of a conservative 1960’s America.

A Day in the Life of Unwed Mothers

In this clip, the struggles of unwed mothers is highlighted during a trip to the park.

from Unwed Mothers (1960)
Creator: WCCO-TV, Minneapolis
Distributor: Peabody Archive
Posted by Ethan Thompson
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