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Gillard's adoption apology inspired woman forced to give up daughter
July 17, 2024 — 4.29pm

VERONICA SMITH: 1940 - 2024

Veronica Smith, who has died aged 83, endured decades of sadness and trauma after being forced to give up her daughter for adoption in 1965; in 2010, she co-founded Movement for an Adoption Apology (MAA) to campaign for a formal apology from the British government to the many unmarried mothers "railroaded" into giving up their children in the postwar years.  The establishment of the MAA also came after then-prime minister Julia Gillard in 2010 issued a public apology to Australian women in a similar situation.  One of six children, she was born Veronica Anne Agius into a Roman Catholic family on December 28, 1940 and was brought up in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. Her father was a lieutenant colonel.  After education at the Ursuline Convent in Surbiton, she trained as a nurse and was working at Butlin's holiday camp in Bognor Regis when, aged 24, she became pregnant during a short relationship with a Redcoat, one of the Butlin's entertainment troupe. "I went to a GP and he said all he could offer me to try to end the pregnancy was a douche, then he told me to have a hot bath and drink gin. It didn't work," she told the Daily Mail.

"I wrote to my elder sister. A letter came back, saying: 'Don't worry. It's sorted'. And I remember the train journey to Victoria. I was crying, scared. I had no idea what would happen."

Her sister had booked her into a Catholic Crusade of Rescue hostel in South London, in effect a corrective institution for unmarried pregnant girls, where she scrubbed floors as a penance for her sins. There, like the others at the hostel, she was expected to knit bootees, a hat, leggings and a matinee jacket for the baby she would have to give away.  "My elder sister and mother told me: 'Daddy must never know about this. The disgrace would kill him'," she had said. "I honestly felt if I'd murdered someone it might have been more acceptable. I'd committed a mortal sin and in the eyes of the Catholic Church, I'd never go to heaven."

Her mother told her husband that his daughter was working abroad. She "used to meet me every fortnight or so at Wimbledon Station, and she'd bring airmail paper so we could concoct a letter for my father about my job overseas".

Veronica gave birth to a baby girl at a private maternity hospital in Guildford on March 2, 1965 and called her Angela "because she looked like an angel in a painting".

After a week, the baby was taken away and Veronica was given a drug to stop her breast milk.  The child was fostered, then adopted, and Veronica was told to forget about her. "I shut it out completely," she said. "My life was stolen, really. I didn't have any proper relationships and put all my energies into work as a nurse."

She rose to the level of nursing officer at the Royal Free Hospital in London, second to matron. Her father died without knowing her secret, while her mother's connivance in the loss of her child caused a rift that was never healed.  Then in 1990, Veronica's menopause began and she had a breakdown: "Perhaps it was because it was the end of my fertility, but something seemed to unlock in my head and all my grief came tumbling out."

As she slowly recovered, Veronica set about tracing her child and discovered her in Canada. Christened Rachel, she had been adopted by an academic couple who had emigrated there. She had had a happy upbringing with them.  Veronica was relieved to know that her child was loved by her adoptive parents but her attempts to establish some sort of relationship proved difficult at first. Meanwhile, she had moved from London to Seaford, East Sussex, where in 1993, she met Roger Smith, a divorcé with grown-up children. They married and Roger supported her efforts to build a relationship with Rachel.  The moment she had been waiting for came in 2008, when an email arrived from Rachel, telling Veronica that she had had a baby. Within a year, Veronica had met both Rachel and her new granddaughter, and she treasured the memory of the day when Rachel "walked in with her toddler and all her baby stuff as if she was at home and gave me a big hug. It was wonderful".

In Seaford, Veronica set up a group for women whose children had also been given up for adoption, and she soon discovered that between 1949 and 1976, an estimated 185,000 mostly unmarried women in England and Wales had been cajoled, like her, into giving up their babies. Many of the adoptions had been arranged by agencies run by the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church and the Salvation Army.  In July 2022, a report by the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights called on the government to issue a formal apology, saying it bore the ultimate responsibility for the "pain and suffering" of women and children caused by "public institutions and state employees that railroaded mothers into unwanted adoptions".

The Scottish government was the first to issue a formal apology, in March 2023. The Welsh government followed suit a month later. The British government, however, responded that, while it was "sorry on behalf of society for what happened", a formal apology was not appropriate as "the state did not actively support these practices".

Veronica Smith is survived by her husband, her daughter and her granddaughter, and by two stepdaughters and a stepson.

The Telegraph, London.
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Long Lost Family: Woman, 74, who spent her whole adult life looking for the baby she gave up aged 17 because of her strict parents says she's on 'top of the world' as she's finally reunited with her son

    Paula Beer was aged just 17 when she made the decision to part from her baby
    READ MORE: Woman, 76, forced to put her baby up for adoption after becoming pregnant aged just 16 is reunited with her daughter 60 years later

By Jessica Green For Mailonline

Published: 00:01, 14 July 2024 | Updated: 01:39, 14 July 2024

A woman who spent her whole adult life searching for her child after giving him up for adoption has revealed her joy at reuniting with her son nearly 60 years later.  Retired council worker Paula Beer, 74, from Bridgend in Wales, was aged just 17 when she made the heart-breaking decision to part from her baby but spent decades after looking for him.  Frightened of her strict parents' reaction, she had concealed her pregnancy, working long hours in a grocery store in nearby Porthcawl, and only saw a doctor when she was eight months along.  Paula gave birth to her son, Paul, in February 1967, spending just three days with him in hospital before he was taken away.   But thankfully, the Long Lost Family team located Paula's son whose name had been changed to Jim, and found him living in the southwest. In emotional scenes, birth mother and son are reunited during episode two of the ITV programme on Monday.  After discovering she was pregnant at the age of just 17, Paula came to the conclusion on her own that she'd have to have her baby adopted.  She told FEMAIL: 'My father would've thrown me out, the shame and all the rest of it.  I made the decision to give [Paul] up for adoption, because he'd have a much better life, he'd have had a very unhappy life with myself and my parents.'

At seven months pregnant, Paula went to stay with a kind aunt in Essex, who helped to arrange the adoption.  'That was a very, very, very bad time in my life. It was the worst thing I've ever had to do in my life,' recalled Paula.

She spent three days with her son before he was taken away to be adopted, 'just looking at him, talking to him, hoping he'd remember my voice, knowing what I have to do and loving him as much as I could you know,' said Paula.

'It was a very, very hard time, and parting with him then was the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life.'

She added: 'From the moment I held him in my arms for the first time, the love I felt for him then was unbelievable. I didn't think I would feel like that. And I knew I had to part with him. So I wanted not to feel like that.'

Paula later went on to marry and have a daughter but didn't anticipate the pain of giving up her son would cause her, for the rest of her life.   'Every year on his birthday I light a candle for him, and watch the candle burn and say a prayer and ask God: "please, God, let me find him one day",' revealed Paula ahead of finding her son.

The Long Lost Family team eventually discovered Paul's name had been changed to Jim, and traced him living in the southwest.   It took Jim several months to decide whether he wanted contact with his birth mother, with the happily adopted psychiatric nurse saying on the show: 'It was a mixed range of emotions, from happy to scary you name it.'

But eventually Jim decided that he did want to meet his birth mother, and was delighted to discover she was Welsh, since he's spent lots of time in Wales and loves it.  Paula who also shares a love for music and the outdoors with her son revealed she was 'absolutely over the moon' after discovering Jim.   She recalled: 'The first thing I said to Davina McCall was "Is he OK?" And she said: "Yes, he's very, very happy." And I said: "Oh, thank god for that." And I said: "Does he want to meet me?" That's my second question. She said, "Yes".   My worst fear was that he didn't want to meet me, and that he'd been perfectly happy with his life so far, that he didn't want me in it, or want to meet me. And that does happen.  So I have been so, so lucky. I thank God every single day, get down on my hands and thank God for my son.'

Recalling their emotional reunion with one another, Paula said it was 'wonderful', with the pair sharing an affectionate hug. She even admitted: 'I would have stayed there forever with him in my arms.'

'We sat down and he held my hands the whole time... It was totally, totally amazing. He's the son I would have designed for myself. He's perfect for me, to me, with me in every way.   'He's my personality, a toned down version of me I feel he's been my son in my life, all my life.'

Following their experience on the ITV programme, the two now video call a few times a week.
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