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The Twelve-Mile Straight


An audacious American epic set in rural Georgia during the years of the...
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Discuss The Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson:
How does society look at unwed mothers now? Would it have made a difference if Elma was in a different class, and does it make a difference now?

Created: 07/11/18

Replies: 14

Posted Jul. 11, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

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How does society look at unwed mothers now? Would it have made a difference if Elma was in a different class, and does it make a difference now?

Elma knows that "folks in town went up in arms about a baby born without a ring on the momma's finger." How does society look at unwed mothers now? Would it have made a difference if Elma was in a different class, and does it make a difference now?


Posted Jul. 15, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
rebeccar

Join Date: 03/13/12

Posts: 363

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RE: How does society look at unwed mothers now? Would it have made a difference if Elma was in a different class, and does it make a difference now?

Society in general has become more accepting of unwed mothers, and there don't seem to be those "homes for unwed mothers" that cities had decades ago. Unfortunately even today, there still are derogatory terms for sexually active females without equally degrading or common terms for males. I also try to imagine the career of a top female politician if she were caught on video bragging about being able to and enjoying the activity of grabbing men by their genitalia.


Posted Jul. 15, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Maggie

Join Date: 01/01/16

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RE: How does society look at unwed mothers now? Would it have made a difference if Elma was in a different class, and does it make a difference now?

Today most of society is okay with unwed mothers within all class of people. If Elma back then was in a different class it would not have made a difference. All girls / women would have been shamed.


Posted Jul. 15, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Marcia S

Join Date: 02/08/16

Posts: 179

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RE: How does society look at unwed mothers now? Would it have made a difference if Elma was in a different class, and does it make a difference now?

I don't think there is currently any shame heaped upon unwed mothers. Many women are choosing to not marry and to bear children. In Elma's day, to be unwed was a disgrace. She seemed to gain notoriety when she claimed that they were twins and the black child was the result of rape. If she'd been higher on the social ladder, perhaps Freddie would have married her. Or she would have been sent away to have the child and give it up for adoption. The local folk would have been one the wiser.


Posted Jul. 15, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
kimk

Join Date: 10/16/10

Posts: 335

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RE: How does society look at unwed mothers now? Would it have made a difference if Elma was in a different class, and does it make a difference now?

I think that although it's more acceptable to be an unwed mother today, it depends on one's age and social status. I think teenage mothers, such as Elma & Nan, would still face a very long uphill battle. Women who are a little older - particularly celebrities - seem to have an easier go of it, in terms of public opinion.


Posted Jul. 16, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
gretchenm

Join Date: 06/04/12

Posts: 17

RE: How does society look at unwed mothers now? Would it have made a difference if Elma was in a different class, and does it make a difference now?

Today unwed teenage mothers are still looked upon with scorn. Although the teens themselves don’t feel the shame of unwanted pregnancy as strongly, where I come from, particularly teens of lower SES. I think if Elma had been of a higher class she would have faced less severe repercussions.


Posted Jul. 17, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
barbm

Join Date: 02/04/16

Posts: 77

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RE: How does society look at unwed mothers now? Would it have made a difference if Elma was in a different class, and does it make a difference now?

I think it is age dependent.... a teenage parent (male or female) is looked down upon, although with much less disdain than previous generations. A middle age professional single woman who wants to have children is viewed as courageous and feminist. That said, it saddens me that this kind of question is even asked today -- why can't we just let people be people. I think in Elma's case it would not matter what class she was in...perhaps she would have been able to 'hide' it with wealth, but people would know and people would talk and treat her differently regardless.


Posted Jul. 17, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
annl

Join Date: 04/03/17

Posts: 25

RE: How does society look at unwed mothers now? Would it have made a difference if Elma was in a different class, and does it make a difference now?

Depends on your location. I think if Elma had been in a different “class” more sophisticated efforts would happen to cover it up. The whispers would be there, but squelched depending on $ and status of the family


Posted Jul. 19, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
karenrn

Join Date: 08/29/13

Posts: 93

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RE: How does society look at unwed mothers now? Would it have made a difference if Elma was in a different class, and does it make a difference now?

I think society is more accepting of unwed mothers. I think they still look down on unwed moms who need government support. So now as then money helps with society acceptance I think Elma would have gotten married if she was richer and in a better social class. I think the Wilsons would have wanted a marriage if she were in their class or higher.


Posted Jul. 19, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
JLPen77

Join Date: 02/05/16

Posts: 259

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RE: How does society look at unwed mothers now? Would it have made a difference if Elma was in a different class, and does it make a difference now?

Things have changed to a great extent, but this depends upon race, class/educational level, and geography (as in urban vs. rural). And there’s still a double standard for nen and women, even or especially at the professional level where one is in the public eye, as rebeccar pointed out. I agree with those who said Elma might have been able to marry Freddie Wilson and be accepted, had she been of a higher class; or her family would have had means to cover it up by sending her away to give birth privately and put the child up for adoption, or fake a marriage and “widowhood.”


Posted Jul. 19, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
melanieb

Join Date: 08/30/14

Posts: 125

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RE: How does society look at unwed mothers now? Would it have made a difference if Elma was in a different class, and does it make a difference now?

Yes, it would have made a difference if Elma were in a different class. If she had been financially able, she might have other options including going away for months to deliver the baby, recuperate, and even manufacture a story about how she acquired a child or give the child up for adoption. To some extent, I think it still matters now. There are still perceptions and stereotypes about the character of unwed mothers based on there socioeconomic class.


Posted Jul. 31, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
LindaB.

Join Date: 06/11/14

Posts: 67

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RE: How does society look at unwed mothers now? Would it have made a difference if Elma was in a different class, and does it make a difference now?

I think things might have been different if Elma was in a different class, but I still think there is a stigma to unwed mothers today. They aren't treated quite the same way but there is still a certain amount of scorn associated with it.


Posted Aug. 03, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
katherinep

Join Date: 07/16/14

Posts: 118

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RE: How does society look at unwed mothers now? Would it have made a difference if Elma was in a different class, and does it make a difference now?

I think it depends on where one lives how the local society would react. There is still the other side of the tracks and areas of almost fanatical religious belief--in those areas there would be the scarlet letter. In other areas, it probably depends on who you are. As a generality, I think our society likes to consider itself modern and enlightened and accepts celebrities and others life-styles but when it comes to actual small town or locality, though not shunned or otherwise shamed, the gossip is still as scathing and strong.

As to Elma--if she were in a higher strata of society--she would be sent away to have her child, who would be put up for adoption. Even so, if it were found out, she'd be shunned and probably wouldn't find a husband of her status, soiled as she would be considered.


Posted Aug. 04, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
johnw

Join Date: 03/11/12

Posts: 50

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RE: How does society look at unwed mothers now? Would it have made a difference if Elma was in a different class, and does it make a difference now?

Although views on unwed mothers have changed it is still dependent on whether the mother lives in a rural / urban community. Rural communities tend to be more conservative and not as accepting of children born out of wedlock regardless of race, education, or social class.

Elma might have been able to marry Freddie and accepted if she had been part of the wealthy community. More often than not they sent their unwed pregnant daughters away for months somewhere to have the baby before giving it up for adoption in another community.


Posted Aug. 28, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
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taking.mytime

Join Date: 03/29/16

Posts: 97

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RE: How does society look at unwed mothers now? Would it have made a difference if Elma was in a different class, and does it make a difference now?

A pregnant unwed mother is not looked at as unusual today. Society has grown to be accepting of this. In the time of this book, it was shameful, a blight on the family. Had Elma been of a higher economic level her pregnancy would have been 'taken care of'. She would have been sent to either an out of the area relative or a home for unwed mothers. A whole story would have been concocted around a 'dead husband' or should she bring the child back home, a story about the child being that of a dead relative. None of which is necessary in this day and age.


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