In Blossoms in the Dust, Edna (Greer Garson) has witnessed the struggles and injustices that illegitimate children face all her life. When her adopted sister, Charlotte (Marsha Hunt) becomes engaged, that fact that she is a foundling is revealed and her future mother-in-law refuses to let her son marry her. Consequently, poor Charlotte decides to commit suicide over the shock of her debilitating social stigma and heartbreak. From then on, it seems like Edna feels guilty for all the injustices illegitimate children face.
Having a child seems to soothe these issues with Edna, but only for a short while. After marrying Sam (Walter Pidgeon) and then childbirth, she’s told she can never have another child and her son dies at a very young age. It’s heartbreaking to see Edna so empty and angry about her condition. When her doctor suggests adoption, Edna realizes she still has love to give children, but only wants one of her own.
At first, she decides to open a daycare for working mothers. Business is going well, but after witnessing the way orphan foundlings are treated like cattle in legal adoptions, she opens her own orphanage that focuses on providing loving families for illegitimate children. The very conservative community opposes her, believing that children born out of wedlock should be condemned by society. Edna takes her work all the way to the Texas state legislators to remove the fact that children can be labeled as illegitimate on their birth certificates.
Today, this idea of the children paying for being born out of wedlock is very foreign and obviously puts Edna in a positive light in her mission. With films like Juno showing barren couples seeking the spawn of possible Sixteen and Pregnant stars, the idea of nurture overpowering nature is widely accepted.
I would suggest seeking out Blossoms in the Dust if you’re interested in adoption history, enjoy watching Greer Garson or just want to see a bunch of cute babies. Seriously, some scenes are just filled wall-to-wall with babies and then edited with close-up shots of their chubby, drooley faces. They are so cute when they’re not yours and would be about seventy today.
“It will encourage bad girls to have babies. Bad girls don’t have babies!”