“In its generous scope, Galbraith’s book honors the depth and mystery of all human lives, whether we grew up with birth parents or not.” —Mary Gaitskill
Shortly before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, adoptee Megan Culhane Galbraith was born in a Catholic charity hospital in New York City to a teenaged resident of the Guild of the Infant Saviour, a home for unwed mothers. Decades later, on the eve of becoming a mother herself, she would travel to the former guild site; to her birth mother’s home in Scotland; and to Cornell University, where she discovered the startling history of its Domestic Economics program. There, from 1919 to 1969, coeds applied scientific principles to domesticity as they collectively mothered a rotating cast of babies awaiting adoption. The babies shared the last name Domecon and provided the inspiration for Galbraith’s art project, The Dollhouse.
The Guild of the Infant Saviour is a dizzyingly inventive hybrid memoir of one adoptee’s quest for her past. Galbraith pairs narrative with images from The Dollhouse as she weaves a personal and cultural history of adoption as it relates to guilt, shame, grief, identity, and memory itself. Ultimately, she connects her experiences to those of generations of adoptees, to the larger stories America tells about sex and motherhood, and to the shadows those stories cast on us all.