Before We Were Yours

Before We Were Yours

by

Lisa Wingate

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A notorious child trafficker. Georgia Tann runs the Memphis branch of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. In conjunction with a loyal group of partners that include police officers and the owners of orphanages, Tann arranges for lower-class children to be kidnapped from their parents. She frequently uses fraudulent paperwork to legitimize her ownership of the children, relying on the ignorance of the lower-class parents who can be convinced to sign them. Tann then gives the children to the highest bidder. Tann not only tricks Queenie and Briny Foss into believing their newborn twins were stillborn so that she can sell them to wealthy adoptive parents, but she has the other Foss children kidnapped and brought to one of her orphanages. Tann works with Ida Murphy to keep the children away from their biological families until they are adopted. Tann and Murphy routinely abuse the children in the orphanage and misrepresent the children’s pasts to make them more appealing to adopters. Eventually, Tann’s crimes are discovered, but she dies before she can be tried and punished for them. Later, one of the children that Tann kidnapped, Trent Turner Sr., devotes his life to helping Tann’s other victims discover what happened to their biological families.

Georgia Tann Quotes in Before We Were Yours

The Before We Were Yours quotes below are all either spoken by Georgia Tann or refer to Georgia Tann. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Personal Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Ballantine edition of Before We Were Yours published in 2017.
Chapter 12 Quotes

“Poor little waifs,” she says to the man. “We take them in when they are unwanted and unloved. We provide them with all that their parents cannot or will not give them.”

I bolt my eyes to the ground and make fists behind my back. It’s a lie, I wish I could scream at the man. My mama and daddy want us. They love us. So did the father who came to see his little boy, Lonnie, and ended up broke down on the porch crying like a baby when they said Lonnie’d been adopted.

Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

“They’re perfect in every way,” she says to the guests over and over. “Wonderful physical specimens and mentally advanced for their ages as well. Many come from parents with talents in music and art. Blank slates just waiting to be filled. They can become anything you want them to be.”

Related Characters: Georgia Tann (speaker)
Page Number: 150
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

“Perhaps you should have thought of that before you invented some ridiculous story about your fictitious sister and poor Mr. Riggs.”

Blood pounds in my head. I try to make sense of what she’s saying, but I can’t.

“There never was any… Camellia. You and I both know that, don’t we, May? There were four of you when you came here. Two little sisters and one little brother. Only four. And we’ve done a marvelous job in finding homes, thus far. Good homes. And for that, you are most grateful, aren’t you?” She motions to Mrs. Pulnik. […] “There will be no more of this nonsense out of you. Do you understand?”

Chapter 19 Quotes

I crave a simple answer to all of this. One I can live with. I don’t want to find out that my grandmother was somehow paying penance for our family’s involvement with the Tennessee Children’s Home Society—that my grandfathers were among the many politicians who protected Georgia Tann and her network, who turned a blind eye to atrocities because powerful families did not want her crimes revealed or their own adoptions nullified.

Page Number: 224-225
Explanation and Analysis:

In the end, I’m a Stafford through and through. I tend to assume that I’ll get what I want.

Which, I realize with a shiver, makes me eerily like the adoptive parents who inadvertently funded Georgia Tann’s business. No doubt some were well-meaning people and some of the children really did need homes, but others, especially those who knew that exorbitant fees were being forked over for made-to-order sons and daughters, must have had some idea of what was happening. They just assumed that money, power, and social position gave them the right.

Related Characters: Avery Judith Stafford (speaker), Georgia Tann
Page Number: 230-231
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Before We Were Yours LitChart as a printable PDF.
Before We Were Yours PDF

Georgia Tann Character Timeline in Before We Were Yours

The timeline below shows where the character Georgia Tann appears in Before We Were Yours. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 6
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...in charge tells another man to hold Camellia (who has dark hair) back until Miss Tann has seen the four blond children. Tann gets out of a car that’s waiting and... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Once in the car, Tann holds Gabion and admires his hair, but says he needs a bath to get rid... (full context)
Chapter 8
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...house has boarded windows and peeling paint. Camellia asks if they’re at the hospital and Tann says they must let Mrs. Murphy wash them before they can go to the hospital.... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...and Rill begins to wonder where all these kids came from and why they’re there. Tann leads Rill and the other kids into an office where a woman is waiting for... (full context)
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Tann asks Rill how she got her name and Rill says it reminded her father of... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
From her spot by the stairs, Rill can hear Mrs. Murphy and Tann talking. Tann says something about surrender papers at the hospital and the struggle to find... (full context)
Chapter 12
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...for them to share. While Rill waits her turn at the bookmobile, she hears Georgia Tann tell reporters that all the kids in the home were “unwanted and unloved,” but are... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
About a week later, Rill sees Tann’s car pull up at the home again. Rill finds a safe spot to hide and... (full context)
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...house and the kids are herded through the doors. Inside, couples mill about, talking to Tann and the children. Rill sees Lark coloring with one woman, Gabion playing with a couple,... (full context)
Chapter 14
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...party, it was a struggle for her to keep quiet while she listened to Georgia Tann tell all the adults that the kids can “become anything” prospective parents want them to... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...the orphanage, but Gabion doesn’t want to let go of the woman who’s holding him. Tann tells Rill to be silent while she talks to the couple. The husband steps up... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...Rill, Lark, and Fern sit in the car waiting, Rill tries to convince herself that Tann was lying about the baby sister. Before she knows it, the car starts and begins... (full context)
Chapter 16
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...tells her that Miss Dodd has been fired and her siblings will be taken by Tann because of what Rill said. Murphy says Rill needs “some time alone,” throws her to... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...brings her to Mrs. Murphy’s office. Pulnik throws Rill to the floor in front of Tann and Murphy. Tann tells Rill she is a “wretched, ungrateful little thing” for telling lies... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Tann asks Rill if they understand each other and Rill nods even though she hates herself... (full context)
Chapter 17
Family Secrets Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...what she’s about to learn about the Tennessee Children’s Home Society—it was well-respected and Georgia Tann, who ran it, worked with very powerful people, but the TCHS was corrupt and sold... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Family Secrets Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...she is nonetheless unsettled by the article as she reads it. The article says that Tann may be responsible for up to 500 deaths and that many of the kids she... (full context)
Chapter 18
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...her feet made the prints. Before Murphy can check her feet, though, the phone rings—Georgia Tann is on the line and tells Murphy to get Rill cleaned up, dressed, and ready... (full context)
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Mrs. Murphy brings Rill into one of the rooms. Tann is there already, and they leave Rill alone in one room while they talk in... (full context)
Chapter 19
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Family Secrets Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
...Avery that this makes her a lot like the parents who bought children from Georgia Tann, who must have known how some kids were being kidnapped but believed their social status... (full context)
Chapter 22
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...suddenly freezes in the middle of a room and wets herself—Victoria is talking to Georgia Tann in the parlor. Rill tells Fern to go hide and then sneaks closer to hear... (full context)
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
That night Victoria tells Darren about what Tann said and Darren is furious. Victoria begs him to pay Tann, but he says he... (full context)