The primary target of male serial murderers is women. Recently I’ve become curious about the existence of female serial killers and their tendencies. Though some women kill their husbands or significant others in a fit of passion or rage, the focus of many female serial killers are children.
In the early to mid 1900’s, children became very profitable to those wicked enough to use their innocence for their own vile motives. Many used children in their sweat shops, forcing children to work ungodly hours for little or no pay. Others pimped children out to pedophiles willing to pay top dollar to live out their sickest fantasies with a child. Regardless of the purpose; if someone wanted a child, one of the biggest child brokers of the day was Georgia Tann.
Born July 18, 1891, Georgia Tann would reap untold millions by kidnapping and selling children from 1920-195o. The same woman is responsible for the murder of children; her death toll may number in the thousands.
As a young adult Tann began her career in social work, it was during this period when her warped views of wealth and parenting began to take shape. Employed at the Mississippi Children’s Home-Finding Society, she began to view wealthy people as the higher type and poverty stricken women as “breeders” often referring to the women as cows. She convinced herself and others that that poor people were incapable of proper parenting.
In 1920, Tann began her career as a baby snatcher. Her father, who was a judge, would sign papers deeming poor mothers as unfit parents thereby enabling Georgia Tann to “legally” remove a child from the birth parents and sell the innocent to the highest bidder. In 1924, Tann moved to Tennessee and began working for the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, where she turned part-time baby snatching into big business.
Shortly after her relocation to Tennessee she became an acquaintance of Memphis’s corrupt and powerful mayor, Edward Hull Crump. With the help of the mayor, Georgia eventually set up her own orphanage. Tann and her lesbian partner, Ann Atwood Hollinsworth, began selling children around the country to anyone willing to pay her price, often receiving as much as $100,000 in today’s money for babies. In Memphis, most of Tann’s crimes were accomplished with the aid of Memphis Family Court Judge Camille Kelley. Just as her father did in Mississippi, Judge Kelley would facilitate the removal of a child from its birth parents simply with the stroke of a pen. In other cases, single parents would drop off their children at nursery – when they came back to collect them, they would be told they had been taken away by welfare officers. Tann was also documented as taking children born to unwed mothers at birth, claiming that the newborns required medical care. When the mothers asked about the children, Tann told them that the babies had died, when they were actually placed in foster homes or adopted.
Georgia Tann dealt with only white children. Blonde hair and blue eyes brought the highest price. She lied about the child’s intellect and health to fit the adoptive parent’s desires. Tann would alter the children’s records and falsify birth certificates to make them more appealing to prospective adopters.
People ordered children as if they were ordering furniture, and Tann gladly supplied the demands, charging astronomical figures. She sold children to known molesters, abusers, for labor (one child toiled in a field at 18 hour days, eventually running away). She sold a baby to replace a dead baby. If the adoptive family angered her or would not bend to her extortive demands, she would remove the child. Records indicate that Georgia Tann sold well over 5000 children and killed hundreds more.
The children that Tann could not place were simply discarded like waste. Once deceased, the tiny corpses were simply buried in the yard. So many children died while in Tann’s care that at one point, the infant mortality rate in Memphis, TN was highest in the country and many more deaths were never reported. Many children died as a result of neglect and abuse; in 1945 it is estimated 40-50 children died in less than four months while housed in the illegally operated home. Children were starved, beaten, molested, mentally abused, and received no medical attention. Infants were kept in appalling conditions in suffocating heat. Some were sedated until they could be sold. Many were ill. In public, Georgia Tann spoke out loudly against child abuse, baby selling, corruption, and advocated child welfare reform. Privately, Tann preyed on young girls, sexually, physically, and mentally abusing her charges.
By 1940, alerted by the rising infant mortality rate in the city, some people were on to Tann. By 1950, officials began a long-overdue investigation into Tann’s business. State investigator Robert Taylor reported the horror of what had taken place at Tann’s orphanage, saying: ‘Her babies died like flies.’ As authorities closed in on her dealings, cancer was ravaging Tann’s body. Conveniently for the corrupt politicians who had collaborated in her black market baby trade, Tann was too sick to be questioned about her crimes. Georgia Tann and her allies would never see justice in this life. On September 15, 1950, she died of cancer.
The Georgia Tann/Tennessee Children’s Home Society scandal resulted in adoption reform laws in Tennessee in 1951.