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Elijah Rogers
Elijah Rogers

The Lost Child of Philomena Lee: A Book and a Film that Exposed a Scandal and Inspired a Movement



# The Lost Child of Philomena Lee: A Mother, Her Son and a Fifty Year Search ## Introduction - Hook the reader with a summary of the story and its main themes - Introduce Philomena Lee, her son Michael Hess, and Martin Sixsmith - Explain the purpose and scope of the article ## The Early Years - Describe Philomena's childhood and family background in Ireland - Explain how she became pregnant at 18 by a man named John - Describe her experience at the Sean Ross Abbey, where she was sent by her father - Explain how she gave birth to a son, Anthony, and cared for him for three years ## The Adoption - Describe how the nuns at the Abbey sold Anthony to an American couple, Doc and Marge Hess, without Philomena's consent - Explain how Philomena was forced to sign a document promising never to attempt to see her son again - Describe how Anthony was renamed Michael and grew up with his adoptive sister Mary, who was also from the Abbey - Explain how Philomena moved to England, studied nursing, married, had two more children, divorced, and remarried ## The Search - Describe how Philomena revealed her secret to her daughter Jane in 2003, and how Jane contacted Martin Sixsmith, a journalist - Explain how Sixsmith and Philomena spent years researching and trying to find Michael - Describe how they discovered that Michael had become a top Washington lawyer and a leading Republican official in the Reagan and Bush administrations - Explain how Michael was gay and had AIDS, and how he had to conceal both from his party and his family ## The Reunion - Describe how Michael returned to Ireland and the Abbey several times in the 1990s, hoping to find his birth mother - Explain how he was denied access to his records by the nuns, who lied to him about Philomena's whereabouts - Describe how Michael died in 1995, without ever meeting Philomena or knowing that she was looking for him - Explain how Sixsmith and Philomena learned about Michael's death and visited his grave in Washington DC ## The Legacy - Describe how Sixsmith wrote a book about Philomena's story, titled The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, which was published in 2009 - Explain how the book was adapted into a film titled Philomena, starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, which was released in 2013 and nominated for four Academy Awards - Describe how Philomena became an advocate and spokesperson for adoption rights, and how she created The Philomena Project to raise awareness and improve laws - Explain how she met Pope Francis in 2014 to discuss adoption policies ## Conclusion - Summarize the main points and themes of the article - Emphasize the human emotions and values that underlie Philomena's story - End with a call to action or a question for the reader Now that I have the outline ready, I can start writing the article based on it. Here is the article I have written: # The Lost Child of Philomena Lee: A Mother, Her Son and a Fifty Year Search Imagine giving birth to a child as a teenager, caring for him for three years, then having him taken away from you by the church and sold to another country. Imagine spending half a century wondering what happened to him, while he was also searching for you from across the ocean. Imagine finding out that he died without ever knowing your name or seeing your face. This is the tragic story of Philomena Lee, an Irish woman whose life was chronicled in the 2009 book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by Martin Sixsmith. The book was made into a film titled Philomena (2013), which was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Actress for Judi Dench's portrayal of Philomena, and Best Picture. Philomena's story is not only a personal drama, but also a reflection of the social and political forces that shaped Ireland and America in the 20th century. It exposes the hypocrisy and cruelty of the Catholic church, which exploited unwed mothers and their children for profit. It reveals the struggles and secrets of gay men in a homophobic society, especially during the AIDS crisis. It celebrates the power of love, forgiveness, and resilience in the face of loss and injustice. In this article, we will explore Philomena's story in detail, from her early years in Ireland, to her adoption ordeal, to her search for her son, to her reunion with his memory, to her legacy as an activist and a symbol of hope. ## The Early Years Philomena Lee was born Annie Philomena Lee in County Limerick, Ireland in 1933. Her mother died of tuberculosis when Philomena was six. Her father, a butcher, sent Philomena and her sisters, Kaye and Mary, to a convent school and kept his sons at home. After Philomena completed her formal education at the convent, she went to live with her maternal aunt, Kitty Madden. When she was 18, Philomena became pregnant by a man named John, who worked for the post office. She was then sent to the Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, a place for unwed mothers. There, she was treated as a fallen woman and a sinner by the nuns, who made her work unpaid at the Abbey. She gave birth to a son, Anthony, on July 5th, 1952. She was allowed to see him for an hour a day, and she bonded with him deeply. She also befriended other young mothers at the Abbey, such as Mary and Kathleen. Philomena hoped that she would be able to keep her son and raise him with the help of her family. However, she soon learned that the nuns had other plans for her and Anthony. ## The Adoption The nuns at the Abbey were part of a lucrative business of selling babies to wealthy American couples who wanted to adopt Irish children. The nuns received donations from the adoptive parents, while the birth mothers received nothing but shame and guilt. The nuns also coerced the mothers into signing documents that promised never to attempt to see their children again or reveal their identities. The nuns claimed that this was for the best interest of the children and the mothers, but in reality it was a way of covering up their illegal and immoral practices. One day in 1955, when Philomena was 22 and Anthony was three, a car arrived at the Abbey. A couple from Missouri, Doc and Marge Hess, had come to adopt Anthony and another girl from the Abbey, Mary. Philomena was not informed of this until the last minute. She ran to say goodbye to her son, who was already in the car with his new parents and sister. She begged the nuns to let her keep him, but they ignored her pleas. She watched helplessly as the car drove away with her son, who looked back at her with tears in his eyes. She never saw him again. Anthony was renamed Michael by his adoptive parents, who loved him and raised him well. He grew up with Mary as his sister, and they both knew they were adopted from Ireland. Michael was curious about his birth mother, but he respected his parents' wishes not to look for her. He also felt grateful for the life they gave him in America. Philomena was heartbroken by the loss of her son. She felt betrayed by the nuns and abandoned by God. She wanted to find out what happened to Anthony, but she had no information or resources to do so. She also feared that if she tried to contact him, she would cause trouble for him and his adoptive family. Philomena left the Abbey soon after Anthony's adoption. She moved to England and studied nursing. She married in 1959, had two more children, Jane and Kevin, and worked as a nurse. She divorced her first husband and later remarried Philip Gibson. Philomena never forgot Anthony. She kept his photo in her wallet and prayed for him every day. She also secretly tried to find him over the years, without success. She did not tell anyone about him, not even her husband or children. ## The Search Around Christmas in 2003, Philomena revealed her secret to her family. She told them that she had given birth to a son when she was 19, and that she did not know where he was or if he was alive. Her family was shocked and sympathetic. They encouraged her to look for him more actively. A few weeks later, Philomena's daughter Jane met Martin Sixsmith at a New Year's Eve party. Sixsmith was a former BBC correspondent who had recently lost his job as a government adviser after a scandal involving an email leak. He was looking for a new project to work on as a journalist. Jane told Sixsmith about Philomena's story and asked him if he could help her find her brother. Sixsmith agreed to take on the case as a human interest story. ## The Reunion Michael returned to Ireland and the Abbey several times in the 1990s, hoping to find his birth mother. He was denied access to his records by the nuns, who lied to him about Philomena's whereabouts. They told him that she had abandoned him and never looked for him. They also told Philomena that Michael had never tried to contact her. The nuns wanted to keep their secrets and protect their reputation. Michael was devastated by the nuns' deception and rejection. He felt that he had been robbed of his identity and his heritage. He also felt guilty for not telling his adoptive parents or his partner about his search. He feared that they would feel hurt or betrayed by his curiosity. Michael died in 1995, without ever meeting Philomena or knowing that she was looking for him. He requested that his ashes be buried at Roscrea in the hope that his mother would be able to find his grave. He died from complications of AIDS, although this was not mentioned at the memorial service held for him. Sixsmith and Philomena learned about Michael's death and visited his grave in Washington DC. They also met some of his friends and colleagues, who told them about his life and achievements. They learned that he had been a brilliant lawyer and a loyal public servant, who had worked on important cases and issues such as redistricting, civil rights, and immigration. They also learned that he had been a generous and fun-loving person, who had a passion for music, cooking, and animals. Sixsmith and Philomena were moved by Michael's story and saddened by his fate. They also felt angry at the nuns for their cruelty and dishonesty. They decided to confront them at the Abbey and demand answers. ## The Legacy Sixsmith wrote a book about Philomena's story, titled The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, which was published in 2009. The book was a bestseller and received critical acclaim. It exposed the scandal of forced adoptions in Ireland and the role of the Catholic church in it. It also highlighted the human cost of such practices on both the mothers and the children. The book was adapted into a film titled Philomena, starring Judi Dench as Philomena and Steve Coogan as Sixsmith. The film was released in 2013 and was a box office hit and a critical success. It was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actress for Dench. The film was praised for its balance of humor and drama, its sensitive portrayal of complex characters, and its exploration of themes such as faith, forgiveness, family, and identity. Philomena became an advocate and spokesperson for adoption rights. She created The Philomena Project in 2014 to raise awareness about adoption laws and find ways to improve them. She campaigned for the release of adoption records in Ireland and other countries, so that mothers and children could reunite if they wished. She also called for an apology from the Catholic church for its role in forced adoptions. In February 2014, Philomena met Pope Francis at the Vatican to discuss adoption policies. She gave him a copy of her book and asked him to support her cause. She said that she hoped that her meeting with the pope would help other women who had gone through what she had gone through. ## Conclusion Philomena's story is a remarkable one that touches on many aspects of human life: love, loss, hope, courage, justice, truth, reconciliation. It shows how one woman's quest to find her son led her to discover more about herself, her past, her faith, and her world. Philomena's story is also a universal one that resonates with many people who have experienced separation from their families or their roots, or who have faced discrimination or oppression because of their identity or their choices. Philomena's story is ultimately a positive one that celebrates the power of love over hate, of forgiveness over resentment, of resilience over despair. Philomena's story is one that deserves to be told and heard. What do you think of Philomena's story? Have you ever searched for someone you lost contact with? How did it affect you? Share your thoughts in the comments below. ## FAQs Q: Is Philomena based on a true story? A: Yes, Philomena is based on the true story of Philomena Lee, an Irish woman who was forced to give up her son for adoption in 1955 and spent 50 years looking for him. Her story was told in the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by Martin Sixsmith, and adapted into a film starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan. Q: What happened to Philomena's son? A: Philomena's son, Anthony, was adopted by an American couple, Doc and Marge Hess, who renamed him Michael. He grew up in St. Louis and Rockford, Illinois, and became a lawyer and a Republican official in Washington DC. He was gay and had AIDS, but he hid both from his party and his family. He died in 1995, without ever meeting Philomena or knowing that she was looking for him. Q: Did Philomena ever meet the pope? A: Yes, Philomena met Pope Francis in February 2014 at the Vatican. She gave him a copy of her book and asked him to support her campaign for adoption rights. She said that she hoped that her meeting with the pope would help other women who had gone through what she had gone through. Q: How accurate is the film Philomena? A: The film Philomena is mostly accurate, but it takes some artistic liberties with the facts. For example, the film shows Philomena and Martin Sixsmith traveling together to Ireland and America to look for Michael, but in reality they did not meet until after they had both found out about his death. The film also portrays the nuns at the Abbey as more hostile and uncooperative than they were in real life. Q: What is The Philomena Project? A: The Philomena Project is an initiative launched by Philomena Lee in 2014 to raise awareness about adoption laws and find ways to improve them. The project aims to help mothers and children who were separated by forced adoptions to reunite if they wish, and to access their records and information. The project also calls for an apology from the Catholic church for its role in forced adoptions.




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