Thank you so much for your comments and for what you shared. There is a special poignancy to be in touch again (as I, too, happily am) with loved ones from the past and it moves me that you took the time to respond with your own memories. (Clarke's posting on Gloria, dancing with the person you've broken up with, maybe has an application here as well.)
The Soho Theatre play didn't show any cruelty on the part of those running the institution but the suggestion was that English society wouldn't have tolerated single parents then (60s). I was glad to read of your own happy experience with caring foster parents.
Thanks again for kind words - and can I recommend the Fleetwoods' acapella version of Unchained Melody?
A review of a 2002 production of Be My Baby which helps fill in the social background:
It's 1964 and 19-year-old Mary is packing her bags whilst Be My Baby by the Ronettes plays on the Dansette record player. Her concerned mother whisks her off to a church-run residential home for pregnant, unmarried women.
The liberal revolution hasn't really started yet. Back in the early 60s, being an unmarried mother was almost a fate worse than death.
Mary comes from a middle-class family with doting parents. But once she becomes pregnant out of wedlock, status isn't enough to save her from being treated as scum. Her father "puts her on a pedestal" says Mary's mother. He must be kept in the dark about his daughter's plight.
Amanda Whittington's play Be My Baby - at the Royal Theatre for just this week - recreates the austere, naïve world of the 1960s.
There were audible murmers from the older members of the audience as they recognised half-forgotton features of a distant world: guineas, pinafores, the Trustees Savings Bank...
Music of the period brings it to life. Apart from the Ronettes, we had the The Dixie Cups, The Shangri-La's and, of course, Dusty Springfield.
But this play is no excuse to wallow in nostalgia. The naivity of Mary and the other unmarried mums-to-be and the barbaric way they were treated by society was painful to watch. They saw no means of escape.
Little did they know how things would have changed within a generation. This play was a reminder of how far we have come.