Theodore Robert Cowell, later known as Bundy, was born to Eleanor Louise Cowell in a large Victorian-style house known as the “Home for Friendless Women” before becoming the Elizabeth Lund Home for Unwed Mothersin Burlington, Vermont, on November 24, 1946. 

In 1927, the home was renamed after a tireless supporter, Elizabeth Lund, the wife of Dr. William Lund who had given $100,000 to the Lund Home a year before. During their stay, the women could pick a wedding ring from a bowl near the home’s front door so that people wouldn’t stare at them when they went downtown. Rarely did they keep their baby. At the hospital, they all checked in with the same last name – “Lund.” (VTDigger.org

Elizabeth Lund Home Ted Bundy

According to Nursing Cleo, between 1945 and 1973, single mothers in the United States gave birth in an era of secrecy and shame that historians of adoption call the Baby Scoop Era. During this time, millions of unwed mothers gave birth to children who they often unwillingly relinquished for adoption.  Single white women were expected to perform traditional gender roles to uphold family honor. Most importantly, they were expected to wait until marriage to have children. 

Elizabeth Lund Home Ted Bundy

Medical practitioners helped define appropriate behavior for young women. Doctors and psychiatrists diagnosed out-of-wedlock birth as tangible evidence of social deviance and pathology. Psychiatrists pointed to “illegitimate” births as a sign of the mother’s psychological neurosis. Psychiatrists at Harvard University characterized unwed mothers as “psychiatric problems” and as “victims of … severe emotional and mental disturbance.” 

Young single white women who strayed from these ideals threatened new social norms of family respectability. As a result, they were ostracized and shamed for their transgressions. Some families threw their pregnant daughters onto the streets out of fear that friends might find out. Others quickly shipped them to maternity homes and told the neighbors that their daughters were “visiting a sick aunt” for several months.  Social workers, doctors, families, and clergy pressured, bullied, and coerced unwed mothers to relinquish their children for adoption as quickly as possible, often despite their pleas to keep their babies. The wishes and rights of fathers of relinquished children rarely mattered. Maternity homes (such as the Elizabeth Lund Home) in distant cities and states allowed mothers to wait out their pregnancies and give birth far from the prying eyes of friends, families, and nosy neighbors.  After relinquishing their children, adoption professionals instructed mothers to return home and behave as if their children never existed or had died. Adoption agencies often promised mothers that no one would ever find about their greatest shame. Many mothers never revealed the existence of their surrendered children to anyone, never speaking of them again. 

According to an anonymous source who wrote an article for the Yankee Magazine in 2007, more than 50 years ago there was an original agreement between the parents and the Lund Home, stating that “If, for any reason whatever during the residence period, we, the adopting parents, shall decide that we do not wish to make this child legally our own, baby boy #No. may be returned.”  During their stay at the “Home for Friendless Women, children were referred to only by numbers, instead of names. 

Elizabeth Lund Home Ted Bundy

The building in which Bundy was born is gone, now the site of an office building on Shelburne Road. And Lund’s new residential building is on the property right behind it.

According to an anonymous source who wrote an article for the Yankee Magazine in 2007, more than 50 years ago there was an original agreement between the parents and the Lund Home, stating that “If, for any reason whatever during the residence period, we, the adopting parents, shall decide that we do not wish to make this child legally our own, baby boy #No. may be returned.”  During their stay at the “Home for Friendless Women, children were referred to only by numbers, instead of names. 

Mothers also had to pay fees: two payments of $150 each for “adoption services,” $4.50 for probate fees, and $1 to the city clerk for a certified copy of the birth certificate. This was an “amended birth certificate,” one that renamed the characters involved in the child’s conception. The original birth certificate was “retained permanently and sealed” according to state regulations, “for 99 years after the date of the adoptee’s birth.”  Indeed, Vermont law requires original certificates of adopted children to be sealed for 99 years after the individual’s date of birth. One of Vermont’s state archivists said in an interview for the Berlington Free Press that this happens because women who had children out of wedlock, like Bundy’s mother, dealt with social stigmatization.
In Vermont, access to closed adoption records is provided only by court order. 

Elizabeth Lund Home Ted Bundy

Flynn Avenue in 1945/46, with the old Elizabeth Lund Home on Shelburne Road being visible in the background.

Elizabeth Lund Home Ted Bundy

In a late 60’s advertisement for the home, an unidentified lady happily walks up to the Home

Elizabeth Lund Home Ted Bundy

Each of the files contained handwritten data filled in under titles such as “Relative”, “Nationality”, “Education”, “Occupation”, “Health”, and “Personality”, as well as The Report from Supervising Nurse on Deliveries. Additional included were the following: 

  • Child’s footprints
  • Mother’s right index fingerprint
  • Infant’s name
  • Hospital number
  • A list of mother’s desires for her baby

Nowadays, the Lund’s mission states: “Lund has been helping Vermonters for the past 125 years and we are committed to being a welcoming, supportive and helpful environment for women, children and families when they need us most.  Much has changed since 1890, including the name of the organization, but the heart of the mission remains the same. The most vulnerable moms and their children are still at the center of what we do, now as it was then.”  Helping vulnerable women and children was at the heart of the mission then and it remains at the heart of the mission today. Lund provides safe haven, love, help, compassion, education, treatment and hope.”  The Lund Home is a complex social services agency that serves 5,000 people a year and has become the state’s largest nonprofit adoption agency while continuing to provide services to expectant mothers, before and after birth. 

Elizabeth Lund Home Ted Bundy
Elizabeth Lund Home Ted Bundy
Women gathered at the opening of the new Elizabeth Lund Home

This article was written in order to shed some light on the way these homes for “unwed mothers” operated at the time. Society was a lot harsher and more judgmental in that period. Being a young, pregnant and unmarried woman carried a lot of stigma and shame, and because of that many women were left unsupported by their families. Others were even afraid to return home with their baby. And sadly, many were pressured to give up their baby for adoption.
I know that all of these things forged Louise’s decision to place Ted in the care of the Elizabeth Lund Home. Young girls like her were sent away into such places, isolated from friends and their community, so that they wouldn’t become subjects of emotional and verbal abuse.
And even if some of those abandoned children went on with their lives, others, just like Bundy, had their trust forever shuttered and remained unable to create any close connections with those people who cared about them the most. 

* this article also includes some side notes by the true-crime researcher Erin Banks

To read more about Ted Bundy and how pornography influenced his murders, click here.

photos: Lund Official Facebook Page

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