June 21, 1975
Lawrence Journal World
Former KC maternity hospital target
Adoptive 'graduates' probe past
TULSA (AP)—The longing of an adopted person to know his real life history has drawn a group of "graduates'" of a former high-society Kansas City maternity home into a fight to open sealed records. In particular, "Willows Graduates Adopted" (WGA) is taking issue with the Jackson County, Mo., bureau of vital statistics. The bureau, according to the Tulsa-based group, has thrown roadblocks into efforts of persons born at The Willows to obtain original birth certificates which would provide names of at least the mother.
Margaret A., the original name of a prominent Tulsa woman who was born there Aug. 28, 1925, has launched the effort. Her work has led to forming the volunteer group and now they are asking for anyone who was born at the home before it closed, or parents of children born there, to write them at P.O. Box 52621 in Tulsa.
"The bureaucracy has denied the right of all other adoptees to their original birth certificates," she said of the Jackson County office. "They're too busy, records are too long or are across the street in another building, you have no right to them. If you are able to go to court then you can get them."
If persons who were born there will contact the organization they can be told the procedure to get the records legally and without exorbitant expense, she says.
The Willows operated in Kansas City from 1905 until it closed in 1969 and its records were presumably burned. An estimated 25,000 to 35,000 babies were born at the home and their records sealed in Jackson County. However, the records were sent to state offices at Jefferson City and can be opened there on a court order from the person's home.
Margaret A., who says she is luckier than most of them; has learned she was the daughter of a Dorothy A. and a Kansas City man whose name was not placed in the record.
"This was the racy, roaring '20s in wild, rich Kansas City," she says. "The Willows was like the Ritz or the Waldorf of homes for unwed mothers. It had a lot of snob appeal and the owners were members of Kansas City society."
The original owners, she says were Edwin and Cora May Haworth, in conjunction with Dr. John W. Kepner. "Operation of The Willows was very strict. Not just every unwed mother could get in. They were recommended by. prominent doctors throughout the United States, and not everyone qualified to adopt the babies. Some prominent entertainers were refused simply because they were in that ugly, dirty entertainment business."
The mothers-to-be, mostly from Midwestern states, were met at the railroad depot and taken to the home in large cars. They remained there in seclusion until after the baby was born.
"They had all types of entertainment and the girls became close friends, their babies were delivered in the hospital there," the Tulsa woman said. Applicants to adopt babies were screened as carefully as the mothers. "They were very strict," she said. "The applications for adoptions had to contain recommendations from their home cities, including bankers, lawyers or other substantial people in the community."
The Tulsa woman was determined years ago to learn her parentage. She was fortunate because her parents had not had her birth certificate amended in Missouri, she says, but was brought to Oklahoma. She has her original birth certificate, which contains only her natural mother's name and the state where the natural mother was born—Kansas—her occupation, her age and the name she wished to give the newborn child.
"I have my original birth certificate only because my birth certificate was never amended in Missouri to my
adopted parents' name. My adopted mother wanted me to know where I came from after she died, so she took the original birth certificate to Oklahoma to have it amended for adoption and kept it for me," she said.
Her natural mother wrote a letter to her adoptive parents outlining the heartaches she had. "I have waited, yet hated for this day to come when I would have to give up my own flesh and blood," she wrote. "No one but a mother could possibly realize what it means. I think if you could trace back the child's parentage, that you would find nothing that would mar the child's life."
Another woman who was brought to Tulsa by her adoptive parents was not as lucky. Her original certificate was amended in Kansas City and she had not been unable to track down the original until Margaret A. got in touch with her through a mutual friend. Just a few days ago the two women drove to Jefferson City, armed with a court order from a Tulsa judge, and promptly got the certificate. Margaret A. may or may not be able to find her mother—but she is trying constantly. "But at least, I know," she says.
June 22, 1975
Kansas City Star
Kansas City, Missouri
By Bleys W. Rose
Kansas City Born Adopted Seek Birth Secrets
About 75 persons born at a defunct Kansas City home for unwed mothers are going to court and then to Jefferson City to discover who their parents are. Miss Margaret A., a Tulsa resident who was born in 1925 at the high class Willows home at 2929 Main Street, is leading the effort aimed at loosening the glue on confidential records of adoption. Miss A. says she’s been unable to obtain original birth names and names of natural parents from the Kansas City bureau of vital statistics. So she’s off to Jefferson City armed with a court order requiring disclosure of the sealed records.
“I’m not surprised at all to learn that this is an organized effort,” said Charles Bell, director of the Missouri bureau of vital statistics. “Last week we had five of these requests in one day. This has never been a problem because nobody raised the issue before.”
The issue for Miss A. and her organization, the Willows Graduates Adopted, is their right to original birth records. Adopted persons traditionally have been denied access to adoption records, except for medical or inheritance reasons, to protect the identities of parents and children involved. At age 50, Miss A. figures she is old enough to handle meeting her natural parents. Mrs. Robert W. is her married name, but Margaret A. is the one she displays on her original birth certificate and prefers when discussing her case.
“Now what could be easier to understand than the desire of an adopted person to find out who his mother and father really are?” she said. “When you were a child, didn’t you want to know if you belonged to your parents?”‘I just knew I was adopted because I’d ask leading questions that they (the adoptive parents) couldn’t answer. It’s curiosity that keeps an adopted child from putting the question out of his mind.”
Miss A.'s curiosity has caught the attention of about 100 persons who either were born or gave birth at the Willows. They are asking her assistance in establishing contact with their kin. She estimates that between 25,000 and 35,000 babies were born at the home from 1905 to 1969. The home, owned by Edwin and Cora May Haworth, offered a hospital for prenatal and postnatal care and an adoption agency.
“Let’s get it straight that it was no baby mill,” Miss A. said. “They were fine, upstanding people who ran the home and only the most socially prominent Midwestern women were taken in. “It had a lot of snob appeal. The Willows was like the Ritz or the Waldorf of homes for unwed mothers. It cost more to go there than it did to attend a finishing school.”
She said pregnant women were met at the railroad station and escorted in limousines to the steps of the Willows. The women remained at the home for up to eight months and the babies selectively were put up for adoption.
“Operation of the Willows was very strict,” she added. “Not just every unwed mother could get in. They were recommended by prominent doctors throughout the U.S. and not everyone qualified to adopt the babies.”But the Willows fell victim to changing attitudes before it fell to the wreckers ball. “Very simply, there was no longer a need for such a home,” Miss A. said. “When the pill and abortions came along, they did away with these maternity homes.”
She said the Willows had a “basement full of birth records” that no local bureau of vital statistics would accept for inclusion in their files. Robert Gregory, administrative assistant in the Kansas City bureau of vital statistics, doubts the records would have been much use. “The best of our information indicated that they contained no medical data and were of little interest to us back then.”
So after the Willows closed in 1969 the records were piled in the backyard and burned. “A lot of things have changed sine then,” Miss A. said. “People no longer feel the need to hide their head in a bucket.”
Bell, the state vital statistics director agrees. “Judges used to be pretty hard nosed about giving out court orders,” Bell said. “They thought permitting access to this information would do injustice to the child and to the adoptive parents.”“Now there is quite a change in thinking on this issue. Whether we agree with it or not, we must comply with a court order.”
And what of Miss A.’s own quest for her parents? She says she knows this much: “I was more lucky than most Willows ‘graduates’ because my adoptive mother had my original birth certificate amended in another state. After she died, she wanted me to know who my real parents were. The certificate says I was born Aug. 28, 1925 to a nurse named Dorothy A. My mother would be 76 years old now and I still haven’t found her; so I don’t know if she’s even alive. But I at least know who she was. I know my real father would be 83 and that he was a prominent banker in the Kansas City area. I still don’t know his name. To be honest with you, I’ve been too busy with the other Willows graduates that I haven’t been able to devote the proper amount of time to finding my mother."
August 27, 1981
Lawrence Journal World
Court may identify cancer victim's father
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An adoptee suffering from bone cancer has been turned down again in his effort to learn the name of his mother and any half-brothers or sisters, all of whom could be potential bone marrow
donors. The Missouri Court of Appeals decision Tuesday upheld a lower court decision which denied James G.'s request to learn the names.
The appellate court did say that G., 34, of Miami, Fla. can be told the identity of his father, but only if the man
is alive and therefore a potential donor.
Doctors have told G. a marrow transplant could save his life, but only blood relatives would be candidates for having marrow that G.'s body would accept.
Missouri's laws forbid identifying the natural parents of a child given up for adoption without compelling need.
The three-judge appellate court ruling Tuesday upheld an earlier decision by Juvenile Court Judge Gene Martin that there is no compelling need in G.'s case.
Through Martin, G.'s real mother is aware of the case. She has refused to allow the judge to identify her or any of G.'s half-brothers or half-sisters.
The appeals court did direct Martin to begin a search for G.'s father so he could be asked to submit a blood test
and possibly donate the bone marrow.
The court-appointed attorney for G.'s mother, Michael E. Curley, said he would ask for a rehearing on the issue of contacting the father.
"Getting the father involved is not what the mother wanted to do," Curley said. "Trying to contact anybody creates a situation for a potential breach of her anonymity and confidentiality."
Curley said he did not know whether the father was alive. G.'s mother has said in written testimony the father
never knew of the pregnancy that produced G. in 1947, at the Willows Maternity Home in Kansas City.
Both Curley and Martin said they have not discussed the father with the mother.
"I don't know who the father is, or whether he is even alive," Curley said.
Martin said the man listed in the adoption file might not even be G.'s father.
"I could see all sorts of situations where a prospective mother could lie about who the father is," Martin said.
Mrs. G. said she and her husband would just have to wait for the court's next move.
"Any human being would have made the same pleadings we made to people," she said from her home in Miami. "What else can we can we do?"
October 4, 1992
Kansas City Star
Kansas City, Missouri
Garnet Marie Haworth dies at 89 She ran Willows for unwed mothers.
Kansas City lost a page from its rich social history Friday when Garnet Marie Haworth died. For 15 years, Haworth ran the Willows, a haven for unwed mothers from around the world.
Haworth, known as "Peggy," died at her home in Kansas City. She was 89.
Haworth's mother-in-law founded the Willows hospital in 1905, and it became renowned as a refuge for young unwed mothers from prominent families. Haworth ran the home at 2929 Main St. from the time of her mother-in-law's death in 1953 until it closed in 1969, when bearing a child out of wedlock had lost the stigma that made such homes so necessary.
In those years, friends remember, she worked hard to match the babies with the best adoptive families and developed a reputation for tireless devotion to the young women she served.
"She delighted in doing anything for the girls," said Joan Nichols, a social worker at the Willows from 1959 to 1969. "If a girl would get a little homesick, she would get up in the middle of the night and come over to comfort her. "
Haworth's daughter, Carol Price, has similar memories.
"She lived and breathed the home," Price said. "It was a 24-hour-a-day job. If someone was flying in at 1 a.m., she would go to the airport and meet them. " In a newspaper interview when the home was preparing to close, Price told a reporter: "You ought to see mother when someone is in labor. You would think all the girls were her own; she paces the floor just like any parent. "
In the same article, Haworth herself described how all-encompassing the job had become. "I haven't had a vacation in 15 years or seen a movie in four years," she said. "Please don't think I'm complaining. I wouldn't give anything for the years here, and when I decided to come to the home after Mother Haworth died, I knew I would never regret it. But there are some things you have to accept along with reality. "
After the Willows closed, Price said, Haworth devoted her energy to her five grandchildren, Matthew, Christopher, Scott, Edward III and Elizabeth, who range in age from 13 to 33. Barbara Close, who grew up in the same neighborhood as the Haworths, remembered Haworth as a pioneer in balancing career and family during the 1950s and 1960s. She radiated dignity, humor and an impeccable fashion sense, Close said.
"She was the only woman I knew in those days who worked (outside the home)," Close said. "She was before her time in being a role model for a contemporary woman, a working woman, a professional woman. " Nichols agreed, describing Haworth as a savvy businesswoman who nevertheless was a maternal confidante for her clients. But the Willows was much more than a career for Haworth. Long before she arrived as its director, she went there as a hopeful parent.
Haworth and her husband adopted Carol when she was 6 weeks old.
January 4, 1999
By Bethany Behrhorst
Moro woman reunited with birth mother
MORO - Fate and faith led Moro's Janice L. to her personal miracle on West 34th Street last November.
The area woman said she is facing the new year with the family she always hoped she would find. She said she thanks God for being able to find the missing part in her life.
After locating her mother through a registry which locates people throughout the United States, Janice was able to contact her birth mother for the first time. Her mother, Sally, lives on West 34th Street in West Milwaukee, Wis.
Janice said finding Sally was her personal miracle from God. Only one week after signing up on the registry, she was able to locate her mother. Sally had been on the registry for 12 years.
Janice, 40, came into this world with the name Faith W. She said she had a wonderful childhood and two loving parents, but always felt like she was missing something in her life. After many years of praying for a miracle which would reunite Janice with her birth mother, her prayers were answered.
She was able to contact an adoption investigator through the Internet to find out some information she needed to locate her birth mother. She knew she was born in Kansas City, Mo., at Willows Hospital on July 4, 1958. Her mother was scared and unmarried.
By going online she was able to find out that Sally, who was 16 at the time, lived in the hospital for the last few months of her pregnancy and then went back to her home town. She was able to rock baby Faith for 30 minutes before turning her over to a new family. Sally told her daughter that she carried an image of her child burned in her mind with her through the years.
She said "The very first thing I want you to know is that there was never a day that went by in my life that I didn't think about you," Janice said. "She told me I have my father's eyes and that I'm left-handed like my father was."
Janice's biological father died when she was 10 years old. She said she wished she also could have met him.
As an only child, Janice said she always wanted a large family. She and her husband Steve have five sons: Jason, 20; Daniel, 18; Jacob, 13; Jordan, 6; and Justin, 3. Spending Christmas in Wisconsin with her birth mother was something special.
While there, Janice and her husband decided to renew their vows in front of her birth mother at a chapel in the area. Being a pastor, Steve was able to perform the ceremony in which he was the pastor and the groom.
Steve asked Sally for her daughter's hand in marriage and the song "You Light Up My Life" was played while Janice and Sally lit a unity candle.
Janice said she was happy to learn that about her birth mother's life. She said her biological parents loved each other and that her father knew about her. The young couple wanted to be married and raise the baby, but because Sally was so young decision to give her up for adoption was made for her. She said this Christmas was
a love story worth retelling.
Janice said Sally plans to prepare a room in her home for the Lowrys for when they visit. Janice said she wants
to learn more about her birth mother's life. She said her family is planning on making more visits to Wisconsin.
Their only one word to describe it," Janice said."It was awesome. I've never walked into a place and felt totally at home."
She said she hopes Sally will come to the family's home in Moro and spend some time in the area.
February 18, 2005
The Kansas City Star
Kansas City, Missouri
Author: Ina L.
Adoptees deserve access to their stories
I am one of the approximately 5 million to 6 million individuals in this country who, because of the circumstances of their birth and the actions of others, have been given two different names and two different sets of parents. We are the adopted.
I am one of many older adopted individuals in the United States who are fighting for access to the basic facts of my birth. Like everyone else, we want to know where we came from and how we came into the world. We also want to know our family's medical history - for our own sake and for the sake of our children and grandchildren.
Although so far I have not been allowed to see the state's records, still I am fortunate: I know more than most people in my situation.
When I was 16 years of age, I began asking questions about my adoption and wanted facts. My adoptive mother had some documents about my biological parents and gave them to me to read. (I am not certain where she received this information, perhaps from the family physician.)
At the time, I felt satisfied. But since then many questions have arisen, and, sadly, over the years the papers disappeared. Still, thanks to my adoptive mom, I at least know that I was born at the Willows Maternity Home and my biological mother and father's names, and the name I was given at birth.
Like many others, I have jumped through the hoops at the Jackson County Family Court system.
For $50, the court will release non-identifying information. For $250 and up, individuals approved by the court can search for additional information about the biological family.
But in my case, as with many older adoptees, I learned that my biological mother and father have passed away. Without their permission, the court will not release its records about my birth nor approach anyone else in my biological family for permission or information. In my case, I learned that I have two half-sisters.
Adoptions today are much more open and many include informational exchange between the biological parents and the adoptive parents. This is beneficial in many instances. In a society that believes in such openness, people like me should have greater access to their own history.
I have a fundamental right to the information that the state of Missouri has about my birth and about who I am. At present, adoptees in Missouri like me have no legal right to find out even the most basic information about themselves.
Our more contemporary sister-state of Kansas and several other state jurisdictions have opened adoption records for adoptees who have reached a certain age and are seeking answers about their birth and their birth family. It is time for Missouri to do the same.
Ina L. lives in Blue Springs.