I was born at the Willows Maternity Sanitarium in April and my mother (Grace) took the train back to New Jersey soon after. Grace got married two months later in June and not to my bio. father. She must have had great care at the Willows to be able to get married so quickly after giving birth. In my case, I have no discipline and thirty seven years later everyone is still asking when my baby is due. . . .
copied from the Kansas City Public Library http://www.kclibrary.org/kchistory/adoption
Two factors made Kansas City the “baby hub” of the United States: the railroads and only one child placement agency, the adoption department of the Juvenile Court.
Parents from all over the United States used to pack their pregnant, unwed daughters onto the train and send them to Kansas City where taxis waited at the station to transport them to one of several maternity homes, including The Willows, Fairmount, St. Vincent’s, Florence Crittenton, Kansas City Cradle, and others. In 1929, “292 young women from 25 states slipped into Kansas City that year to give birth at The Willows, the city’s largest maternity home.” And scores more came to the others.
Reporter Norma Lee Browning wrote in the Chicago Sunday Tribune Grafic Magazine on July 2, 1950, “There is one city, however, that has solved its own ‘black market’ baby problems by devising a simplified court adoption system that has gained a nation-wide reputation for its high standards, fine work, and success in the child placement field. That is Kansas City, Mo. The adoption court there places about 1,000 babies a year, thus making it one of the largest and possibly ‘the’ largest child placement agency in AMERICA.”
When attitudes began changing in the 1960s and ‘70s, most of these homes closed.
Because so many children were adopted in Kansas City during the first half of the twentieth century, the Missouri Valley Special Collections department receives numerous requests for information about the maternity homes and also about their records. We have information about the homes, but we do not have any records.
The following excerpts are from a booklet titled “By-Paths and Cross-Roads; Accidents of Fair Travelers on the Highway of Life”, published by The Willows Maternity Sanitarium, primarily for physicians, copyright 1918 by E. P. Haworth.
The Willows Maternity Sanitarium is an institution devoted exclusively to the care and seclusion of unfortunate young women, offering them congenial, homelike surroundings before confinement and exceptional medical and hospital care during delivery and convalescence. In most cases arrangements are also made for the finding of a home for the patient’s baby for adoption.
The institution will not knowingly accept a young woman of the immoral or degenerate type, its service being reserved for worthy and deserving young women who have made a misstep and who face social and moral ruin. The Willows’ method is the safe, Christian and ethical solution to one of the most difficult problems of the medical community.
Early entrance during gestation is important for preparing the patient for accoutrement through systematic hygienic methods and massage. A special system of abdominal and perineal massage has been originated for preventing striae gravidarum and as an aid to labor. The abdominal markings of a single girl, caused by carrying a child, are telltale signs that might be discovered at any time and cause her misfortune to become known. This combination of massages, including the skin, perineal and vaginal massage, has been successful in sending numbers of girls, who have taken them, away from The Willows without marks or signs to show of their experience.
Dear Ms. Schottel,
I have complied with the law in regard to obtaining information about my biological parents. I hired a Search Specialist, Laura Long, in 2011. She submitted to you a report stating that my bio. parents are deceased.
You sent me a letter on June 6, 2011 stating that my biological parents are deceased. From your letter — “Regretfully, the search has uncovered the fact that both your biological parents are deceased.” Are you saying that you no longer believe in the contents of your letter?
Obviously something is wrong with the system of the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri. I have a right to obtain the identifying information about my biological parents and I feel that you are denying me access.
I have sent you the form requesting information, a photo copy of my driver’s license and proof of my adoption. I have also sent copies of my bio. mother’s birth and death certificates. And now you want the original records. What will you want next?
I am a 61 year old adoptee whose biological and adopted parents are deceased. Are you hoping that I will also die before you have to send me information on myself?
Senator John Lamping of the State of Missouri was the sponsor of the above bill. SB351 went into effect on August 28, 2011. The part of the bill that I am most interested in says
If a biological parent authorizes the release of information or if a biological parent is found to be deceased, the court shall disclose the identifying information as to that biological parent to the adopted adult so long as the other biological parent either:
-Is known but cannot be found and notified
-Is deceased or
-Has filed with the court an affidavit authorizing the release of information. SECTION 453.121.7
In my case, both of my biological parents are deceased. I even went to the extent of hiring a Court Search Specialist to try and find them. She reported back to Rosalee Schottel of the Family Court Division of the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri that my bio. parents are deceased.
Rosalee Schottel then sent me the following letter on June 6, 2011
So — under the new law, not the law quoted above — I have tried to obtain my sealed records from the State of Missouri and Ms. Schottel has continued to stand in the way. Even though she previously informed me that my parents are dead, now she wants original documents proving that they are dead. I don’t understand why I even have to send her anything as she had previously written me to inform me of their deaths. I don’t know what I am missing here, but there is a disconnect between Ms. Schottel’s office and the Senator’s legislation. I have forwarded a complaint about this to Senator Lamping, who sponsored the new bill and I am waiting to see if anything happens. And I’ve also sent a complaint to Ms. Schottel.
text on the back of the card reads (I apologize for the political incorrectness of the times)
As bends the sapling, so grows the giant oak.
‘Tis not the reversal of species, but the development of species the forester seeks and attains.
Pride not yourself that you are better than your humble neighbor, the untutored lout, or the depraved Apache. Rather thank the fates that fortune favored you in your education and training during the formative years.
If the royal offspring falls into the hands of the depraved at birth and the child of the gutter occupies the royal cradle, then the royal one is educated a “gutter snipe” and the humble blood grows a prince.”
Where are the records for the Willows Maternity Home?
When the Willows Maternity Sanitarium closed in 1969, after 64 years of providing a haven and help for “unfortunate” girls and adoption services for their newborns, “the records were piled in the backyard and burned.” This statement, published in The Kansas City Star, June 22, 1975, was repeated again in 1982 by Mrs. Sam Ray about the Willows in the historical article that accompanied the postcard in her column “Postcards from Old Kansas City” in The Kansas City Star.
Its central location in the United States with easy access by railroad contributed to Kansas City becoming “the baby hub of the United States.” The back page of a Willows pamphlet called Interesting Willows’ Statistics (1921) features a map of railroad lines across the United States all leading into Kansas City. The caption reads, “A glance at a railroad map of the United States will show the splendid position of Kansas City for the care of unfortunate young women. Its easy access from all directions, excellent train service and central location gives it the pre-eminent position in the country for its work.”
At the Willows alone, it is estimated that, over its 64-year existence, 25,000 to 35,000 babies were adopted, lending credence to the observation in 1991 by Kate Burke, president of the American Adoption Congress in Washington, that indeed, Kansas City was “the baby hub of the United States.”
Librarian Sherrie Kline Smith
Pictured on a photographic post card in black and white, and dated Nov. 5, 1909, is the Willows Maternity Sanitarium, 2929 Main Street.
The sanitarium was actually a home for unwed pregnant women in a day when the privacy of such an institution was sought. Such situations were not even discussed in polite society.
The Willows was founded by Edwin and Cora May Haworth in their white frame home at 2929 Main. It was opened as a refuge for unwed mothers. Later the home was given a brick facade, remembered by those who rode the Main Street trolley cars downtown.
A young woman who found she had been born and adopted at the Willows visited Kansas City in June 1975 and gave an interview to The Star.
Let’s get it straight that it was no baby mill, she 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. It was like the Ritz or Waldorf of homes for unwed mothers. It cost more to go there than it did to attend a finishing school.
Pregnant girls were met at the railroad station and escorted in limousines to the steps of the Willows and remained up to eight months.
Operation of the Willows was very strict. Not just every unwed mother could get in. They were recommended by prominent doctors throughout the U.S.
The post card seems to bear out the last statement. The reverse side of the card, which was mailed to a Dr. Thomas J. Shreves, Des Moines, bears this printed promotional message: Dear Doctor: Our new steam heating plant and hot-water storage system is to be completed Nov. 15. (1909). Meanwhile we have heating accommodations adequate to properly care for our seclusion patients.
At present we have 10 babies for adoption. Hoping to serve you when occasion arises, I am, fraternally yours, E.P. Haworth, Supt.
At one time as many as 102 young women occupied the facility and as many as 125 babies were in the nursery, awaiting adoption.
Some of the original staff included Dr. John W. Kepner, obstetrician from 1905 to 1931; Miss Hannah Dore, secretary; Miss Ada Jaggers, head nurse; Charles Laybourne, maintenance engineer, and Dr. Frank Neff, pediatrician.
At the closing and razing of the Willows in 1969, records of its 64 years of operation were piled in the back yard and burned. It was the end of an era.
Kansas City Times
May 7, 1982