Friday, September 22, 2006



Two different reunion stories were carried by the two major Chicago newspapers during September, only 6 days apart. The first appeared on September 11th in the Chicago Sun Times and the second was in the Chicago Tribune on September 17th.

Both of these articles were about heartwarming and really rather extraordinary reunions between young female adoptees and their biological fathers.

The first story came from Minnesota. “Adopted Daughter learns biological dad was 9/11 hero.” Within the text of the article it said that this young woman was able to find out who her father was because she got her birth certificate from the state. Oh yeah?! The article failed to report that Minnesota does not give out any original birth certificates unless birth mothers first consent.

I wrote a letter to the editor of the Chicago Sun Times correcting the facts that were omitted in the article. My letter wasn’t printed.

The second story, from West Virginia, was entitled, "Role emerges for actress as real princess.” This article told about a young adoptee who decided to hire a private investigator to find her biological father. The investigator found her father in less than three hours and to her amazement - this adoptee learned that her father is a chieftain of a tribe in Sierra Leone, Africa.

I wrote to the Chicago Tribune but they didn’t print my letter either. Well, thank goodness for Blogs. Here’s my letter to the Trib:

Dear Editor:

I truly enjoyed the story, "Role emerges for actress as real princess" in Sunday’s Chicago Tribune (Sept. 17th) I’m an old adoptee who as a youngster regularly dreamed of being found by her real parents, who just happened to be the king and queen of some far off country. The king and queen would then carry this little orphan Annie off to their castle where we would all live happily ever after. End of fairy tale!

As an old Grannie Annie, I can only ask (for at least the billionth time): Why must adopted adults hire investigators, as described in Sarah Culberson’s story, to find out who they are? Why must adopted men and women jump through impossible hoops set up just for them by the 45 states in our country, Illinois included, in order to find out who they are?

Every week, you can count on reading another "good" reunion story, though admittedly Sarah Culberson’s ending is unique. I figure that the media wouldn’t be printing these reunion stories so often if their readers didn’t love to read about them. Everyone seems to love a regular diet of stories with a good cry and a happy ending. Sometimes it’s a puppy who finds its way home and other times it’s an adoptee. Both make great press!

Yet whenever a group emerges to change the laws to allow all adopted adults to be treated the same as all "non-adopted" citizens, these readers are no-where to be seen. They have been struck dumb. And worse! The very same newspapers that print the reunion stories either clam-up entirely or run editorials with impossible reasons why the state should not treat adopted adults on a par with all other citizens of the state.

You love to read about us, but you don’t really want to help us.

Sunday, September 10, 2006



Today, I have experienced one of the top two or three moments in all my years as an activist for adoptee rights! Here’s how it came about.

My granddaughters’ nanny, Miss Deb, had recently mentioned to my daughter in law
that she was adopted. "Deb wrote to the state of Oregon nearly 20 years ago to
get her birth certificate," said my daughter in law. Deb thought, as so
many of us did, that we adoptees could NEVER get that information from the state
- any state - in our country.

"Have I got someone for you!" said my daughter in law. And of course, she was
referring to me.

I met Miss Deb a few days ago. She greeted me with, "Hey, we’ve got something in
common." We hugged each other because we do have something very much in common -
we were both adopted - and we felt a special bond forming that day. When I heard
that Deb was born in Oregon, I jumped so high I touched the sky.

Deb told me that although she was born in Oregon she had no idea that she could
now get her original birth certificate. I told her about Measure 58. But it was
hard for her to take it all in at once.

"But I don’t know my birthmother’s name." Deb said, thinking that this fact
would still preclude her from getting any records. I explained the beauty of
Measure 58.

"You mean I’ll get a copy of my original birth certificate with my birthmother’s
NAME on it?!!"

"Yep," said I, feeling like Ed McMahon handing out the million-dollar
sweepstakes check. "Her last name too?" asked Deb. "Yep," I said, handing over
another million.

"Next time I come," I assured her, "I’ll bring you all the details."

And so, in anticipation of our visit tomorrow, I just came from the Oregon
website where I downloaded copies of the procedure, the application form, and
even a little of the history for Deb. I feel extraordinarily happy today! All
those years of battering brick walls, hoping to crack open one of them, has not
been in vain.


Part of why I’m feeling so elated is because I was on the spot, literally, when
Measure 58 was born. It happened at the first Bastard Nation Conference, "Birth
of a Bastard Nation," in July 1997 in Chicago. The keynote speaker at the
conference was Randy Shaw, an activist whose books include "The Activist’s
Handbook" and "Reclaiming America: Nike, Clean Air, and the New National

After Mr. Shaw’s stirring address, he was milling with the crowd. And there I
was, right there in that same crowd as Randy when he casually turned to a
stranger who was standing next to me. He asked her politely where she was from.
"Oregon," she told him. "Oregon! That’s a great state for ballot initiatives. "
replied Randy, "We need to talk." Helen Hill was that woman!

Later that day, we all took to the streets of downtown Chicago in a torrential
downpour to march in front of the James Thompson Illinois Center. There were
tornado warnings that day - but it didn’t stop us. In the pouring rain we
marched around the plaza at lunchtime in the heart of downtown Chicago, chanting
and handing out flyers. We heard all sorts of comments from passers by - and
many of those comments weren’t very nice! But we were too heady with enthusiasm
to let that bother us. We were so excited we didn’t even know to come in out of
the rain. And as we marched with our hand made posters, I remember thinking,
"There’s that pleasant woman again, still in a huddle with Randy Shaw."

Not three weeks later, Helen was back home in Oregon already researching ballot
measures. Flurries of email posts were flying furiously back and forth between
Helen, Shea Grimm, and many other Bastard Nationals on our email list. Helen had
already started the research. She was bound and determined to make it work in
Oregon and she was ready to finance the venture herself if necessary. It turned
out that she personally funded Measure 58 to a tune of $120,000, money left to
her by her adoptive father.

And the rest is history. On November 3, 1998 there was an overwhelming victory
at the polls. The people said YES. The opponents didn’t want to listen to the
people and so a two-year court battle ensued at both the state and federal level.
Finally, on June 12, 2000, the battle was won! Oregon adoptees were now able to
begin requesting and receiving, unconditionally, their original birth
certificates! To date, over 8,000 adoptees have taken advantage of Measure 58.

Helen Hill, Shea Grimm, Marley Greiner, Damzel Plum, Ron Morgan, Cyn Holub and
too many other wonderful Bastards to name here exhibited the most incredible
energy, perseverance, and dedication I have ever witnessed. The seed planted by
Randy Shaw back in July 1997 become a hard fought reality. I was there when it
all started and here I am today to experience the feeling of Oregon open records
in full bloom.

What a momentous and exhilarating time that was. Victory was so sweet. And
today, it’s become a lot sweeter because I met Deb.

"Don’t ever let anyone tell you that one person cannot make a difference."

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Girls Who Went Away


Ann Fessler, an adoptee, has put together a wonderful new book, "The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades before Roe v Wade.

This book should be on everyone’s “must read” list. Ms. Fessler talks with the girls who went away. They were from all walks of life, from all strata of society. They had just one thing in common: they got into trouble. One of the most interesting lines in the book, to me, was another young girl talking, a girl who didn’t go away. She said that she was doing the exact same things her girlfriends were doing, only she was one of the girls who didn’t get in trouble, and so she remained a “good girl.” What irony.

The book is loaded with insights into a desperate period in our history. After World War II, bumper crops of young unwed mothers were springing up all over. What to do with them? Send them away, hide them, keep them out of sight, make up new names, and keep secrets. If the unwed young women did as they were told, kept silent and gave up their babies to adoption as soon as they were born, the girls were sent back home and told that they should just forget all about what happened and begin a new life.

That’s a fairy tale ending. It never happened. The girls who went away didn’t forget! Ever!

Since I’ve never found my birthmother, I know nothing of the events surrounding my birth. Any one of these young women could have been my mother and I despaired to think of her being treated by society in such a shameless fashion. The only other time I felt this way was after watching the movie, "The Magdalene Sisters." I remained in the theater after everyone left, just sobbing my heart out, again thinking one of those young girls could have been my mother.

PEOPLE Magazine, Sept. 18th, interviews 3 birthmothers who are featured in Ann Fessler’s book. It’s worth the price of the magazine just to read this article.

Question: How do we as a society treat the “girls who get in trouble” nowadays?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

BJ Lifton Booted from Adoption Conference: "Offensive Language Cited."

I am an adoptee who stayed in the back of a closet for the first half of my life, hiding, keeping secrets, and telling half-truths. My vocabulary was littered with euphemisms. I know about suffering - I’ve been there and done that.

A wonderful psychologist helped me to examine the truth about myself and a wonderful organization empowered me to speak the truth. Bastard Nation - unique, up front, transparent, and truthful. I am a different person today because of Bastard Nation - a better person. I’m no longer ashamed of being adopted. I am now one very proud Bastard!

What incredible irony we have here! We in the adoption arena are fighting for truth and transparency and along comes someone like Joe Soll who wants the esteemed Mrs. B.J. Lifton to expunge the term birthmother from her speech at his conference because there are people in the audience who find it offensive. B.J. Lifton’s books, all of them, use the word birthmother as do almost all other respected writing on adoption. Maybe Joe Soll needs to catch up on his reading.

The term birthmother is used ALL THE TIME, by attorneys, adoption agencies, the states, the courts, adoption reform groups across the board, lobbyists, social workers, psychologists, Google, AAC, CUB, NCFA, BN, and the media. I support B.J. Lifton 100% for pulling out of a conference where she isn’t afforded freedom of speech. And I applaud Bastardette for reporting it.

Bastard Nation fights for truth in adoption practices and for truth for all adopted adults. With Marley Greiner at the helm, Bastard Nation has fought in Oregon and Alabama and New Hampshire to bring truth to ALL adopted adults. We’re not locked up in hotel rooms talking about our issues. We’re out in the streets fighting for our issues. That’s the kind of organization we are.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Coincidence or Microcosm


A True Story

Conversations heard around the dining room table among several strangers paying their condolences at a Shiva ( a Jewish wake.)

For once in my life I kept my mouth shut. This was a house of mourning, after all, and it wasn’t the time to stir up any hornet’s nests. Instead, I listened quietly as the good and grateful adoptee… which seemed to make everyone feel very comfortable to tell their stories.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"We have two adopted daughters. We always wanted to help them find their biological mothers. They wanted to know "who they were" and I believe in that. In fact, I hired a searcher- friend to help find one of their birth mothers. Unfortunately, neither daughter had a good reunion experience …. [ followed by a description of "a slut birthmother who drinks, takes drugs, has lots of boyfriends yadda yadda yadda ] Our daughter cut off all communication with "that woman." It was too much for her."

ME: My mother would turn in her grave if I ever even mentioned searching.

"Oh no, Anita, not today she wouldn’t object. Things are different today."

ME: (To myself) OH YEAH?

"One of our daughters is of Swedish origins (father pulls out picture of young woman with blonde curly hair and pale skin). When she was in school, she came to us and asked us "What am I?." I told her she was Polish and Russian, just like us, her parents. And that was settled and she was happy. [ husband and wife, both short, pudgy Eastern European Jews, nodding their heads and smiling] "

ME: (To myself) ) OH YEAH?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"My daughter in law has found both her biological parents and is ecstatic! The whole family is so excited. We’re all going down to Florida next week to meet her mother and her grandmother and aunts and uncles. It’s just the most wonderful thing that ever happened."

Me: Your daughter in law’s parents; how are they taking all this? Are they going too?

"Oh no, they’re very quiet about it all. They never say anything. They’re very intelligent people but they don’t ever talk about any of this."

"You know, I always used to wish I were adopted. I just love the idea of being chosen."

Me: (To myself: OH YEAH?)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"We have two granddaughters, ages 16 and 18, both adopted from Korea. (proudly shows photos. Our 18 year old is spending 7 weeks traveling and studying in Israel this summer."

ME: Have your granddaughters ever expressed a desire to learn more about their Korean culture?

"Oh No Why should they? They’re American!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"I have an adopted daughter. She once thought of searching but then she said to me, ‘Ma, you and Dad have done everything for me. You are the only parents for me’."

Smiles, nods, "oh yes’s, " going all round the table.

"Twenty three months after we adopted our daughter, I gave birth to our son. My doctor told me this would happen and he was right. I had one of my own."