The nature of adoption today is very, very different from it was a generation ago. As they say, times have changed. But a half-century ago being pregnant outside of wedlock was very shameful. Unfortunately, the girls bore the brunt of the moral disapproval. The girls were often shunned from their communities. I know of one instance in my family where the couple got pregnant while engaged, and tragically the groom-to-be died in a motorcycle accident weeks before the wedding The young mother had to move from rural Kansas to New York City and start her life over with her young son.
Such was life in the early 20th Century. So, it may not be surprising that many sent their young, pregnant daughters “far away” to “homes for unwed mothers” in Kansas City, Missouri to have their children in the relative privacy that often distance affords. Why Kansas City? They had a simple, centralized means for adoption that made the process easy. I’m only guessing, but I bet the girls were sent away when they started showing and then “mysteriously” returned home after the birth and the child was put up for adoption. Scandal averted.
Nonetheless, thousands of children-of-unwed-mothers were born and placed for adoption in Kansas City, far from the locus of the family. Looking for an adoption? Try Kansas City.
Before you hop on the plane to Kansas City, you need to know that Missouri does not have an open adoption record policy, though there is legislation to change this in the works. So the records are not presently available. But that doesn’t mean you couldn’t check census city directory, and maybe even hospital records for Kansas City, Missouri for the time period in question!
That said, The Missouri Valley Room, the local history archive of the Kansas City (Missouri) Public Library, does have information on the subject including information on the homes, but not the records. You can learn more here.
By the way, if you do get a chance to visit the main Kansas City Public Library, you’ll be impressed. It’s gorgeous having risen from the renovation of an old bank with marble pillars and two-story atrium. (There’s a tiny move theatre in the basement inside the old vault!)
It’s an interesting story the evolution of our adoption policies in America. How have they changed. It’s worth learning about, even if the subject doesn’t touch your family.