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Adoptions and adoptees pose special problems for genealogists. And of course adoptees themselves have may have a difficult time tracing their genealogy. Last Saturday was National Adoption Day in fact it was the 10th anniversary of national adoption day. Coincidentally that day I was working on a blog entry called the “Black Catholics in My Family.” One of them was Amos R. Johnson Jr., of Kansas City, Missouri. As I was researching Amos Johnson, I discovered that he had been a board member of something called the Florence Crittenton Home in Kansas City. That led to several further discoveries.
First, I found out that that Kansas City once was the “baby hub” of the United States. The Kansas City Public Library explains that:
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.”
But more importantly I learned about the Frances Crittenton Homes.
Charles N. Crittenton was a wealthy pharmacist in New York City. In 1882, his five-year-old daughter Florence died and in her memory (some sources say “at her dying request”), he devoted the rest of his life to philanthropy, in particular, founding rescue homes for “unfortunate girls.” These were girls who were pregnant or trying to leave prostitution. In the 1890s, Crittenton met Dr. Kate Waller Barrett, a pioneering female physician, who joined his cause. Dr. Barrett had very progressive views for her times. She helped build Crittenton’s organization into more than 75 homes in the United States, in addition to homes in China, France, Japan and Mexico. Many of the larger cities in the United States had a Florence Crittenton home.
Photo c.1913 from pamphlet What A Young Woman Ought to Know, by Mrs. Mary Wood-Allen, M.D., National Sperintendent, Purity Department, Womens Christian Temperance Union. Pamphlet part of the “Sex & Self” series (Copyright 1913, Sylvanus Stall, London) [Available at Project Gutenberg]
The Crittenton organization was known as the National Florence Crittenton Mission. Originally headquartered in Washington, DC, today it is known as the National Crittenton Foundation and is located in Portland, Oregon. Nationwide, there are many Crittenton institutions carrying on the work inspired by Charles Crittenton and Kate Waller Barrett, who succeeded Crittenton as president of the organization when he died 100 years ago this month.
The New York Times, Wednesday, November 17, 1909, page 9
Over the last 125 years, a number of babies have been adopted out of Crittenton homes. But more importantly the Crittenton homes have helped many young girls and women keep their babies and live productive, enriched lives.
Photo (date unknown) from the George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress
We’ll write more adoption and genealogy later this week and more about Kate Waller Barrett during Women’s History Month next March.
November 24, 2009 Tuesday at 11:04 pm