Indeed Kansas City was the "baby hub" of the United States. Easy access was available there by railroads and it was centrally located in the United States. It seems that parents from all of the United States sent their pregnant, unwed daughters on the train where taxis would transport them to maternity homes.
In the 1920s pregnant women came to Kansas City from Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and West Virginia. They ranged in age from 15 to 27 with about 20% of them being under the age of 18.
The three most popular places in Kansas City were The Willows Maternity Sanitarium, St. Anthony's Home for Infants and Harry M. Evans Home Finding Society which later became known as Kansas City Cradle. It is estimated that in 1929 there were 292 young women from 25 states that arrived in Kansas City to give birth at The Willows. While the babies and children were placed through the court adoption system and not on the black market, the homes began closing in the 1960s and 1970s as women began keeping their babies and ideas on adoption changed. Unfortunately Missouri does not have open adoption records.
At of the end of 1936 Jackson Co., Missouri Juvenile Court required the filing of application forms with investigations into adoptions at the Kansas City Cradle. The history of each baby and its ancestry was investigated. Requests for babies came from all over the country. The adoptive couple also had to submit information on their background, their insurance, education, and living conditions. Letters of recommendation were also required from the adoptive parents' minister, doctor and a businessman in the community. Each baby was given a mental and physical examination prior to adoption.
Birth mothers were required to pass a negative Wasserman test and sign a legal release of rights. The Kansas City Cradle was not referred to as an orphanage, but rather a place to find homes for babies. If babies were not adopted before age two, their birth mother or relatives were required to make arrangements for them.
The Willows Maternity Sanitarium provided at least 35,000 babies for adoption from 1905-1969. The popular Kansas City Cradle closed in July of 1945 and became an affiliate of St. Luke's Hospital as a children's hospital.
The Missouri Valley Special Collections department in the Kansas City Public Library has records about the homes, but not the babies or their birth parents. Inmates of the institutions can be found on the 1920 and 1930 federal censuses. It has been reported that The Willows Maternity Sanitarium had a basement full of birth records which were placed in the backyard of the home and burned in 1969. For all practical purposes the records of all the homes have never been found. the Two excellent web pages provide more information.
If you have stories in your family about births in Kansas City, you definitely need to check out these web pages and learn more about the circumstances. Possibly with networking more records will surface that will be helpful.
Source Information: Tracing Lines, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2010.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.
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