Category Archives: Jean Paton and Social Movements

Jean Paton and the ACC Conference Registration Incident (1991)

This is a photo of Jean Paton busily signing copies of her book Orphan Voyage at an American Adoption Congress (AAC) national meeting probably in the early 1990s.  Although Paton had the original idea for a national organization for adoption reform, which eventually turned into the American Adoption Congress, her subsequent relations with the organization were tumultuous.  Paton’s relationship with the AAC hit a low point in the early 1990s over the question of registering for the 1991 national conference in Garden Grove, California..  When Jean requested a table in the bookroom/exhibit area, the ACC Conference Registrar told her that requests for table reservations had to be accompanied by a paid conference registration.  The request angered Paton because 1) she had no plans to register and 2) she thought it an injustice to demand a paid registration from “the mother of the movement,” who had impoverished herself for the cause.  She threatened to carry her books on her back and if people asked why, she would reply that the AAC denied her a table.  The upshot: The AAC maintained its position; Paton attended without registering.

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Jean Paton at an American Adoption Congress Protest

In this photo, Jean Paton is in the background at this 1989 protest by the American Adoption Congress (AAC), an organization she helped found in 1979.  The ACC declared the first week in August of 1989 as “National Open Records Week,” which would be celebrated by a march on Washington, D.C. beginning at the Statue of Liberty in New York City during that last week of July and ending in the nation’s capital during the first week of August.  The woman with the sign “Birthmothers Care Forever” is Marilyn Burson, a birth mother (deceased). The woman with the sign “Adoptee Rights Are Human Rights” is Molly Johnson, adopted adult and executor of the Jean Paton Papers.  The woman with the sign “Cut the Tape Break the Seal” is Judy Taylor, birth mother.  The woman behind her, with the partial sign saying “Free,” might be Joyce Barr, an adoptee from NYC.  The woman holding the “American Adoption Congress” sign is Sharon Bell. And the woman holding the sign “Equal Rights for Triad Members” is Nancy Horgan.  I am indebted to both Molly Johnson and Joe Soll for identifying the protest and the participants.