Category Archives: Kin of Jean Paton

Jean Paton and her second adoptive family

This is a photo of Jean Paton, age 2½ or 3, with her second adoptive father, Dr. Thomas Paton and her seven-year-old foster sister, Virginia.  Jean was adopted twice.  The first time, she was adopted on May 10, 1909, by Harry and Millie Dean, a lower-middle class couple who also lived in Detroit.  The Deans renamed the baby Madeline Viola Dean.  Baby Madeline lived with the Deans for only two years.  At age 44, Harry Dean, a house painter, contracted cancer of the liver and died on May 6, 1911.  (I have not been able to locate any photos of the Deans).  The last six months that Madeline lived under the Deans’ roof were filled with illness and the smell of death.  Some seventy years later, Paton believed that her first adoptive father’s death had left her with “an undying and fierce hatred of the spectacle of human suffering.”  Impoverished by her husband’s death, Millie Dean was unable to support Madeline.  She returned the child to the Children’s Home Society of Michigan, which again placed Madeline in a foster home.  Madeline stayed in that foster home for 7½ months.  Then on December 11, 1911, Dr. Thomas and Mary M. Paton of Ypsilanti, Michigan,  adopted Madeline and renamed her Jean Madeline Paton.

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Jean Paton’s aunt, Viola


In 1955, Paton hired a private investigator for $35.00 to find her mother. The investigator found her mother’s sister, Viola, who was still living at the old family address in Michigan, with her husband and a child.  Paton then went off to Michigan on one of her fieldtrips to interview adopted adults but also to initiate the reunion with her first mother.  Jean met Viola, who ventured to act as an intermediary, contact Jean’s mother through a neighbor’s phone, and get back to her the following day.  The rest is history, as they say.  See next photo.

Jean Paton’s reunion with her first mother

JP_with_motherEmma

Jean Paton, age 47 met her first mother, Emma Steiner, nee, Cutting age 69, on a spring-like day in early March 1955.  Paton’s reunion with her mother, which she described as a “strange and potent experience,” made a deep and lasting impression on her.  To one correspondent, she wrote, it was “wonderful beneath knowing,” to find one’s mother; as there was “no more specters, no more fantastic living, no more paralysis of will for avoiding the deepest desire of nature.”  Paton also universalized her reunion with her mother, making it the basis for advice she gave to correspondents who sought her help.  This photo was probably taken in Florida, where Emma moved in retirement with her husband Eddie Steiner, some years after the reunion.  (Yes, Emma was short: she was only 4’9″).