Category Archives: Photos

Jean Paton’s Vacation, Dec. 1, 1960

In these early days, Paton rarely took any time off, even though her friends urged her to take a vacation.  But at age 51, on Dec 1, 1960, “a beautiful day” in the desert with warmth that made Paton, the Easterner, think of spring and its promise, she decided to take the advice and refrain from “writing a sober and complicated release on Petulant Plato or Freud Fulfilled.”  Instead, after mailing this little note, she was going to:

“plant succulents, burn brush, prune junipers, rake away weeds, plan a studio-garage, tramp the acreage of Golden Hills [near Acton, California], and in general express the thankfulness we feel at least at this moment, but nonetheless a thankfulness that recurs and feels extremely secure.”

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Jean Paton’s Christmas Letter for Single Mothers, Dec. 24, 1959

Jean Paton fired off what she called her “annual Christmas letter,” which was published by the Los Angeles Times on December 24, 1959, under the heading, “Remembered.”  It began,

“In remembrance of today’s forgotten women, the one who has given her child to adoption, never to hear of him again.

To such mothers, to those who grieve, may I send assurance that not everyone had forgotten them, especially not their children, many of whom when grown, think of them with growing wisdom and in the spirit of forgiveness.

Those of us, who are less than perfect can never understand the reason for this lifelong punishment for what is, often enough, scarcely a sin, certainly not the mortal one.”

Jean Paton, Gardener

Jean Paton delighted in growing vegetables and flowers, which she took up in earnest for the first time in Ojai, California in the late-1950s.  Jean spent hours in her garden, cultivating sweet peas, Swiss chard, beets, lettuce, and broccoli, as well carnations and roses.  Such activities would remain a life-long pursuit.  This photo is unidentified but it is probably taken in the backyard of Jean’s home in Harrison, Arkansas, during the summer.  It looks as if Jean is inspecting the tomato patch.

Jean Paton interviewed by E. Wayne Carp in Harrison AR, 1998

In June 1998, I spent a week interviewing Jean in her home in Harrison, AR.  I had just published my book, Family Matters: Secrecy and Openness in the History of Adoption, and thought I knew something about the adoption reform movement.  But after talking with Jean, I realized that I would have to rethink and rewrite much of that history because I had missed how important she had been to its creation and growth.  During that week, we hit it off and had quite a meeting of the minds.  At age 90, Jean’s mind was sharp as a tack and her memory was excellent.  She had a great sense of humor but also was extremely serious when it came to issues that mattered to her.  She got angry at hearing the name of Bill Pierce and teared up when talking about her mother.  I felt honored that she chose me to write her biography, and fortunate that she left me with the historian’s gold mine of her papers. As you can see, I am still at it.

Jean Paton in 1939: student and social worker

In 1939, Jean applied and was accepted as a student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work.  Along with course work, Penn’s School of Social Work prepared its future social workers with extensive training in fieldwork.  For the first two years of graduate study, Jean traveled by train to Richmond to work as a caseworker with foster children waiting for placement in adoptive homes at the Virginia Children’s Home Society.


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Jean Paton at work in Harrison, AR

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June and Jean at home in Cedaredge, CO

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A rare photo of June Schwantes (lower left) and Jean Paton together at home together.  There is no identification on the back of the photo.

June Schwantes at home in Harrison, AR

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This is a photo of June Schwantes, who was Jean’s life companion for some 40-odd years.  Jean met June in Hasty, Arkansas, which was June’s hometown.  They lived together for a year in 1965 before moving to Memphis, and then eventually to Cedaredge, Colorado.  June was a evangelical Christian, a RN, who became Director of Nursing at the Medical School of the University of Tennessee.  She continued her nursing career for the next two decades before retiring in 1985.  When I interviewed June in Harrison, Arkansas, last May, she got around slowly with a walker but was articulate, devote, cogent, with a good sense of humor.  June had remarkable recall of events of the past, but like most elderly people had difficulty remembering things that happened yesterday.

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Jean Paton at CUB conference

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I traveled to Harrison, AR during the summer and interviewed Jean Paton’s life companion, June Schwantes, who is 90 years old.  During my visit I stumbled on many wonderful photographs of Jean and a few of June.  I will be putting some of them up on this blog soon.  This particular photo of Jean is undated.  If anyone recognizes the CUB conference in the photo and can date it, I would greatly appreciate it if you could get in touch with me.

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