This is a photo of Jean Paton being presented by Don Humphrey and Joe Soll with a sealed “birth certificate” at the “Red Tape Ceremony” that took place at the 1989 AAC conference in New York. From left to right: Don Humphrey, the AAC’s legal adviser at the time; Nancy Horgan; Joe Soll, founder of AdoptionCrossroads; the ACC’s president Kate Burke, and, of course, Jean Paton. I am greatly indebted to Joe Soll, who identified the conference location, date, and all the folks in this photo.
Jean M. Paton, an extraordinary woman of many talents, intellectual interests, and emotions, was also a woman of many names. Born at 3:45 p.m. on December 27, 1908, in Detroit’s Woman’s Hospital, her twenty-three-year old unwed mother, Emma Cutting, named her Ruth Edwina Emerson, the middle name honoring Emma’s “favorite lady doctor” in the maternity home. (Like most unwed mothers of the time who feared the stigma of illegitimacy, Emma registered at the Women’s Hospital under the assumed name of Cassie Emerson, made up of the reversed initials of her given name). Adopted 4½ months later by Harry Dean and his wife Millie, Ruth Edwina was renamed Madeline Viola Dean. A year and half later, she was adopted for a second time by Thomas Woodburn Paton and Mary M. Paton. They changed her name to Jean Madeline Paton. Paton would self-publish two books, numerous pamphlets, and newsletters under a combination of names. Most frequently, she used the name given her by her second set of adoptive parents, Jean Paton or Jean M. Paton. But she also published under the names Ruth Kittson and Jean Paton-Kittson, honoring the surname of her alleged birth father, James Kittson, the bastard son of James Jerome Hill, and builder of the Great Northern Railroad. To complicate things even more, Jean sometimes melded her given first and middle names, then added her alleged birth father’s surname and published as Ruthena Kittson. As a variation on this theme, she also used her alleged birth grandfather’s last name and published as Ruthena Hill Kittson. Paton also published under the name of Ruth Edwina, which was a constant source of puzzlement to her readers. To Jean, the explanation was self evident: when she had something really important to say about adoption reform, she published it under the name her first mother had given her.