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Jean Paton and the Struggle to Reform American Adoption

E. Wayne Carp

One woman’s tireless crusade for better understanding and social justice for adopted people


Jean Paton (1908–2002) fought tirelessly to reform American adoption and to overcome prejudice against adult adoptees and women who give birth out of wedlock. Paton wrote widely and passionately about the adoption experience, corresponded with policymakers as well as individual adoptees, promoted the psychological well-being of adoptees, and facilitated reunions between adoptees and their birth parents. This masterful biography brings to light the accomplishments of this neglected civil-rights pioneer, who paved the way for the explosive emergence of the adoption reform movement in the 1970s. Her unflagging efforts over five decades helped reverse harmful policies, practices, and laws concerning adoption and closed records, struggles that continue to this day.

“A re-writing of the history of adoption in the twentieth century [and the] enormously poignant, moving story of a difficult human being who, like an earthquake, succeeded in shifting the cultural landscape. And more than that, it’s an inside account of a social movement, complete with all the infighting, backbiting, and profiteering that such movements contain. One of the best books ever written on a reform movement.”
American Historical Review

“Timely and well-researched, Alignment, Alliance, and American Grand Strategy makes convincing and well-supported cases about the dynamics of US power in the contemporary IR environment. As such, it adds explanatory power to our understanding of some quite important political relationships.”
—Steven Mintz, University of Texas

“Heroes in U.S. history emerge as patriots from a variety of challenges. Many never wear uniforms, but wage battles to alter social conditions to help ensure civil rights. [Jean Paton] devoted her life to fighting for adoptees so they might learn about their biological parents . . . Family historians will find this volume a must.”

E. Wayne Carp is Benson Family Chair in History and Professor of History at Pacific Lutheran University. 

Praise / Awards

  • "Jean Paton and the Struggle to Reform American Adoption is fascinating to read on many levels, as a study of a movement, of grassroots organizing, and of adoption."
    --American Historical Review

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Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 422pp.
  • 17 B&W photos.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2014
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11910-3

Add to Cart
  • $60.00 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2016
  • Forthcoming
  • 978-0-472-03677-6

  • $40.00 U.S.

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