Where are the records for the Willows Maternity Home?

Willows Maternity Home

**Please note that MVSC does not have any records from any of the Kansas City maternity homes, nor are we aware of where any surviving records may be located.  Read on for further details.**

When the Willows Maternity Sanitarium closed in 1969, after 64 years of providing a haven and help for "unfortunate" girls and adoption services for their newborns, "the records were piled in the backyard and burned." This statement, published in The Kansas City Star, June 22, 1975, was repeated again in 1982 by Mrs. Sam Ray about the Willows in the historical article that accompanied the postcard in her column "Postcards from Old Kansas City" in The Kansas City Star.

The Willows, known as the "Ritz or Waldorf" of homes for unwed mothers, was not the only maternity home in the city. Others included St. Vincent’s Hospital, Eastside Maternity Hospital (changing its name in 1936 to Kansas City Cradle), Florence Crittenton Home, and the Fairmount Maternity Hospital.

Its central location in the United States with easy access by railroad contributed to Kansas City becoming "the baby hub of the United States." The back page of a Willows pamphlet called Interesting Willows' Statistics (1921) features a map of railroad lines across the United States all leading into Kansas City. The caption reads, "A glance at a railroad map of the United States will show the splendid position of Kansas City for the care of unfortunate young women. Its easy access from all directions, excellent train service and central location gives it the pre-eminent position in the country for its work."

At the Willows alone, it is estimated that, over its 64-year existence, 25,000 to 35,000 babies were adopted, lending credence to the observation in 1991 by Kate Burke, president of the American Adoption Congress in Washington, that indeed, Kansas City was "the baby hub of the United States."

A small collection of items pertaining to the Willows, saved by former nurse Florence Beal Bolte, was donated to Missouri Valley Special Collections at the end of 2016. The finding aid for the collection is available online. For additional information, search the Local History Index.

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Sherrie Kline Smith


Please do not submit reference and informational questions for staff in the comments field.

If you have a question that requires staff assistance, please email Missouri Valley Special Collections at lhistory@kclibrary.org.

Thank you!


It really makes me sad that

It really makes me sad that people that were adopted many years ago are not able to find their birth families My mother was born at the willows sept 25 1945 Her adoptive parents are now gone My mom is now 72 years old I know her Birth parents are probably gone but maybe not but I'm sure she probly has siblings out there that she would the really like to know and is unable to because of the way things used to be Which also affects me because when she's gone I have no family left because I do not have a relationship with my father I just wish those records are still available for people that were born there


Get your mother's DNA now. We found my cousin's father's birth family in Kansas through DNA. Unwed mother who probably gave birth in one of the homes in Kansas City. Found both the mother and the father which are both deceased but have lots of descendants that have done DNA. Good luck.


Your mom needs to have a DNA test done. Also you need to petition the court to release the name of your moms birth mother. My mom was in the same boat. She was born at the Willows in 1928 and had no information whatsoever regarding her biological family. In 2015, she was finally able to get the name of her biological mother and she also had a DNA test. It lead us to finding out about her biological family, it's been so interesting and we're both so happy to finally have the info..

My Mom gave birth to a baby

My Mom gave birth to a baby boy in Oct. 1947 at the Willows. His birth name was Raymond Ryan is there anyway for me to find out his adaptation name. My Mom has passed but I would love to find my brother I have done DNA but nothing yet. Its so sad that they burned the records

My mom was adopted in 1952 by

My mom was adopted in 1952 by a Juanita warneke and rolland warneke and on the adoption papers it states that Katherine smalley was her mother and we just want history both of my parents were adopted and my mom's parents had already passed by the time I was born my mom wants closure or history for us as well and every time we try to get info we run into an issue as in records burned, it's a closed adoption it always something we just want to know like do we look like Katherine does she have health problems history that's all

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