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Friday, March 16, 2012

An Open Letter to Adoptee Rights Foremother, Florence Fisher

Dear Ms. Fisher,

My name is Amanda. I was born in 1985 and surrendered at three days old into a privatized version of foster care, destined for private, domestic, infant adoption. I am one of the thousands of adoptees whose records were sealed due to the unethical activities of adoption workers decades prior, like Georgia Tann, which activists worked long and hard to have somewhat restored to Tennessee adoptees in 1999. I held my uncensored adoption file and original birth certificate in my hands and my mother in my arms at the age of 24.

I learned who you are and about your hand in reviving the Adoptee Rights Movement just a few years ago.  This was about the time that I learned who BJ Lifton was.  BJ had friended me on Facebook and sent me a few messages here and there to comment on things I had written that she liked.  I responded to her not knowing who she was, as if, in some way, I could even begin to discuss adoption, Adoptee Rights, psychology, and history on an equal plane with her.  How embarrassing.  BJ was gracious.  By the time I figured out who she was and picked up one of her books to read, I was too embarrassed to tell her how much I admired her.  By the time I started reading my first BJ Lifton book, she had died, suddenly.  I cried the day BJ died.  Tears well up in my eyes every time I think of her.  I have read two of her three books and have the third sitting on my shelf waiting for me to pour through it.  BJ Lifton  books are not something you can speed through, well, at least I can't.  With every turn of a page I come up with more questions I would like to ask her and more frustration that I can't.

You're wondering if I am writing you a letter just to tell you about BJ Lifton.  Really, it is the lesson that I have learned from losing that personal hero that inspires me to write to you.  As I have been told, you have not been involved in Adoptee Rights for some time.  I understand the need to retire from it believe me and I have not done near a fraction as much as you have.  No one I have talked to knows how to get into contact with you.  I did a Bio-Lifespan paper on you for one of my classes at school.  I think I did a good job using your autobiography of your life, search, reunion, and activism.  Still, like with Lifton's books, I was filled with so many questions I wanted to ask you.

I don't think it is often for an activist in Adoptee Rights, the over-looked element of the Civil Rights Movement that it is, to hear someone say "my search and reunion changed my life.  I traced back in history all of the events that lead to not only the opening of my records and identity but lead to an atmosphere in society that has become increasingly tolerant of the narratives of adopted people.  When I looked back in history, I found you.  I read the words you've said and written and know that the work you did has directly and positively impacted me.  And I wanted to thank you."  Do Adoptee Rights foremothers and fathers ever get to hear those words?  Or read them?  If not, it's a shame.  So I wanted to use this small space of the Internet to say something to you, in hopes that you might some day find these words:

My search and reunion changed my life. I traced back in history all of the events that lead to not only the opening of my records and identity but lead to an atmosphere in society that has become increasingly tolerant of the narratives of adopted people. When I looked back in history, I found you. I found the words that you've said and written and know that the work you did has directly and positively impacted me. And I wanted to thank you.

All the best,



  1. What a wonderful post.

    The first book I ever read on search and reunion was "The Search for Anna Fisher."

  2. Laura Schwartz3/17/2012 12:07 AM

    My first foray into searching led me to ALMA and meetings in NYC. Florence Fisher was dynamic and gutsy. I managed to get my a/parents to come to a meeting at which, as luck would have it, a young man stood up to tell his tale of search and reunion; both his moms flanked him. My a/mom, never one to jump in, jumped up and ran at them when he finished, wanting to know more. Florence was delighted and helped to answer her questions. That was a pivotal moment in my search as it was the point where my a/parents began to support my search. I, too, must say thank you, Florence Fisher.

    1. That's where I met Florence too--in a church basement. I went to an ALMA meeting with an also-adopted friend to check it out, and just "listen."

      We were captivated by Florence and identified with her adoption testimony. We had tears running down our faces almost immediately. Neither of us had ever spoken of adoption, or heard anyone else talk about adoption in a meaningful way, until then. It was electrifying.

      I met Joe Soll at an ALMA meeting, too. He gave me an invaluable tip that led to finding my mother.

  3. Amanda, I believe that Lorraine Dusky of First Mother Forum is still in touch with Florence, who must be quite elderly now. Florence and BJ did not get along at all; indeed, Florence did not get along with most other people in adoption reform unless they only were involved in ALMA. She did great things in the 70s to get adoption reform noticed and talked about, but was a difficult person herself. Still, as a pioneer like BJ Lifton (I cried too when I heard she had died) Florence deserves to be honored.

    1. There's nothing like writing a letter to someone you like mentioning someone that they don't like. Oops! lol. I had no idea.

      I should have asked Lorraine about her, I completely forgot they knew each other. Thanks for reminding me, I will ask Lorraine later.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I also wish to thank Florence Fisher - ALMA mailed me a brochure when I was 20 and because of her I decided I could find my dad - which had not occured to me prior. I was sure my mom would want to meet me but she didn't. My dad said, "How soon can you get here?" That was 1994 - I was 38.
    Thank you Amanda for this great letter and tribute to Florence. I hope she reads it!

  6. I beg to differ about Florence not getting along with anyone not involved with ALMA.

    Florence was the real leader of the movement in the early Seventies and had the courage to stand up against great resistance. As in any movement, there were personality clashes and great egos involved. Some people, including BJ, resented Florence for all the media attention that she attracted. But that is what got adoption reform off the ground in the Seventies.

  7. Many years ago (I believe the first time was 1989...I would have to look back in my journal) I went to my first ALMA meeting at a church in Philadelphia. Florence was the speaker that day. This was my first time ever being in a meeting with other adoptees. I was so inspired by Florence and her charisma. The encouragement and advice she gave the group that day was priceless. During the meeting they had opportunity for each person to meet with a smaller group of people to assist with your search, if you were searching for your first family. That was the first day I met adoptees who reached out to help me. I was never the same.

    Nineteen years ago in 1993 I was able to find my first mother, sister and brother.

    I have Florence and the team at ALMA that day to thank for first lighting the fire within me that I really could do this. We moved shortly after and my search was conducted from another state however I never forgot the team who impacted me that day.

    Thanks Amanda, for writing this beautiful tribute. I hope she finds it.

  8. I met the incredible Florence Fisher in 1972, when she guided my bmom in order to find me. Unlike in later years, at this early point in her career, Florence acted as the intermediary. Her inital contact with me was a brilliantly crafted letter basically saying that if you know you're adopted then know that your birth mother is looking for you, but if you don't know you're adopted this letter is not revealing to you that you're adopted. I wish I still had that letter. I met Florence one on one in her home in NYC and discussed my situation. She was both compassionate and kind.

    Over 25 years later, at an ALMA meeting on Long Island I "turned the tables" on her describing how I met her, and then she filled in all the details. When I saw her eyes focus on me, there was no question as to her being genuine.

    Florence was a one-in-a-million, a gift to all adoptees, as well as many others in the "triad."

    1. Agreed.....wonderful, amazing woman.

  9. I met Florence at an ALMA meeting in NYC in the late eighties and she was a dynamo. She said all the things that I had only dared to think and her amazing courage and determination inspired me to not only search for my birth family but also gave me the strength and know-how to fight when that was necessary. The experience Florence shared helped me to understand when my birth mother refused to have anything to do with me and when my dad welcomed me with open arms. She has made a positive difference in my life and I have no doubt in the lives of many others in the adoption community.

    Terry in Toronto

  10. I'm a relative of Florence. I shared your kind words with her and it made her smile. She says thank you.


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