Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy Birthday, Sandy Musser: Tribute to an Unsung Hero

Sandy Musser, who celebrates her birthday today, January 3rd, 
is an unsung hero of the adoption reform movement.

Sandy's Facebook bio is a very brief understatement of her life's work. It says merely: "Dedicated to adoption reform since 1976."

Sandy, a mother who lost her firstborn to adoption. is a true martyr and freedom fighter for the cause in way that can only be matched to people like Rosa Parks without exaggeration. She has been referred to as a political prisoner because her major crime was speaking out against an archaic system.

Sandy lost her child to adoption when she was just fifteen years old. Her bio is available at her website, Angelfire.com

Sandy was indicted in March 1993 by the federal government and sent to prison for her work of reuniting families. She had reunited over 500 families separated by adoption, divorce, foster care, etc.

Sandy was investigated for 3 1/2 years  before finally being charged with 39 felony counts of "conspiracy to defraud the government of confidential information" because of sealed adoption records. 

Sadly, her two books: To Prison With Love and I Would Have Searched Forever  are out of print. But if you can find a used copy, i highly recommend you do. You will reading some of the proudest and simultaneously the most shameful history of our movement. 


Sandy Musser
Political Prisoner #51963-060
Written while in Federal Prison Camp
Marianna, FL - 11/5/93 - 3/3/94

enables the masses to understand the
desperate need for adoption reform;

brings a fresh awareness of the blatant
discrimination and unconstitutionality
of sealed records;

leads adoption triad member to speak out
on their own behalf in a more dynamic way
and arouses them to speak, to act, to paint
or to write passionately about their
tremendous loss of family connections;

causes the leadership to question and rethink
their ultimate purpose and goal and how to reach it;

starts a fire burning within the hearts & minds
& souls of those committed to this cause;


simply gives courage to you, my friend ---


Sandy served four months in federal prison.  She says: "I always said I would go to jail for the cause - so I guess the Feds took me seriously! I just didn't think it was going to go down the way it did - I thought we'd all be laying our bodies down in front the vital stat offices and they'd be hauling all of us off together."

The sad reality is that, to my knowledge, [please see comments] the movement was in such an infancy stage at the time that no one had the courage to stand up for sandy and to publicize and use her arrest as a call to arms. We all - myself included - shied away from it and her for fear or retribution.  I who had likewise been active in search abd reunion at the time was terrified of guilt by association!  In hindsight, we blew a perfect storm opportunity for publicity of the ridiculousness of sealed records!
Sandy should have been hailed as a civil rights activist on the same level as those who helped free slaves through the underground railroad!  We should have been staging protests outside the prison she was held in and press conferences...galvanized by her unjust imprisonment.   Instead, she was, for the most part, ignored and left to serve out her time with little fan fare. it was something we chose to try to ignore and NOT bring light to.  A big mistake, in hindsight, but we were so new at all of this activism and so very afraid. For many of us, living in the shadows of our imposed secrecy, enforced shame and lies, just writing a letter to the editor and signing our real names was a huge step!

With the deaths this past year of BJ Lifton and Annette Baran, Sandy Muser takes on the role as the matriarch of adoption reform and deserves the honro and respect she has never received as the sole person to be imprisoned in the U.S. for helping families reunite. 

Sandy has 12 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren! One of her grandsons, who recently got married, lived with Sandy during his junior and senior year.  And, she has raised her now 6-year-old great-grandson (in both photos) since he was born! 

Happy Birthday, Sandy! 
A Freedom fighter and woman who lives what she believes!!

UPDATE 1/4/11: See comments 

ALSO, please see quote from Sandy on follow-up post about grandparent adoptions here.


E. Wayne Carp said...

As the biographer of Jean Paton, I would like to add some historical material to Mirah's tribute to Sandy Musser that she might be unaware of. In particular, her statement that that, "no one had the courage to stand up for sandy" is not accurate. Jean Paton stood up for Sandy Musser, writing letters to the Grand Jury that indicted her and to Janet Reno, then US Attorney-General. She did not defend Sandy's illegal acts but she explained that Sandy's actions were a product of the culture that produced the sealed adoption records system and thus Ms. Musser was not to be blamed for her actions. Jean Paton did not believe in paid searchers, legal or illegal, except to reimburse them for the expense incurred while searching. She did not believe that anyone should make a profit off the grief of their adopted brothers and sisters. Jean Paton and Sandy Musser remained in communication and on cordial terms throughout Sandy Musser's ordeal and imprisonment. A much fuller account of this event and their relationship will appear in the biography I am finishing.

E. Wayne Carp

Lorraine Dusky said...

Thanks for posting this tribute to Sandy. I've never met here and was barely aware that she was jailed but since I found out she has always been a heroine of mine.

to Sandy: Well-behaved women seldom make history!

lorraine from

First Mother Forum

Joan Wheeler said...

I took part in protests held outside the courthouse in Akron, Ohio with several people from Buffalo, New York and from other states, as well. We picketted FOR Sandy and attended a court hearing. We listened and cried and gasped. So true, those of us who stepped out to say we were on Sandy's side, we were afraid of putting our names and our faces out there for fear of retribution. The few faces that showed up for the picket ooutside the courthouse and the court hearing I attended were, indeed, brave souls. And Sandy stood her ground, went to jail, and came out. I would have done more, but just three weeks after that court date, I left my husband, took our two children, and went into hiding of my own. Separation, divorce and a severally sick young child meant that I had to drop out of the adoption reform movement for awhile. But Sandy made it out of prison. I have all of her books so I highly recommend them to anyone who wants to know more about this courageous lady.

Thanks for posting this birthday wish!

CullyRay said...

When I got involved with reform, I stumbled around trying to figure out how to get things done. Ten years later I heard about Sandy and saw her courage - both frightening and inspiring. I knew then that the only way to get things done and our rights restored to us, was to speak out and Not let anyone shut us up.
Thank you Sandy - it's an honor just to be here at the same time you are ;-)
hugz, Love and Birthday wishes all year long!

Mirah Riben said...

Thank you Wayne and Joan for clarifying and filling in those facts I was oblivious to!

I and the co-founders of the original NJ-based Origins were in "but for the Grace of God" dread fear at the time because our own Lucy Pare had been caught by TV cameras for her involvement in underground quasi-legal search activities and was made a scape goat spectacle of every night on the news and the coming attractions thereof, complete with pictures of young children on swings and a voice over about children being "snatched" back by their original parents!!!
We were thus assuming a very low profile.

I am very glad to learn that some brave souls did support Sandy!!

Rachelle Roggio said...

Sandy you are a great leader & fighter for what you believe in. I"m greatful I have got to know truly are an inspiration to women.

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