' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Rosie O'Donnell Learns What a True Heritage Means

Monday, February 21, 2011

Rosie O'Donnell Learns What a True Heritage Means

First mothers and adoptees everywhere who know that Rosie O'Donnell is an adoptive mother three times over. We have never seen any support of any kind for adoptee rights coming from Rosie. Her kids are still young but are adolescents now. Was she ever going to wake up? Signs did not point to Yes.

I personally had an unpleasant run-in with her brother, Danny O'Donnell, New York assemblyman who stated unequivocally that he is against giving adopted people their original birth records for numerous reasons. Letters to him about adoptee rights have gone unanswered. So when it was made known that she would be the subject of NBC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" I watched with avid interest.

Would Rosie, in tracking down her biological lineage back to Ireland, have the same deeply emotional reactions as everybody else? Would she get teary-eyed? Would she feel flooded with emotions she did not know she would have?

Yes and yes and yes. The show ends with her going into a pub in Ireland with the same name as the one she uncovered in her own family history--Murtaugh--with her older brother to tell him what she had learned. During the show she said, this search into her past was "much more emotional that I expected it to be--we now have some place to start in the world." And, "I feel like I've won the lottery." And, whenever a new piece of evidence was uncovered:  "Ding Ding Ding, we have a winner." As she visited a workhouse similar to the one her destitute ancestors would have lived in at the time of the Potato Famine in Ireland before they came to Canada--that was "pretty intense to think about."

member photo
Danny O'Donell, Rosie's bro
Great, I was thinking, maybe this experience will somehow change her attitude towards letting her adopted children have their own family histories. Maybe...this will even effect how Danny O'Donnell, assemblyman from the liberal West Side of Manhattan, thinks about giving all adopted people in New York their original birth certificates. As I have written about before, O'Donnell--admittedly known for his sharp elbows in Albany--has been particularly offensive in dealing with the adoption issue.

Like Rosie, he is gay, and he has been very involved in trying to push through gay marriage in New York. Fine. I am all for gay marriage and written about it in USA Today; one would think that since gays such as O'Donnell are fighting for equal rights, they would extend their understanding to another group that has been marginalized and whose rights have been stripped from them through no fault of their own, those adopted. Not so.

AloneTo others, O'Donnell has said that opening up the records would be "unconstitutional," that Rosie and he fear that the birth mothers would want money, and they grew up poor; and to me and two adoptees, he simply leaned back and stated: "I will never vote for this bill."

That was a few years ago when I lobbied him for our bill in New York, and in a few short minutes he had the woman with me in tears and the man was ready to explode in anger. I've lobbied other legislators who were never going to vote for the Adoptee Rights Bill, but I had never encountered anyone so rude as O'Donnell. (Read more here and see below.*) And while he could insult me--starting the session by telling us that we were all well dressed?--it was during the ten minutes in his office that I completely understood how powerless and enslaved by draconian laws were the adopted. He treated them like dirt, like not worthy to take up his time. He dismissed their crying need to know their heritage with a look of disdain. He was talking about a law that would affect them all their lives--at least as much as not having the rights of privileges of straight people, quite probably more so--and yet he had no ability to see how his immovable stance was holding their rights hostage.

So, would Rosie's enlightenment have any effect on her stance regarding the biological heritage of her three adopted kids?  Would the light bulb going off in her heart  be transferred somehow to Danny? Who has power and a vote and who is influential in Albany? Would he get it?

Maybe. Rosie, who has always been on my ----list for what I presumed her feelings about the children's birth parents, has done an about face, if a video on Access Hollywood is any indication. She talks about telling working on the show and coming back to her kids and telling them that she is for sure Irish, and how their great grandfather drove a Wells Fargo wagon, and how they took the information as their own history--hang in there, it gets better. But them she goes on:
"But while I was doing it [the taping] I did think that each of my children would go through this in some capacity. And how I am really thankful that I got to do it and see what it meant to me....To be there to support them when they go through it in any way...because I understand wanting to find out where you came from, who your parents are, what your biological lineage is. I get it....I'm their Mom, and I'm not threatened by it and I understand why they would want to find that out." (Video clip below)
Well, knock me down with a feather. Next step: write to Rosie and ask her to support open records in New York. She lives in Nyack. Address, anyone? --lorraine
 * Orphan Trade, Gay Marriage and Open Records Legislation 
You can watch the entire Rosie episode of Who Do You Think You are at this link. If you live in O'Donnell district (the 69th) we have a job for you; please contact us and check out Unsealed Initiative. The movement to give adoptees their civil right to a real heritage needs you.
In one of those delicious ironies of life I just caught this on his website: Governor Signs O’Donnell’s Anti-Bullying Legislation into Law. I guess he doesn't think that extends to adopted people.


  1. Good wishes on this one.As someone once said "One adopter at a time.."
    My concern has long been that adopters who are gay and keen to establish their own civil rights seem not to understand the rights of adoptees or lack of them.

  2. Von, I understand but maybe with Rosie's seeming change of ♥?

    Who knows?

  3. Knock me over with a feather is right. When I watched the show I kept thinking, if this woman doesn't get it then she's the most selfish person on earth. Well, it sounds like she is getting it. Who woulda thunk? First Oprah, now Rosie. We always knew we were right.

  4. That's great. I'm glad she's finally got it, because she was a hard case.

  5. We are right and we as moms and adoptees know it. I would never write this self serving person. She has money
    and power somehow she has no pity for anyone but herself and her cause adopting "her" kids. She is a joke in my opinion pretending to be a mom. Looks like Oprah wants to give her a show wonder how long she will last. She has issues and the contoversary she stirs keeps her in the medias eye. Reminds me of a school bully that never grew up and is still a bully.

  6. I am cautiously optimistic about her rethinking things on a larger scale, and maybe working on her brother.

    I am glad that she realized her heritage, in as much as it's her family, belongs to her children, but that they also have their own histories and heritage, tied to their natural families. I do hope she will stick to her word and support her kids if and when they decide to search.

  7. I was pretty surprised when Rosie made that comment as well, but it didn't ring true to me. Not sure why. Thanks for all this background info about her brother- I had no idea.

    Maybe Rosie's mellowed - didn't another one of her wives leave her? It would be great if she used her big loud, pushy voice on our behalf.

  8. Wow, good for her kids if she is really not threatened by her kids needing to know their birth parents…everyone deserves to know the truth about themselves.

  9. Rosie's hertitage is her's not the children
    she adopted. That's the thing about adoption
    just because a person adopts it doesn't mean
    the children adopt a heritage. If this were true heritage would not be important at all.
    My hertitage belongs to me an adoptee does
    not inherit another persons hertitage by adoption.

  10. Of course her heritage is not her children's in terms of DNA. But families share cultural things related to heritage. My aparents never said I wasn't part of their family. I knew I didn't share my adad's Norwegian genetic makeup, but I shared in rituals and family stories.

    I also have my own heritage from my natural families, which is my own and equally important. But I am glad my aparents didn't tell me I couldn't share theirs.

  11. As a birthmother and a lesbian I have learned that the only way to move forward politically is to make people feel that they or their loved ones are being unfairly treated. Most of our population is apathetic unless they are personally touched by human rights issues.
    Just as the inception of the "Coming Out Day" in the '80's we should have a special day to let people know how their friends and family have been unjustly prejudiced against. I believe we have taken steps forward with these "search" shows on television but it seems to be an audience of, as they say, 'preaching to the pulpit'. Hopefully, with celebrities seeking info about their own histories, the uninvolved will realize the effect sealed records have on the triad. But someone has to connect the dots for most viewers.

  12. sadly, I don't think Rosie sees the connection between her "search" for her roots and the fact that her children's identity and ethnic heritage is denied to them. She will repeat and repeat her story of search until the kids repeat it as their own. I really don't think she (or the bro) are capable of seeing things any other way than how it affects them.
    as an aside, I find it interesting that she is so involved in "protecting" children and that both her brother and herself are gay.

  13. Maryanne,

    I don't think we can presume anything about what Rosie knows. From comments I've heard from Danny O'Donnell, I have been led to believe they fall into the see no original birth certificate, know nothing category of adopters.

  14. "as an aside, I find it interesting that she is so involved in "protecting" children and that both her brother and herself are gay." CullyRay

    I am not sure I get your point, would you mind expounding on what that means to you?

  15. Rosie has an "Ask Ro" page on her site. I have asked her if she supports adoptees searching and finding their heritage, and she has not answered. However, she did post the following Q&A in response to another Question:

    Sandra Gillhouse Writes:

    do you support adoptee rights to open records. and why is Danny so mean about it?

    danny who
    and yes i do


    So Rosie supports open records but doesn't know who her own brother is? As with Oprah, even if she is starting to "get it", she has a long long way to go before she will truly understand the real issues for adoptees and moms.

  16. Anon, I just went to her page...Danny who? But can Rosie be turned into a spokesperson for open records?

  17. Sunday, yeah that was poorly worded. I have no idea what I was trying to say. It’s just that from what I see and hear (from and of her), she seems to be the type of mean girl/bully girl that most parents what their child (little girl) to be protected from. For example her comment about the girl wrestler on Glee… and that whole deal on The View, Kelly Rippa, the Donald… It just strikes me as strange because both her and her bro (I have never read anything about the rest of the family) appear to be pretty self-righteous, bossy, and rude. Everything that they seem to do says “this is how I like/want it and I’m going to rub your nose in it”. None of my friends (the straight ones as well) are anything like these two.

  18. I'm a little late posting this message, but Rosie's one time, now out-of-business Children of the World Adoption Agency [COW] is now, after 5 years supposed to reveal to a successor agency their vaulted adoption records... COW - has until May 31, 2012 to do this. Or what? How is anybody going to make COW do this? The company is long disbanded!!



COMMENTS ARE MODERATED. Our blog, our decision whether to publish.

We cannot edit or change the comment in any way. Entire comment published is in full as written. If you wish to change a comment afterward, you must rewrite the entire comment.

We DO NOT post comments that consist of nothing more than a link and the admonition to go there.