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Iowa representative reunites with daughter 47 years later

A member of the Iowa Legislature has reunited with the daughter she released for adoption 47 years ago.

Posted: Mar. 19, 2018 8:05 AM

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A member of the Iowa Legislature has reunited with the daughter she released for adoption 47 years ago.

On a Saturday morning this year, State Rep. Marti Anderson's phone rang, and her daughter, Shellie Price Wardlaw, was on the other line.

"I was having breakfast with my dad and my husband and I got a phone call out of the blue," Anderson said. "And this woman said, 'This is Shellie Wardlaw, and I think you're my mother.'"

Wardlaw told the Des Moines Register that she found Anderson after taking a DNA test through Ancestry.com in January, which identified a maternal match. Anderson had taken the same test in December.

"Once I went to my matches and saw there was a maternal match, it just sent a flood of emotions through me, and I just wanted to find out more," Wardlaw said.

Anderson said she'd been waiting for that phone call for four decades. Anderson then met up with her daughter at her home just across town in Des Moines.

"I had absolutely no idea where she was, and for her to be here all my life, never to have left, on the other side of town," said Wardlaw.

Anderson said she was "a 19-year-old single girl" when she was pregnant with Wardlaw.

"Nobody was happy or excited for me, not just because she was out of wedlock — which was pretty important back then — but because she was part African-American," said Anderson. She said her mother kicked her out of the house, and she decided "to release her daughter for adoption so she could have a family."

Wardlaw said she doesn't hold any grudges against Anderson.

"It's kind of hard for me to compartmentalize my emotions right now," Wardlaw said. "Because I still think that while this was great, the times that she lived in and the pressure that she was under and the racism that was out there makes me angry. I find myself getting angry at society because someone's color of their skin can make somebody feel less than. And that bothers me."

Wardlaw said she's reached out to her birth father too.

Anderson said she hopes to start making up for lost time.

"I was just getting ready to send her flowers that say, 'With love and celebration for all the events I missed,'" Anderson said. "I want to send her something today that tells her it was real, and I am here."

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