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Category: Politics, Race/Ethnicity, Reproductive Rights

For “Birthers,” Honolulu Mom an Inconvenient Truth

| May 2, 2012

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Eleanor Nordyke has stood up to the "Birthers."

Eleanor Nordyke, who spent her career improving women's reproductive health, has an answer for those who still contend that President Obama was born outside the country: she happened to be on the scene in Honolulu.

In the recent cultural battles over women’s reproductive rights, Honolulu resident Eleanor Nordyke occupies a unique spot. For the right wing noise machine, Nordyke is an infamous character in Obama’s “conspiracy” to hide his (fictitious) Kenyan birth. To the rest of us, Eleanor Nordyke is a woman who gave birth in 1961 in the same hospital, within the same 24-hour period as the first African-American president's mom. Now retired, Nordyke was also a trailblazing public health nurse and author who set up Hawaii’s first Planned Parenthood in the 1970s. 

Nordyke worked at Honolulu’s East-West Center for 25 years, a think tank established by Congress in 1960 on the University of Hawaii campus. “The field was population and family planning. We were a little more enlightened in our government back then,” she said. She researched and reported to the newly minted state government, going on to publish nearly one dozen history books and demographic studies from the early 1970s through 2009, including The Peopling of Hawaii.  Among her first tasks was to help the young state establish Planned Parenthood in the Islands.

Ann Dunham likewise studied and worked at the center. “I never met Obama’s mother," said Nordyke, "although we probably crossed paths in our work at the East-West Center.”

Nordyke explained that part of the reason she remembers Obama’s birth is because of the unusual name of his mother, Stanley Ann, and the newborn’s name, Barack Hussein. She also noticed in news reports when the controversy first erupted that Obama’s birth certificate number was close to those assigned her twin girls, Susan “Nini” and Gretchen “Nunu.”

She then reached out to journalists over the “birther” fracas because of her first-hand knowledge of the situation. “It's time for the ‘birthers’ to quit persecuting our president,” she said in an interview from her Honolulu home. “I have a lot of information about those groups who have been soliciting money to demean and falsely accuse Obama. They keep telling their lies.”

As ridiculous, comical even, as it appears, a 2011 Fox News poll shows 37 percent of Republicans thought the president was born outside the United States.  A Fox crew interviewed her but nothing ever aired, she said. The Obama campaign ultimately responded by releasing a “certification of live birth,” an official document from the Hawaii Department of Health, and posting it online. When that didn’t work, the Obama team plastered coffee mugs with the birth certificate.

A March 2012 poll by the far right-wing World Net Daily reported that a third of all registered voters surveyed still thought the Hawaii birth certificate was bogus. About 33 percent of respondents told pollsters Obama had not provided “authentic” and “adequate” documentation surrounding his birth.

Nordyke was particularly offended at Donald Trump’s so-called crusade to uncover the truth of Obama’s birth. “He has the gall to say these things about Obama, which he doesn’t know anything about it. It’s crazy.” More to the point, it’s racism, she added. “They can’t believe that a black man could be a president. I have even been telephoned and told I was lying about Obama's birth!”

The fringe elements on the blogosphere claims she’s lying because the newspaper birth announcements fall on different days. Obama’s birth was listed in both of Honolulu’s daily newspapers as August 13, 1961 and the twins' births were reported on August 16, 1961. Nordyke explained, “They probably collected the list of births through Friday for the August 13, 1961 report, while the Saturday deliveries went into the next August 16, 1961 Department of Health newspaper listing.”

“I entered the Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital on early Friday afternoon, August 4, 1961. I was registered and my expected twins were given Hawaii State birth certificate numbers 10637 and 10638. My labor was slow with poor contractions from a distended uterus.

“Apparently, Stanley Ann Dunham Obama came in shortly after I arrived, because her baby was registered as number 10641. Her labor was strong, and she delivered Barack Hussein Obama early that evening. The next morning my contractions strengthened. The twins finally emerged at 2:05 and 2:12 p.m. Saturday, August 5th. By the way, I don't want to do that again!"

Obama and the Nordyke girls also wound up in the same classes at Noelani Elementary School and later at Punahou School from the seventh grade to graduation in 1979. (As it happens, I joined the class of ’79 for high school.)

There’s no likely end to this story—only the lull in the debate until the next Trump climbs onto the pitcher’s mound. Cue the carnival barker.

Meanwhile Eleanor Nordyke is seeing her life's work providing women health care challenged as Planned Parenthood funding is also contested in state legislatures around the nation.

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