Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Eugenics originated during the Progressive Era of the late 19th and early 20th century by Sir Francis Galton.  It was considered a method of preserving the dominant groups in population.  Galton felt that the social positions of the upper classes of Britain were due to a superior genetic makeup.  Supporters believed that through selective breeding, the human species should direct its own evolution.  The eugenics enthusiasts believed Nordic, Germanic and Anglo-Saxon peoples were superior.  They supported strict immigration laws and forcible sterilization of the poor, disabled and "immoral".  Rockefeller Foundation, Carnegie Institution and Harriman railroad fortune were major donators of this movement.  J.H. Kellogg helped to fund the Race Betterment Foundation.  Renowned biologist Charles B. Davenport founded the Eugenics Record Office(ERO), which was one of the leading organizations in the American eugenics movement.  The ERO collected data and concluded that those who were unfit come from economically and socially poor backgrounds.  That is when lobbying for immigration restrictions, sterilization and even extermination began. In 1896, Connecticut was the first of many states to enact marriage laws with eugenic criteria, which prohibiting anyone who was "epileptic, imbecile or feeble-minded" from marrying.  Indiana became the first of 30 states to legalize involuntary sterilization in 1907.  Washington and California followed closely behind.  The state of California had the highest sterilization rate.  California performed one-third of the 60,000 nationwide, which was about 20,000.  North Carolina was the most aggressive of the states that had eugenics programs.  Sterilization was automatic for an individual with an IQ of 70 or lower.  The North Carolina Eugenics Board almost always approved proposals by local welfare.  Of all the state boards, North Carolina was the only one to give social workers the power to designate people for sterilization.  Eugenicists believed poverty to be a characteristic of genertic inferiority.  Upper and middle class women were encourage to bear more children and were denied sterilization and birth control.  Women of lower class were discouraged to have children and use birth control.  They were deemed unfit and promiscuous because poverty was associated with prostitution and "mental idiocy". This lead to The American Breeders' Association which specifically "investigate and report on heredity in the human race, and emphasize the value of superior blood and the menance  to society of inferior blood."        Post two of this series

1 comment:

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