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Explanation of the symbols used on pedigree charts created by field workers. 1911 Eugenics Record Office pamphlet, The Study of Human Heredity.

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Presentation on theme: "Explanation of the symbols used on pedigree charts created by field workers. 1911 Eugenics Record Office pamphlet, The Study of Human Heredity."— Presentation transcript:

1 Explanation of the symbols used on pedigree charts created by field workers. 1911 Eugenics Record Office pamphlet, The Study of Human Heredity

2 Pedigrees: tracking traits across generations. Scientific evidence that “defects” are transmitted by genes.

3 1921 text on “heredity in epilepsy.”


5 The Jukes: A Study in Crime, Pauperism, Disease, and Heredity (1877). Found 2800 family members in New York, estimated welfare costs $2 million.

6 Class-based eugenics

7 ERO flash cards to identify genetic “defects,” 1922

8 Mental disabilities 19 th century goal of treatment of lunatics and training of “idiots” gave way by 1900 to emphasis on confinement and care. 1849 Massachusetts School for Idiotic Children: “brutes in the human shape, but without the light of human reason.”

9 History of institutionalization 1886 Washington Territory opened first school for “defective and feebleminded youth.” States have civil commitment laws to authorize institutionalization. “I have gone into a home and heard the screeching, half-barking sound of an idiot tethered in the back yard like a dog, with the pathetic, grief-stricken mother doing all she could to hide it.... ‘We have a magnificent institution; we will take the child and protect it’.”

10 Superintendent Walter Fernald (1893): “The brighter class of the feebleminded, with their weak will-power and deficient judgment, are easily influenced for evil, and are prone to become vagrants, drunkards, and thieves…. It is better and cheaper for the community to assume the permanent care of this class before they have carried out a long career of expensive crime.”

11 Danger to self, children, society Immorality worst in the feebleminded woman: “She has not sense enough to protect herself from the perils to which women are subjected. Often bright and attractive, if at large they either marry and bring forth in geometrical ratio a new generation of defectives and dependants, or become irresponsible sources of corruption and debauchery in the communities where they live.”

12 Supreme Court upholds forced sterilization, Buck v. Bell 1927: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough” Carrie Buck and her mother

13 IQ testing 1905 invented by Alfred Binet to ensure education for “abnormal” children. 1910s US psychologists corrupt this goal. Intelligence is hereditary, unchangeable. Measure & label & institutionalize. “Menace” to society. By 1900, 328 institutions, with 200,000 people labeled lunatic or mentally deficient (moron— imbecile—idiot).

14 Oliver Wendell Holmes decision 1927: police power of the state vs. ind liberty “There can be no doubt that so far as procedure is concerned the rights of the patient are most carefully considered. We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the state for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.”

15 Gender bias? 2/3 of sterilization victims were women


17 Why sterilize men & women? Began in 1899, Dr. Harry Sharp at Indiana State Reformatory: “treatment” and punishment for criminals. 1909 WA state law: punitive purpose “Whenever a person shall be adjudged guilty of carnal abuse of a female under 10 years old, or of rape, or shall be judged a habitual criminal, the court may direct an operation to be performed for the prevention of procreation.”

18 Eugenicist Harry Laughlin’s model sterilization law (1922 ) AN ACT to prevent the procreation of persons socially inadequate from defective inheritance, by authorizing and providing for the eugenical sterilization of certain potential parents carrying degenerate hereditary qualities. Persons Subject. All persons in the State who, because of degenerate or defective hereditary qualities are potential parents of socially inadequate offspring, regardless of whether such persons be in the population at large or inmates of custodial institutions, regardless also of the personality, sex, age, marital condition, race, or possessions of such person. State's Motive. Purely eugenic, that is, to prevent certain degenerate human stock from reproducing its kind. Absolutely no punitive element.

19 WA state 1921 eugenics law State mental hospitals and custodial schools. FM, insane, epileptic, habitual criminals, moral degenerates, sexual perverts, and inferior hereditary potentialities. The purpose of said investigation, findings and orders of the Institutional Board of Health shall be for the betterment of the physical, mental, neural, or psychic condition of the inmate, or to protect society from the menace of procreation by said inmate, and not in any manner as a punitive measure. Any inmate or guardian of the inmate may appeal from the order of the board to the superior court within fifteen days after receipt of notice of the board's decision by filing an informal notice of appeal

20 WA Lobbyists for 1921 law were mainly progressive women activists. In total, 685 operations performed Mostly after 1934. 400 of them mentally ill people. 500 of them women. FM as condition for discharge; concern about overcrowding & should sterilize more. Overturned in 1942 on grounds that it violated procedural due process. Hospitals started lobotomies instead. 1909 law still on the books, RCW 9.92.100RCW 9.92.100

21 Is forced sterilization Constitutional? 1. Cruel and unusual punishment (8 th Amendment) 2. Equal Protection Clause (14 th Amendment) 3.Due Process Clause

22 “For the benefit of society and for the benefit of the patient” Case records of the Board of Health Ask about traits/habits of relatives. Ask about cause of breakdown. “What is your attitude toward sterilization?” Some women requested the operation as form of birth control. Several male inmates: “homosexual type, acts of perversion.” FM women: “sexual promiscuity.”

23 Government apologies for sterilizations Virginia 2002 North Carolina California Oregon (records destroyed) Indiana 2007 Washington?? Criticism: does history matter? Avoid close examination of who sanctioned eugenics and the rights violations. Does the public still believe PWD “deserved” to be sterilized?

24 Disability Studies analysis of eugenics History of people with disabilities, esp institutionalized. Eugenics was based on medical model of disability: individual is genetically flawed. We argue for the social model of disability: Scientific knowledge claims, ableist attitudes, and racist/sexist ideologies label people “unfit.” Overlap between disability and other human differences. Legacy today in pre-natal genetic testing. Subjectivity of “well-born” and “improvement” Medical fix, eliminate people

25 History & its significance Image Archive on the American Eugenics Movement Nazi Persecution of the Disabled Nazi Persecution of the Disabled (US Holocaust Museum) Against Their WillAgainst Their Will, eugenics movement in North Carolina Eugenics in California Indiana Eugenics: History and Legacy "Eugenics Apologies" "Davis's Apology Sheds No Light on Sterilizations in California"

26 Human genetics research Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man homepageOnline Mendelian Inheritance in Man homepage (National Center for Biotechnology Information) Your Genes Your Health homepageYour Genes Your Health homepage (Cold Spring Harbor) Genetic Disorder Information on the WebGenetic Disorder Information on the Web (HGP) National Human Genome Research Institute website (NIH) Genome Programs of the Dept of Energy website

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