Family CPS Courts, the “Final Solution”: Death by Temporary Order

Family (CPS) Courts “Final Solution”:

Death by Temporary Orders

medical knowledege that matters


“Modus vivendi is a Latin phrase signifying an agreement between those whose opinions differ, such that they agree to disagree.

Modus means mode, way (or method, manner). Vivendi means of living. Together, way of living, implies an accommodation between disputing parties to allow life to go on. It usually describes informal and temporary arrangements in political affairs. For example, where two sides reach a modus vivendi regarding disputed territories, despite political, historical or cultural incompatibilities, an accommodation of their respective differences is established for the sake of contingency. This sense of the term has been used as a keystone in the political philosophy of John Gray.

In diplomacy, a modus vivendi is an instrument for establishing an international accord of a temporary or provisional nature, intended to be replaced by a more substantial and thorough agreement, such as a treaty.[1] It is usually fashioned informally, and so never requires legislative ratification. Typically armistices and instruments of surrender are modus vivendi.”  

                                                                                                                    From Wikipedia, the “free” encyclopedia

For anyone who has the misfortune to have experienced what others may strategically refer to as “legal abuse”  via continuous harassing, fraudulent, and malicious CPS and police visits with the goal of kidnapping your only property sometimes called “child” by the “State” for, inter alia, federal funding and grant steering R.I.C.O. court cons, incrementally, to later ratify permanently “sealed,” secret deals that sometimes involve $20,000-$30,000 flat fee judicial campaign contributions such, before or after one has been been dragged into family “civil”/ “CPS Cluster Courts East Texas” on the well-known groundless, statutorily required fraudulent and false allegations–sworn– phenomenon termed in Texas, the emergency “ex parte motion” for “ex parte emergency temporary restraining order (‘TRO’) and emergency “order” to “modify” any “suit affecting the parent child relationship,” in many unnecessarily “high conflict” narcissistic grabs for power and control involve wealthy fathers and families and the militant groups which fuel their fire–BAR members–call-in “secret” favors for life-crippling , case sabotaging, peculiarly prescient “DIRTY ASSAULTS,” or “DIRTY DWI/DUI’S,” which shall or may always be extended by statute as a matter of routine protocol whether accusations be groundless or not and without a single shred of “articulable” evidence required pursuant to any and all definitions of due process of law and equal protections of the law beyond the fourteen (14)  days to indefinite ‘no-contact’ orders that constitute an unlawful, but illegal, u.S. unconstitutional presumption that one is never “allowed” “access or ‘visitation'” with one’s private property-“children”–until one can bribe his or he/r “one child, one judge-for-life ‘collaborative’ law associate judge.”  Before the temporary restraining order, however, the Nazi death panel that has has already been executed without a lawful judge’s CPS supervisor’s (as their offices are right in the courts, Child Protective Services’) autograph and entered into a secret “child abuse or neglect” national, state, local, and inter-agency/international and National Centers for Missing and Exploited Children, all “ABC”-agency and Department of Highway and Transportation and Safety databases–the “digital plantation”– for “ongoing ‘investigations'” of the non-child or child sexual abuser who, in eighty to ninety percent of these cases according to research by the National Leadership Council and the Arizona Coalition’s Project, become the “sole ‘managing’ ‘conservator'” to the product of your womb, making you a non-consenting retroactive slave via surrogate motherhood–absent “due compensation” pursuant to the Fifth Amendment (Amendment V) to the Federal, u.S. Constitution and its “incorporated” Bill of Rights ratifies and applies directly to the people through the Fourteenth Amendment  (Amendment XIV)(former “Thirteenth” Amendment, and researched or conned, anyway) to the u.S Constitution.

 “Termination of parental rights” is engineered even through regular jury panels that the judge in family “civil” court has pre-selected, at least, this is the case in Texas.  This is common and widely accepted–through experience and utter Orwellian nightmares of so many families, targeted single and young mothers even if their “social-economic security” for the “state” is and has been stable, many times, in fact, successful and without any intervention of imaginary “child ‘welfare” that is non-existent in Texas and many states, anyway, through TANF waivers (“Temporary Assistance to ‘Needy Families'”) (see Federal Personal Responsibility and Right to Work Act” signed or autographed in 1996) by the states who “opt-out,” and always have where the money is diverted to pro-father’s rights attorneys who serve only millionaire, clinically psychopathic “responsible” criminal fathers–but never mothers as a policy and see Texas Attorney General website and Office of Support Enforcement/”Crime Victim’s Assistance Fund”/”gatekeeping” monopoly on the “TEXAS GENERAL FUND CHILD SURPLUS REPORT”-enforcing joint public-private venture agency for “economic and social security” of the military enclave or zone (martial/marital law in times of crisis or “domestic emergency”) with ready-made wives pre-selected for the same “healthy marriage initiative” grant to adopt–a stranger’s “child.”

These “orders” are completely unlawful and void ab initio–null and void as a matter of fact and law before one even “appears” due to implicit and explicit fraud upon the court and total lack of any and all due process of law, both procedural and substantive pursuant to the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments (Amendments V, XIV) to the Federal, u.S. Constitution and its “incorporated” Bill of Rights ratifies and applies directly to the people, being individuals, through the Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal, u.S. Constitution.

Below, others, properly cited, without regard to their revealing support and design of and for the same evil crimes of hate and racism–demographic research and Eugenics, or, racial and ethnic cleansing–social Darwinism–chronicle the pernicious past and modern roots, the reason that the family/CPS Tuesday docket  and “CPS Cluster Courts East Texas”/juvenile dependency courts were initiated and formed for the same common goal referred to by Adolf Hitler and the SS as “the Final Solution.”

Children’s Aid Societies and “pauper’s courts” (for the poor and those who “can’t help themselves” in society) were the precursors to the modern family CPS “health and human services” professional services corporations or joint public-private county and “state” courts of inferior jurisdiction–don’t let the state code–statutes such as Texas Family Code, but not necessarily u.S. Constitutionally compliant, superior, and natural God-given and implied law (see the Ninth Amendment to the Federal, u.S. Constitution and its “incorporate” Bill of Rights ratifies and applies directly to the people through the Fourteenth Amendment (some may refer to it as the original Thirteenth Amendment) to the Federal, u.S. Constitution, fool into buying  into their unilateral “general” jurisdiction.  After all, this is just another example of semantic art and deception–paradox– ” _ _ _ _ _ _ _ reversal.”

Even more frightening to author of this blog–“julian’s Real mummy,” Dedicated to the Real Mommies and Daddies of the Real America, and our Children who Want to Come Home, and especially to my little julian–is that there are now mandatory genetic counselors on staff or for on-call referral at hospitals, and especially for young mothers or mothers with no other private property the “state” prefers to call “child”/”MINOR”/”ward of the court”/presumed “mentally incompetent” or “high conflict”/ “high risk”/ “helicopter moms”/”protective mothers”/”vigilant” moms/”PTSD Mommies”/”controlling”–“maltreating”–“alcoholic,” “drug-addicted,” “abusive or neglectful” parent property owners/”senior citizens” or “Alzheimers” and dementia candidates deemed “threats” to the public health, welfare, and “national security”  for racketeering and organized crime purposes.

“Voluntary euthanasia,”  “troubled teen” facilities, “pre-determined outcomes” or “trauma-informed, ‘evidence-based’ research” (CPS and Texas Public “Policy Priorities”)– forward-looking surgical and medical “accidents”/”complications,” and even involuntary abortions and involuntary–forced–adoptions “donate” daily for research funded genetic grant studies (with no information, no knowledge, no sufficient knowledge, no “due compensation” for confiscating private property for public use, and without “‘voluntary’ ‘consent'” or procedural/efficient/administrative/collaborative law/unified courts due process of law–substantive, meaningful due process, but not “processing,” as at an “in-take/in-tank” facility or institution.  Historically, certain (test population) vaccinations and public transport were also mandatory to enter scholastic aptitude labs, and also to and to measure I.Q. and physical education/gym class for “normal” bell curve comparative research and Nazi youth re-education encampments.

Hospital may derive from the Society of “hospitaliers,” or the Red Cross Society–Knights of the Red Cross.  It is difficult to know whether or not there were more cases of swapped-babies, stolen babies, “Tubal ligation,” involuntary, non-informed, non-consented “miscarriages,” and, without due compensation, tissue samples and “complications in surgery” for “charitable” organ “donation” in the past or in the present or future.  Clearly, forced adoptions with “‘voluntary’ consent” have been public policy priorities in states like Texas for the past quarter of a decade.  Author queries when we shall finally get to know which test or control group we have been a part of . . .in the future present. ? ? ?  When may [ or may not] do we find out what is really happening with [ or without ]our “voluntary consent?”

Seemingly harmless polls and surveys have also been commonly conducted for other purposes or public policy/policing/profiling priorities.

The authors and researchers cited and their work “summarized,” below:





In democratic societies, the needs of public health sometimes require citizens to make sacrifices for the greater good, but in Nazi Germany, national or public health — Volksgesundheit — took complete precedence over individual health care. Physicians and medically trained academics, many of whom were proponents of “racial hygiene,” or eugenics, legitimized and helped to implement Nazi policies aiming to “cleanse” German society of people viewed as biologic threats to the nation’s health. Racial-hygiene measures began with the mass sterilization of the “genetically diseased” and ended with the near-annihilation of European Jewry. The concept of racial hygiene had deep roots in Germany.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, growing numbers of medical and public health professionals decried Germany’s declining birth rate and the perceived biologic “degeneration” of the nation and proposed reforms to improve the quantity and quality of the population.

Rapid industrialization and urbanization had created overcrowded cities, with attendant conditions of extensive poverty and crime; the spread of tuberculosis, syphilis, gonorrhea, and other contagious diseases; and expanding numbers of persons identified by psychiatrists as mentally ill or retarded, who required special care.

These changes coincided with a blossoming of medical research and the establishment of dozens of new institutes and laboratories. Breakthroughs in bacteriology and the emerging field of genetics — the publication of August Weismann’s theory of immutable germ-plasm in the 1890s and the “rediscovery” of Gregor Mendel’s laws of heredity in 1900 — seemed to promise biologic or medical solutions to Germany’s problems. Physicians and medical researchers began to view themselves as the guides to a healthy, moral, industrious Germany.

1 The loss of nearly 2 million German men in World War I exacerbated fears about population and spurred new interest in genetics and eugenics as the path to salvation. Under the postwar Weimar Republic, two government-sponsored research institutes opened, one focusing on psychiatry, and the other on anthropology, human heredity, and eugenics. In the 1920s, many German medical students took courses in genetics that integrated the subject of racial hygiene.

Before 1933, eugenics proposals, such as the sterilization of mentally retarded and ill persons, failed to win wide support, but the Nazi “revolution,” beginning that year with Adolf Hitler’s assumption of power, upset the status quo. Political opposition to eugenics was swept aside, giving way to an unfettered, coercive, and racist Nazi variety. In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote that “the national state . . . must see to it that only the healthy beget children” using “modern medical means.” The Nazi drive to create a healthy German people was tied to ultranationalistic and militaristic goals: many more fit workers, farmers, and soldiers were needed for Germany to expand its territory and become a dominant world power.

Some physicians and biologists who supported eugenics had to accommodate themselves to Nazism’s rabid anti-Semitism.

But in return for accepting the persecution of Jews as a source of biologic degeneration, many in the medical community welcomed the new emphasis on biology and heredity, increased research funding, and new career opportunities — including openings created eugenics by the purge of Jews and leftists from the medical and public health fields.  In the Name of Public Health — Nazi Racial Hygiene Susan Bachrach, Ph.D. Figure

1. Conducting Twin Studies at the Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics in Berlin, February 1928. Geneticist Otmar von Verschuer examined hundreds of pairs of twins to study hereditary links to criminality, mental retardation, tuberculosis, and cancer.  

2 Senior, influential members of the first generation of racial hygienists collaborated with the Nazi regime.

Ernst Rüdin, director of the Munich psychiatric institute and internationally known for his work using genealogical data banks to study the prognosis of psychiatric illnesses, helped to draft the regime’s 1933 compulsory sterilization law.

Eugen Fischer, the medically trained director of the Berlin eugenics institute, and Otmar von Verschuer, a geneticist known for his research on twins (see Figure 1) and the mentor of Dr. Josef Mengele (who later became notorious for research on twins conducted at Auschwitz–Birkenau), served as medical judges on new Hereditary Health Courts.

They and hundreds of other medical and psychiatric specialists allowed the courts to present evidence supporting the state’s case for sterilization, such as family genealogies tracking purported inherited taints and intelligence tests containing educationbased questions.

By 1945, some 400,000 Germans had been forcibly sterilized. The highly elastic diagnosis of “feeblemindedness” provided legal grounds in most cases; the diagnosis of schizophrenia accounted for the second-largest group. Other illnesses covered under the 1933 law were manic–depressive disorder, genetic epilepsy, Huntington’s chorea, genetic blindness, genetic deafness, severe physical deformity, and chronic alcoholism.

Severing of the fallopian tubes was the typical method of sterilizing women, and vasectomy was the common procedure for men. As many as 5,000 persons died as a result of the surgery, most of them women.3 To build public support for this coercive program, posters, documentary films, and high-school biology textbooks (see Figure 2) argued the case for sterilization: “an easy surgical procedure, a humane means by which the nation can be protected from boundless misery.”

The propaganda campaign portrayed its targets as less than fully human. Although more strident in tone, its content mirrored health pamphlets, displays, and films produced during the 1920s in other countries where ideas about “race betterment” had spread, from Great Britain, the United States, Sweden, and Denmark to the Soviet Union, Brazil, and Japan. Proponents of eugenics in the early 20th century argued that modern medicine interfered with Darwinian natural selection by keeping the weak alive; that mentally “re _ _ _ _ _ _” and ill persons were reproducing at a much faster rate than valuable, productive persons; and that costs were escalating for maintaining “defectives” in special homes, hospitals, schools, and prisons.

4 In the United States, eugenicists helped to pass sterilization laws in many states, and before 1933, German racial hygienists cited this experience to buttress their own proposals for a sterilization law. Between 1907 and 1945, 40,000 eugenic sterilization operations were recorded in the United States, half of them in California, where patients in state mental hospitals were the main targets. Sterilization laws were also introduced in the western Canadian provinces, certain Swiss cantons, and Scandinavia.

But nowhere did the number of sterilizations approach that in Germany. The Nazi sterilization effort was integrated into Figure 2. “You Also Bear the Burden!” A Nazi-era high-school biology book warns that “a hereditarily ill person costs 50,000 reichsmarks on average up to the age of sixty.” From the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C. In the Name of Public Health — Nazi Racial Hygiene Copyright © 2004 Massachusetts Medical Society. All rights reserved. n engl j med 351;5 july 29, 2004 419


a comprehensive program of racial hygiene. Other key elements included the banning of marriages between “hereditarily healthy” Germans and persons deemed genetically unfit or infected with tuberculosis or venereal diseases and between Jews and non-Jews. Propaganda posters announcing the new crime of “racial defilement” portrayed Jews as black, and German officials often mentioned U.S. antimiscegenation laws in defense of their own discriminatory legislation.

To enforce its racialhygiene measures, the Hitler regime established hundreds of “hereditary and racial care clinics” that examined people’s family histories. Staffed by thousands of physicians and assistant physicians, the clinics operated under the aegis of regional public health offices and created vast hereditary data banks for the regime’s future use. Echoing old fears about the declining German birth rate, officials also implemented “positive” eugenic measures, promoting large (“child-rich”) families for the Aryan fit, setting aside houses in new subdivisions for eugenically qualified families, and issuing the Honor Cross of German Motherhood to healthy, “German-blooded” women who had at least four children (see Figure 3).

Public health campaigns advised pregnant women to eschew alcohol and nicotine and other “genetic poisons” that were harmful to the fetus.

After German forces invaded Poland in 1939, Nazi racial hygiene took a radical turn, from controlling reproduction and marriage to the mass murder of persons regarded as biologic threats. Between 1939 and 1945, an estimated 200,000 Germans — ranging from infants born with Down’s syndrome and other birth defects to elderly psychiatric patients judged to be “incurably ill” — were killed in “euthanasia” programs.

Lethal doses of drugs, starvation, and gassing were the methods of killing, administered by physicians and nurses.5 The use of gas chambers disguised as showers provided the model for the mass murder of Jews, which began in 1942 at the Nazi camps in Poland.6 The war, and the lowering of moral barriers in a time of conflict and chaos, provided the opportunity to enlist medical professionals in conducting these murderous programs in the name of the regeneration of the Fatherland.

In 1946 and 1947, the American military tribunal at Nuremberg tried 20 German physicians and 3 lay accomplices for medical experiments using prisoners of Nazi concentration camps. But most of the German scientists and physicians who had helped to legitimize and implement Nazi racialhygiene policies were not prosecuted or called to a moral accounting of any kind, and many went on with their careers. Verschuer, for example, established one of West Germany’s largest genetic research centers.

The neuropathologist Julius Hallervorden, who had used the children’s euthanasia program as an opportunity to amass new specimens for study, resumed his brain research.

Globally, the Holocaust helped to discredit eugenics, and the term itself became taboo in the scientific community. Even so, the sterilization of mentally retarded and ill persons continued in some parts of Scandinavia and Canada after the war, and sterilization remained part of social policy in Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia into the 1970s. Figure 3. Bronze Honor Cross of German Motherhood.

The Nazi regime awarded bronze medals to “fit” Germanic women who had four or five children, silver medals to those who had six or seven, and gold medals to those with eight or more. From the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C. In the Name of Public Health —

Nazi Racial Hygiene  Massachusetts Medical Society, 420 n engl j med 351;5july 29, 2004

Copyright © 2004

All rights reserved.


Over the past six decades, the science of human heredity has advanced greatly, from knowledge of the operation of DNA to the mapping of the human genome. Such progress holds great promise for medical advances but also inspires new, utopian visions of perfecting humankind. The history of Nazi racial-hygiene policies and eugenics reminds us of the importance of maintaining democratic checks and balances in the application of biomedical research and of always guarding against the use of genetics for the purpose of discriminating against persons or groups.

From the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C., where a special exhibition, “Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race,” will be open through October 16, 2005. The exhibition examines the critical role German physicians, public health officials, and academic experts played in supporting and implementing the Nazis’ program of racial eugenics, which culminated in the Holocaust.

1. Weindling P. Health, race, and German politics between national unification and Nazism, 1870-1945. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1989:1-10.

2. Proctor R. Racial hygiene: medicine under the Nazis. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988.

3. Bock G. Nazi sterilization and reproductive policies. In: Kuntz D, Bachrach S, eds. Deadly medicine: creating the master race. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004:61- 87.

4. Kevles DJ. In the name of eugenics: genetics and the uses of human heredity. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985.

5. Burleigh M. Death and deliverance: euthanasia in Germany c.1900-1945. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

6. Friedlander H. The origins of Nazi genocide: from euthanasia to the final solution. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995.





Eugenics is an old word and an old idea, but because of its historical role it demands attention in this Symposium issue on legal and cultural responses to disability.

Francis Galton’s formal definition of eugenics in 1883 created a field that would study and advocate for “well-born” children, emphasize heredity, and exert a powerful impact on social policies.

1 Lawmakers were seduced by the idea that people are marked with the genetic residue of their ancestors.

Government, they said, could sort the fit and the unfit and decide which citizens are worthy to have children.

But history shows that instead of improving society, eugenics merely provided a cover for abusing the poor and the disabled.

Many eugenicists shared a fear of people with mental disabilities and a desire to rid the world of them.

As Henry Goddard proposed in 1927, “[p]erhaps our ideal should be to eventually eliminate all the lower grades of intelligence and have no one who is not above the twelve-year old intelligence level.”

2 This article should serve as a reminder that the eugenics movement was rightfully notorious for its pointed stigmatization of people with disabilities—particularly those with mental disorders. One of the key focal points of eugenic contempt was the ill-defined trait of “feeblemindedness.”

3 According to Massachusetts physician Walter Fernald, those defined as feebleminded endured “all degrees and types of * Paul A. Lombardo, Ph.D., J.D., is a Professor of Law at the Georgia State University College of Law in Atlanta, Georgia.


2. Henry H. Goddard, Who Is A Moron?, 24 SCIENTIFIC MONTHLY 41, 45 (1927); see also HENRY HERBERT GODDARD, FEEBLE-MINDEDNESS: ITS CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES 573-74 (1914) (arguing that people with lower intelligence should be placed in a special environment separate from the rest of society).

3. Walter E. Fernald, The History of the Treatment of the Feeble-Minded, in PROCEEDINGS OF THE NAT’L CONFERENCE OF CHARITIES AND CORRECTION 203, 211-13 (Isabel C. Barrows ed., 1893).SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW 58 SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY JOURNAL OF HEALTH LAW & POLICY [Vol. 2:57 congenital defect.

4 The feebleminded ranged from “the simply backward boy or girl . . . to the profound idiot, a help-less, speechless, disgusting burden, . . . “.

5 Or as Charles Davenport, the dean of American eugenics, said, “[o]ne may even view with satisfaction the high death rate in an institution for low grade feeble-minded.”

6 Feeblemindedness was also linked to feeble inhibitions,7 and every manner of disability, from a man’s premature decline caused by syphilis, to his son’s blindness and his daughter’s withered limb.

These conditions were bundled as if all of a piece—results of immoral living, evidence of an intergenerational curse that cascaded through families from parents to children as part of an hereditary legacy.

The feebleminded were regularly described by eugenicists as a menace to society, considered to include the “great mass of defectiveness” in institutions, and marked for genetic prophylaxis though the process of sterilization.

8 The dark history of eugenics makes it tempting, in our hurry to distance ourselves from its shadow, to couple the word “eugenics” exclusively with attitudes that most of us would find unacceptable today.

But I will argue instead that we should be careful how we invoke eugenic history—and parsimonious in the way we use the very term “eugenics.” [???]

Some combatants in the ongoing “culture war” that pits the world views of people on different ends of the political spectrum against each other are attempting to manipulate and reshape our understanding of the history of eugenics and the word itself.

In this article I will show how that manipulation has developed in the press and within popular culture, and explore how the picture it fosters is at odds with the any accurate history of eugenics.

If we use the term solely as a rhetorical weapon within a political debate, we flirt with deceit and demagoguery, and run the risk of divorcing eugenics from the historical context in which it developed. When we intentionally debase history, we forfeit whatever opportunities there are for learning from it.

4. Id. at 213. 5. Id. 6. Charles B. Davenport, Presidential Address Before the Third International Congress of Eugenics, August 22, 1932, 17 EUGENICAL NEWS 89, 92.


8. H. H. Laughlin, Calculations on the Working Out of a Proposed Program of Sterilization, in PROCEEDINGS OF THE FIRST NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON RACE BETTERMENT 478, 478 (1914). SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW 2008] DISABILITY, EUGENICS, AND THE CULTURE WARS 59


What is the history of eugenics? Every account of the origins of the field starts with Francis Galton, who coined the term “eugenics” in 1883.

9 His science of the “well-born” would focus study on “ . . . all influences that tend in however remote a degree to give to the more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing speedily over the less suitable than they otherwise would have had.”

10 Galton’s ideas were eventually assimilated into a movement that also relied on the laws of heredity formulated in the 1860’s by Gregor Mendel.

11 Mendel’s discoveries remained an obscure episode in the history of science until after his death, and were only widely noticed after Mendel’s work was translated in the first decade of the 20th Century.

12 Galtonian eugenics flourished in England and focused on using statistical tools to quantify biological insights.

13 The field of biometrics grew out of Galton’s early work on statistics,

14 with further development by his disciple Karl Pearson.

15 In America, eugenics developed with more attention to Mendelian genetics, and this difference prompted sometimes raucous disagreements between the transatlantic eugenic camps.

16 When eugenics finally took root in America, the ideas that it was founded upon led to a national movement that had many diverse facets. There was what could be called the happy face of eugenics, shown to the public as “Better Baby Contests,” which claimed to identify particularly gifted tots and in some rare cases actually arrange a future marriage between them.

9. GALTON, supra note 1. 10. Id.

11. See generally GREGOR MENDEL, FUNDAMENTA GENETICA (Jaroslav Krizenecky ed. & trans., 1965). 12. DONALD PICKENS, EUGENICS AND THE PROGRESSIVES 46-48 (1968).

13. See DANIEL J. KEVLES, IN THE NAME OF EUGENICS: GENETICS AND THE USES OF HUMAN HEREDITY 37-40 (1985) (discussing the eugenics movement in England); see also NICHOLAS WRIGHT GILLHAM, A LIFE OF SIR FRANCIS GALTON: FROM AFRICAN EXPLORATION TO THE BIRTH OF EUGENICS 251 (2001) (explaining Galton’s use of statistics to determine whether “regression toward the mean applied in people as well as in sweet peas.”).

14. GILLHAM, supra, note 13, at 258 (noting that the science of biometrics grew out of Galton’s statistical analysis of heredity). ]

15. Id. at 263 (Karl Pearson’s formula, named Galton’s Law of Ancestral Heredity, was the result of Galton’s initial efforts in biometrics).

16. Hamish G. Spencer & Diane B. Paul, The Failure of a Scientific Critique: David Heron, Karl Pearson and Mendelian Eugenics, 31 BRIT. J. FOR HIST. SCI. 441, 441 (1998).

An extensive public debate between the biometricians and the Mendelians broke out in both the lay and scientific press.

See David Heron, English Expert Attacks American Eugenic Work, N.Y. TIMES, Nov. 9, 1913, at SM2;

Charles B. Davenport, American Work Strongly Defended, N.Y. TIMES, Nov. 9, 1913, at SM2;

Chas. B. Davenport, A Reply to Dr. Heron’s Strictures, 38 SCIENCE 773, 773-74 (1913);


David Heron, English Eugenics Expert Again Attacks Davenport, N.Y. TIMES, Jan. 4, 1914, at SM14. SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW 60 SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY JOURNAL OF HEALTH LAW & POLICY [Vol. 2:57 

17 A later iteration of a similar contest sought “Fitter Families for Future Firesides.”

18 These contests eventually morphed into a vehicle of the official eugenics movement, as they were designed to identify the bearers of prized “germ plasm,” the eugenicists’ term for what is now known as DNA.

19 The darker, more negative side of eugenics has been explored extensively by historians, and as a result is more widely known.

20 The energies devoted to negative eugenics often found an expression in the law. There were, for example, immigration restrictions based on the supposed genetic superiority of some ethnic and racial groups and the inferiority of others,

21 and “racial integrity” laws to prevent interracial marriage.

22 We should also recall that taking care of disabled people was expensive, and the economic motive for many eugenic laws was never far from the surface—better breeding through tax cuts was a common eugenic mantra.

23 There was even a small group of supporters for eugenic euthanasia, who argued that “defective” newborns should simply be killed.

24 A powerful feature of eugenic ideology was contained in the mythologies of the so-called problem families—the Jukes and the Kallikaks—told via popular books to generations of school-age children and

17. Steven Selden, Transforming Better Babies into Fitter Families: Archival Resources and the History of the American Eugenics Movement, 1908–1930, 149 PROC. AM. PHIL. SOC’Y 199, 206-10 (2005) [hereinafter Selden, Transforming Better Babies into Fitter Families]; see also Editorial, Perfect Babies to Mate for Good of the Race, L.A. TIMES, Mar. 13, 1915, at 1.




KEVLES, supra note 13, at 46-48.

21. See, e.g., JOHN HIGHAM, STRANGERS IN THE LAND: PATTERNS OF AMERICAN NATIVISM, 1860-1925, at 97-116 (1955).

22. Paul A. Lombardo, Miscegenation, Eugenics, and Racism: Historical Footnotes to Loving v. Virginia, 21 U.C. DAVIS L. REV. 421, 423 (1988) (hereinafter Lombardo, Miscegenation, Eugenics, and Racism).

23. See SELDEN, supra note 18, at 27 (noting that during a Fitter Families Contest, the advocates of eugenics circulated propaganda claiming that “every 11 seconds crime cost [sic] America $100,000. And of those who are committed to jail—one every 50 seconds—very few were found to be normal.”);

Scrutator, Breeding Better Folks Held Way to Lower Taxes, CHI. DAILY TRIB., Dec. 30, 1923, at A10; Harper Leech,Sees in Eugenics Way to Cut Cost of Government, CHI. DAILY TRIB., Sept. 14, 1926, at 24. 24.



61 college students as parables of the generational curse heredity could transmit in the form of criminality, poverty, mental defect, and general moral decay.

25 The Jukes and the Kallikaks were depicted as a lower species of humankind.

26 They were thought to be the products of hereditary degeneracy, and portrayed in scientific pedigrees that highlighted feeble-mindedness and sexual excesses.

27 Eugenic propagandists proclaimed that all such characteristics could be “bred out” of the population if marriages were eugenic. Marriage restriction laws were adopted to enforce this sentiment.

28 But the most popular vehicle for cleaning up the gene pool, and the one with the most widespread legal mandate in the United States, was eugenic sterilization.


We recently had an opportunity to reflect on the history of eugenics during the centennial of the first eugenical sterilization law in America.

29 Its strongest proponents were Dr. Harry Sharp, physician to the Indiana State Reformatory,

30 and his colleague, public health reformer John N. Hurty, a seven time secretary of the Indiana State Board of Health and one time President of the American Public Health Association.

31 Together they engineered the first eugenic sterilization law in America in 1907.

32 Dr. Sharp’s surgeries were controversial, and for twenty years during which about a dozen other states passed their own eugenic laws,33 a legal



NICOLE HAHN RAFTER, WHITE TRASH: THE EUGENIC FAMILY STUDIES, 1877-1919, at 1-2 (1988) (collecting several of the other early family stories).

26. See RAFTER, supra note 25, at 1.

27. Id.

28. Molly Ladd-Taylor, Eugenics, Sterilisation and Modern Marriage in the USA: The Strange Career of Paul Popenoe, 13 GENDER & HIST. 298, 301 (2001).

29. IND. CODE ANN. § 22-4-2232 (1908) (repealed 1974); see also Richard Feldman & Jeff Bennett, The Most Useful Citizen of Indiana: John Hurty and the Public Health Movement, TRACES OF INDIANA AND MIDWESTERN HISTORY, Summer 2000, at 34, 42.

30. See Feldman & Bennett, supra note 29, at 42.

31. Indiana Dep’t of Env’t Mgmt., John N. Hurty Award, at (last visited Feb. 3, 2009);

see Am. Pub. Health Ass’n, APHA Past Presidents, at (last visited Feb. 3, 2009);

see also Feldman & Bennett, supra note 29, at 42. 32. IND. CODE ANN. § 22-4-2232 (1908) (repealed 1974)

. 33. See HARRY HAMILTON LAUGHLIN, EUGENICAL STERILIZATION IN THE UNITED STATES ch.1, SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW 62 SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY JOURNAL OF HEALTH LAW & POLICY [Vol. 2:57 question hovered over sterilization: could eugenic surgery be a tool of constitutional statecraft?

That question was answered in 1927 in the case of Buck v. Bell, 34 which reminded us that 2007 was not only an anniversary year with reference to the pioneering Indiana legislation, but it seemed to echo as the last of a strange coincidence with years ending in seven.

Carrie Buck was the subject of a Supreme Court case that tested a Virginia sterilization law.

35 In Buck, the theory that poverty, disease, and unruly sexuality could be wiped out by state mandated surgery was applied to a young Virginia woman, whose family history was represented in court by the evidence captured in a pedigree showing hereditary moral degeneracy and illicit sex, as well as mental defect reappearing through three generations of her family.

36 What resulted was one of the most shameful Supreme Court opinions ever written.

Said Senior Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.: It is better for all the world, 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.

The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.

37 As I have argued elsewhere, the real story of the Bucks was much more complex:

Carrie herself had been raped, her daughter Vivian was perfectly normal, and the case itself was a fraud.

38 Nevertheless, in 32 states, there were more than 65,000 surgeries in the U.S. alone from 1907 until at least 1979.

39 It took ten years after Buck before the nation’s last sterilization law was passed in the state of Georgia in 1937.

40 Agitation for a sterilization law in Georgia, like in many states, revolved around the cost of supporting institutionalized populations.

41 Sterilization was sold in Georgia as it had at 15-31 (1922) (summarizing sterilization laws enacted prior to 1922 in Indiana, Washington, California, Connecticut, Nevada, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Michigan, Kansas, and Wisconsin).

34. Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927).

35. Id.; see 1924 Va. Acts 569 (repealed by Act of Apr. 2, 1974, ch. 296).

36. HARRY H. LAUGHLIN, THE LEGAL STATUS OF EUGENICAL STERILIZATION 18 (1930) (chart showing the history of feeblemindedness in Buck’s family).

37. Buck, 274 U.S. at 207 (citations omitted).


39. See id. at 294 app. c (Laws and Sterilizations by State). 40. 1937 Ga. Laws 414 (repealed 1970).

41. See, e.g., ANNE MOORE, THE FEEBLE MINDED IN NEW YORK: A REPORT PREPARED FOR THE PUB. EDUC. ASS’N OF NEW YORK 86 (1911) (“To support a feeble-minded person in one of the state institutions costs the state, on the average, $161.20 a year.”). SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW 2008] DISABILITY, EUGENICS, AND THE CULTURE WARS

63 been in other states, as a prudent part of state budget management and a step on the road to lower taxes.

42 In the depths of the Great Depression, civic leaders pressed for a medical solution that would rid the state of people deemed “generally defective in any way.”

43 In 1934 the Chairman of the State Board of Control for Charitable Institutions announced a twenty-five percent reduction in the budget appropriation—based on reduced state revenues—and maintained that “insanity and mental deficiency appear to be rapidly increasing.”

44 His remedy for this rapid increase in insanity was sterilization.

45 Supporters of sterilization applauded the Nazis, whose own eugenic policy was already in operation.

46 They judged Hitler’s project as “a step in the right direction.”

47 The proposed Georgia law targeted anyone with a “physical, mental, or nervous disease or deficiency” who might have children with similar problems, and created a state board of eugenics that directed superintendents of state asylums to name candidates for sterilization surgery.

48 Chain gang wardens could also recommend cases.

49 When Georgia’s law passed through the legislature, the press declared that sterilization appealed to “the common sense and reason of the people.”

50 The bill was vetoed by the Georgia governor, but it reappeared, was again passed in the legislature, and was signed by a new governor following the 1937 legislative session.

51 Some 3,300 Georgians endured surgery under this law until its repeal in 1974.

52 Between Indiana’s 1907 sterilization statute and Georgia’s 1937 act, thirty other states adopted laws that would 42. See Lindsey Urges Sterilization as Insanity Ban, ATLANTA CONST., Mar. 29, 1934, at 1A [hereinafter Lindsey].

43. Atlanta Doctors to Drive for Sterilization Bill, ATLANTA CONST., Feb. 4, 1934, at 1A [hereinafter Atlanta Doctors]. 44. Lindsey, supra note 42. 45. Id.

46. The German sterilization law of 1933 resulted in approximately 400,000 sterilizations by 1945. Over 5,000 deaths resulted from the surgeries that were directed towards “feeblemindedness,” schizophrenia, genetic epilepsy, genetic blindness, and severe deformity, among others. Susan Bachrach, In the Name of Public Health—Nazi Racial Hygiene, 351 NEW ENG. J. MED. 417, 418 (2004).

47. Atlanta Doctors, supra note 43.

48. 1937 Ga. Laws 415 (repealed 1970); House Approves Sterilization Bill, ATLANTA CONST., Feb. 10, 1937, at 11.

49. House Approves Sterilization Bill, supra note

48; Edward Larson, Belated Progress: The Enactment of Eugenic Legislation in Georgia, J. HIST. OF MED. & ALLIED SCI. 44, 54-59 (1991) [hereinafter Belated Progress].

50. Sterilization Bill Passes the House, ATLANTA CONST, March 9, 1935; Belated Progress, supra note 49, at 59-63.

51. Edward J. Larson, Breeding Better Georgians, 1 GA. J. S. LEGAL HIST.53, 66-70 (1991).

52. Belated Progress, supra note 49, at 44. SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW 64 SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY JOURNAL OF HEALTH LAW & POLICY [Vol. 2:57 eventually lead to surgery for more than 65,000 people.

53 Different states chose to eliminate childbirth in different kinds of people. Some named the “crippled, blind, degenerate, and deficient,”

54 while others picked “paupers and the criminalistic.”

55 But in all states those most likely to be sterilized were poor people living in state institutions.56 From the end of World War II until the law was repealed in 1970, more operations were performed in Georgia than any state except North Carolina.

57 Even though the law was in force for fewer years than any other state, the 3,300 operations made Georgia fifth in the U.S. in the number of eugenic surgeries.

58 The economic motive for sterilization also resonated in other countries. As one of the first acts of the new Nazi government, Germans adopted an expansive sterilization law that went into effect in 1933.

59 Propaganda in Germany focused on the lifelong costs of supporting any “genetically ill” person.”

60 The German law eventually provided the legal justification for over 400,000 sterilizations.61 In 1946, the Nuremburg war trials were convened.62 While prosecutors at Nuremberg were hesitant to condemn German sterilizations that occurred under the rubric of domestic law, they

53. LOMBARDO, supra note 38, at 294 app. c (Laws and Sterilizations by State).

54. See, e.g., 1921 Wash. Sess. Laws 162 (statute targeting the “feeble minded, insane, epileptic, habitual criminals, moral degenerates, and sexual perverts….”); 1913 N.D. Laws 63 (where the statute targets “[c]onfirmed criminals, [i]nsane, [i]diots, [d]efectives and [r]apists”). 55. See e.g., 1917 S.D. Sess. Laws 378 (where the law focuses on the “[i]diot, [i]mbeciles and [f]eeble-[m]inded persons. . . . ”).

56. Alexandra Minna Stern, Sterilized in the Name of Public Health, 95 AM. J. PUB. HEALTH 1128, 1131-32 (2005) (explaining that most of those sterilized in California were “either working class or lower middle class.”).

57. S. Res. 247, 149th Gen. Assemb. (Ga. 2007); see also LOMBARDO, supra note 38 at 294 app. c (Laws and Sterilizations by State).

58. LOMBARDO, supra note 38 at 294 app. c (Laws and Sterilizations by State). Another Georgia eugenic law involved race. See 1927 Ga. Laws 272.

In 1927, the language of “racial integrity” was borrowed from states with laws that prohibited interracial marriage. See Comment, Intermarriage with Negroes. A Survey of State Statutes, 36 YALE L.J. 858, 858-60, 862-63 (1927) (discussing state laws prohibiting intermarriage between Caucasians and African-Americans, current in twenty-nine of the states in 1927); Lombardo, Miscegenation, Eugenics, and Racism, supra note 22, at 423.

Under the pretense that it was acting with scientific precision, the state tried to define the purity of a white bloodline, marking “negroes, mulattoes, mestizos,” and those with “African, West Indian, or Asiatic Indian blood in their veins” as unfit. 1927 Ga. Laws 272 (“An Act to define who are persons of color and who are white persons, to prohibit and prevent the intermarriage of such persons[.]”).

59. See ROBERT J. LIFTON, THE NAZI DOCTORS 23-27 (2000) (1986).


61. Bachrach, supra note 46, at 418.


did choose to pursue concentration camp doctors and others for performing sterilizations on camp prisoners.63 Those procedures were often done using experimental means, such as caustic chemicals or radiation, and were condemned as torture that occurred under the guise of medical research.64 Thus, a full four decades after the 1907 “Indiana Experiment,”

65 the international community condemned experimental sterilization as a war crime.


In 2002, in an attempt to highlight one of the more notorious episodes of eugenic history that has special significance for disability advocates, a marker was erected to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Buck case in Carrie Buck’s hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia.

67 In 2007, scholars gathered with public officials in Indianapolis, Indiana to put up a second marker as a permanent remembrance of the one hundred year old Indiana sterilization law.

68 After a public symposium that explored the history of eugenics,69 the marker was unveiled by Linda Sparkman, who had herself been a litigant in a Supreme Court case that challenged the judge who ordered her sterilization.

70 The Indiana marker now sits outside of the

63. See PROCTOR, supra note 60, at 117.

64. See TRIALS OF WAR CRIMINALS, supra note 62, at 37, 48-50.

65. See R. Newton Crane, Experiments in Eugenics by American State Legislatures, 10 J. SOC’Y COMP. LEGIS. 120, 122 (1909).

66. See generally TRIALS OF WAR CRIMINALS supra note 62, at 37.

67. Paul A. Lombardo, Taking Eugenics Seriously: Three Generations of ??? are Enough?, 30 FLA. ST. U. L. REV. 191, 199-201, & n.56 (2003) (hereinafter Lombardo, Taking Eugenics Seriously).

68. 1907 Ind. Acts 377; see also Indiana Historical Bureau, 1907 Indiana Eugenics Law, at (last visited Feb. 3, 2009).

69. See Indiana Eugenics: History and Legacy, 100th Anniversary Symposium (Apr. 12, 2007), at (last visited Feb. 3, 2009) (symposium schedule); Press Release, Indiana University School of Medicine, Symposium and Exhibit Recognize 100 Year Anniversary of Indiana Eugenics Legislation: Hoosier State Led World in Enactment of Involuntary Sterilization Laws (Feb. 28, 2007), at news_releases/viewRelease.php4?art=646 (last visited Feb. 3, 2009). 70. See generally Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349 (1978); Shari Rudavsky, Looking at the History of Eugenics in Indiana, INDIANAPOLIS STAR, Apr. 13, 2007, at Metro & State 1. SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW 66 SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY JOURNAL OF HEALTH LAW & POLICY [Vol. 2:57 state capitol, where a resolution denouncing eugenics was passed, based on the Virginia model.71

71. The text of the Indiana resolution read: A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION to mark the centennial of Indiana’s 1907 eugenical sterilization law and to express the regret of the Senate and House of Representatives of the 115th Indiana General Assembly for Indiana’s experience with eugenics.

Whereas, On April 27, 1907, Indiana enacted our nation’s first eugenical sterilization law, which mandated the sterilization of persons who were physically or developmentally disabled, mentally ill, or who had committed crimes;

Whereas, The goal of the now-discredited eugenics movement was to provide a simple solution to the complex issues of physical disorders, mental illness, developmental disabilities, and changing social conditions by eliminating what the movement’s supporters considered to be hereditary flaws through selective reproduction;

Whereas, In the 1921 case of Smith v. Williams, the Indiana Supreme Court declared the state’s 1907 law unconstitutional;

Whereas, In a landmark 1927 decision, the United States Supreme Court upheld Virginia’s involuntary sterilization statute in an opinion by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes;

Whereas, Following the U.S. Supreme Court precedent, Indiana enacted a new sterilization law in 1927 authorizing the compulsory sterilization of persons living in a state institution;

Whereas, Indiana involuntarily sterilized some 2,500 people, while more than 65,000 people were sterilized under similar laws in 30 other states during the same period;

Whereas, Eugenics legislation devalued the sanctity of human life, placed claims of scientific benefit over human dignity, and denied the inalienable rights recognized by our Founding Fathers;

Whereas, Eugenics legislation targeted the most vulnerable among us, including the poor and racial minorities, wrongly dehumanizing them under the authority of law and for the claimed purpose of public health and the good of the people;

Whereas, In the past five years, several other states, including Virginia, Oregon, North Carolina, and California, have publicly repudiated their involvement in the eugenics movement; and Whereas, 2007 marks the centennial of Indiana’s eugenical sterilization law, the first such law in the United States:

Therefore, Be it resolved by the Senate of the General Assembly of the State of Indiana, the House of Representatives concurring:

SECTION 1. That the Indiana General Assembly hereby expresses its regret over Indiana’s role in the eugenics movement in this country and the injustices done under eugenic laws.

SECTION 2. That the General Assembly urges the citizens of Indiana to become familiar with the history of the eugenics movement in the belief that a more educated and enlightened population will repudiate the many laws passed in the name of eugenics and reject any such laws in the future. S. Con. Res. 91, 115th Gen. Assemb., 1st Reg. Sess. (Ind. 2007) (enacted). SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW 2008] DISABILITY, EUGENICS, AND THE CULTURE WARS

67 About the same time as the Indiana events were taking place, Georgia State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver introduced a resolution condemning her state’s involvement with eugenics.

72 Similarly, North and South Carolina had already officially repudiated eugenics.

73 Virginia, Oregon, and California had done so as well.

74 A legislative statement from Georgia would put the last state to pass a sterilization law on the record renouncing eugenics.75

72. See Mary Margaret Oliver, MMO Third Email Newsletter – 2007 General Assembly Session, Feb. 12, 2007, at (last visited Feb. 3, 2009);

see also Jeremy Redmon, Apology Asked for Sterilizations State Required, ATLANTA JOURNALCONST., Feb. 2, 2007, at 1A [hereinafter Redmon, Apology Asked for Sterilizations]; Jeremy Redmon, Legislature Considers Apology for State’s Role in Eugenics Movement, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONST., Feb. 1, 2007, at entries/2007/02/01/legislature_con.html (last visited Feb. 3, 2009) [hereinafter Redmon, Legislature Considers Apology].

73. See Kevin Begos et al., Easley Apologizes to Sterilization Victims, WINSTON-SALEM J., Dec. 13, 2002, at A1; Tim Smith, Hodges Offers Apology to Sterilization Victims, GREENVILLE NEWS, Jan. 9, 2003, at 2B.

74. See Paul A. Lombardo, Facing Carrie Buck, HASTINGS CTR. REP., Mar.-Apr. 2003, at 14, 16, 17 & nn.19-20; Lombardo, Taking Eugenics Seriously, supra note 67, at 200 & n.56 (quoting the text of Virginia Governor Mark Warner’s apology).

75. The text of the original eugenics apology introduced by Representative Oliver read:

A RESOLUTION Expressing profound regret for Georgia´s participation in the eugenics movement in the United States and marking the centennial of eugenic sterilization in the United States; and for other purposes.

WHEREAS, in the early 20th century, a pseudo-scientific movement called eugenics gained popularity in the United States and advocated the improvement of the human race by using selective breeding to eliminate supposed hereditary flaws such as mental disability and physical deformity; and

WHEREAS, in 1907, Indiana became the first state to enact a eugenics based sterilization law, mandating the sterilization of “confirmed criminals, idiots, rapists, and imbeciles”; and

WHEREAS, eventually more than 30 states enacted similar compulsory sterilization laws resulting in the involuntary sterilization of more than 65,000 individuals in the United States; and WHEREAS, the Supreme Court sanctioned the practice of compulsory sterilization in an infamous 1927 decision by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in which the court upheld Virginia´s sterilization of a young woman in a mental health facility on the grounds that “three generations of imbeciles [were] enough”; and

WHEREAS, in 1937, Georgia created a State Board of Eugenics and authorized the involuntary sterilization of Georgia´s patients in state mental health facilities, as well as Georgia inmates in state prisons and reformatories; and

WHEREAS, even though Georgia was the last state to enact a sterilization law, it performed the fifth largest number of sterilizations in the nation, sterilizing approximately 3,300 of its citizens between 1937 and 1970, the year the law was repealed; and The Atlanta Journal Constitution joined in the public education on eugenics with a series of articles surveying the history of eugenics in Georgia.SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW 68 SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY JOURNAL OF HEALTH LAW & POLICY [Vol. 2:57 

76 Cynthia Tucker, who won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, supported the legislative measure in one of her columns.

77 But the resolution hit a snag when partisan considerations surfaced.

78 Sharon Cooper, the Republican chair of the Georgia House of Representatives committee to which the resolution was referred, announced that she would not hold hearings nor take a vote on the eugenics measure, WHEREAS, more compulsory sterilizations were performed in Georgia between 1937 and 1970 than in any other state in the nation except North Carolina; and

WHEREAS, in addition to compulsory sterilization, Georgia and many other states enacted eugenics related legislation that attempted to preserve “racial integrity” by banning interracial marriage; and

WHEREAS, Georgia prohibited interracial marriages for 40 years, from 1927, when it enacted its antimiscegenation law, to 1967, when the Supreme Court invalidated all such laws in its landmark Loving v. Virginia decision; and

WHEREAS, eugenics legislation targeted the most vulnerable populations in the United States, including the disabled, the incarcerated, the poor, the members of racial and ethnic minorities, and all others viewed as “genetically unfit” and provided a false scientific rationale for discriminatory and racist practices; and

WHEREAS, despite the harm done to many thousands of Americans in the name of eugenics, the eugenics movement is largely forgotten today; and

WHEREAS, in the past five years, several other states, including Virginia, Oregon, North Carolina, and California, have publicly repudiated their involvement in the eugenics movement; and WHEREAS, the year 2007 marks the centennial of eugenic sterilization in the United States and the 70th anniversary of the passage of Georgia´s sterilization law.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES that the members of this body express their profound regret for Georgia´s participation in the eugenics movement and the injustices done under eugenics laws, including the involuntary sterilization of Georgia citizens.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the members of this body hereby support the full education of Georgia citizens about the eugenics movement in order to ensure that a more enlightened population repudiates the intolerance and bigotry that formed the basis of American eugenics laws and rejects similar laws in the future.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Clerk of the House of Representatives is authorized and directed to transmit an appropriate copy of this resolution to the public and the press. H.R. Res. 122, 149th Gen. Assemb., Reg. Sess. (Ga. 2007).

76. See, e.g., Gayle White, The Horror of Forced Sterilization, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONST., Feb. 4, 2007, at Metro. 77. Cynthia Tucker, Editorial, Apology for Sterilizations Is Necessary, ATLANTA JOURNALCONST., Feb. 7, 2007, at 15A. 78. Redmon, Apology Asked for Sterilizations, supra note 72; Redmon, Legislature Considers Apology, supra note 72. SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW 2008] DISABILITY, EUGENICS, AND THE CULTURE WARS

69 and that the measure would likely die in committee.

79 In fact, most bills authored by Democrats like Oliver stood a poor chance of making it through the Republican dominated legislature.

80 But before public discussion of the eugenics resolution had settled, Republican Senator David Shafer decided to join the campaign to highlight Georgia’s eugenic history.

81 His resolution repeated much of the same historical information that Oliver’s bill had contained, with two interesting differences.

82 First, Shafer eliminated any mention of the then eighty year old Georgia law that outlawed interracial marriage on eugenic grounds.

83 More surprising yet was the background information that Shafer chose to emphasize in his measure. He highlighted the origins of eugenic theory as an “outgrowth of Darwinian evolutionary theory” crafted by Darwin’s relative, Francis Galton.

84 The eugenicists crafted methods to eliminate unwanted people in future generations, Shafer claimed, including “selective breeding and birth control”.

85 Building on the Darwin/Galton link, Shafer then emphasized what he called “the application of Darwinian principles” as a hallmark of eugenic advocacy, and faulted “so-called ‘progressive’ academicians, scientists, politicians, and newspaper editors” for lending their endorsement to eugenic legislation.

86 Eugenic legislation was often

79. See Redmon, Apology Asked for Sterilizations, supra note 72; Redmon, Legislature Considers Apology, supra note 72. 80. See, e.g., Legislature 2007: Legislative Briefs, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONST., Feb. 7, 2007, at 4B; 149th General Assembly of the State of Georgia (showing that the legislature was sixty-one percent Republican).

81. Jeremy Redmon, Legislature 2007: Resolution ‘Regrets’ Role in Sterilization, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONST., Feb. 20, 2007, at 5B.

82. S. Res. 247, 149th Gen. Assemb., Reg. Sess. (Ga. 2007).

83. Compare H.R. Res. 122, 149th Gen. Assemb., Reg. Sess. (Ga. 2007)

(“WHEREAS, in addition to compulsory sterilization, Georgia and many other states enacted eugenics related legislation that attempted to preserve ‘racial integrity’ by banning interracial marriage; and

WHEREAS, Georgia prohibited interracial marriages for 40 years, from 1927, when it enacted its anti-miscegenation law, to 1967, when the Supreme Court invalidated all such laws in its landmark Loving v. Virginia decision”); with S. Res. 247, 149th Gen. Assemb., Reg. Sess. (Ga. 2007) (Shafer’s Resolution, which only discusses Georgia’s sterilization law).

84. S. Res. 247, 149th Gen. Assem., Reg. Sess. (Ga. 2007)

(“WHEREAS, the so-called science of eugenics emerged in the late 19th century as an outgrowth of Darwinian evolutionary theory, first advanced by anthropologist and geneticist Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin…”).

85. Id.

(“WHEREAS, in the early 20th century, this pseudo-scientific movement gained popularity in the United States and advocated the improvement of the human race by the application of Darwinian principles to eliminate supposed hereditary flaws such as mental disability and physical deformity and to alleviate human suffering through selective breeding and birth control . . . ”). 86. Id.

(“WHEREAS, in the early 20th century, this pseudo-scientific movement gained popularity in the United States and advocated the improvement of the human race by the SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW 70 SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY JOURNAL OF HEALTH LAW & POLICY [Vol. 2:57 adopted, Shafer noted, despite “religious objections that such matters ‘ought to be left to God’”.

87 Critics emerged to dispute Shafer’s concentration on Darwin as the fount of eugenic motives.88 Blaming eugenics almost entirely on Darwin seemed historically simplistic, and ignored the many ways that the eugenics movement became popular by borrowing from existing lines of thought, including nativism, racism, the temperance movement, the anti-prostitution movement, or even religious sentiment.

89 But Shafer’s language won the support of his colleagues in the Georgia Senate and was adopted in a 2007 resolution.

90 application of Darwinian principles to eliminate supposed hereditary flaws such as mental disability and physical deformity and to alleviate human suffering through selective breeding and birth control; and WHEREAS, eugenics was endorsed by so-called ‘progressive’ academicians, scientists, politicians, and newspaper editors, often over religious objections that such matters ‘ought to be left to God’…”).

87. Id. (“WHEREAS, eugenics was endorsed by so-called ‘progressive’ academicians, scientists, politicians, and newspaper editors, often over religious objections that such matters ‘ought to be left to God’…”).

88. See, e.g., Lee Raudonis, Editorial, Slavery Apology: Slap at Charles Darwin Goes Way Out on a Limb, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONST., Mar. 13, 2007, at 11A.

89. It was common, for example, for eugenicists to quote the Bible as a justification for eugenic laws, saying that the declaration from the Book of Exodus that the sins of the father are visited upon the children was a perfect summary of how bad heredity created generations of faulty families. See Exodus 34:6-7 (“[6]Thus the Lord passed before him and cried out, “The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity, [7] continuing his kindness for a thousand generations, and forgiving wickedness and crime and sin; yet not declaring the guilty guiltless, but punishing children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation for their fathers’ wickedness!”).

According to Dennis L. Durst, Edith Smith Davis, Superintendent of The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) Scientific Temperance Department, declared: “[t]hat there is nothing new under the sun receives confirmation in the fact that the law of Moses is the law of Eugenics—that the sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.

Likewise the children shall have health and happiness whose parents have lived according to the law of life which is the law of God.” Dennis L. Durst, Evangelical Engagements with Eugenics, 1900- 1940, ETHICS & MEDICINE, Summer 2002, at 52 n.6 (quoting EDITH SMITH DAVIS, A COMPENDIUM OF TEMPERANCE TRUTH 116 (1916)).

90. Senator Shafer’s Eugenics Resolution, as passed by the Georgia Senate on Mar. 27, 2007:

A RESOLUTION Expressing profound regret for Georgia´s participation in the eugenics movement in the United States and marking the centennial of the first eugenic sterilization law in the United States; and for other purposes.

WHEREAS, the so-called science of eugenics emerged in the late 19th century as an outgrowth of Darwinian evolutionary theory, first advanced by anthropologist and geneticist Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin;


WHEREAS, in the early 20th century, this pseudo-scientific movement gained popularity in the United States and advocated the improvement of the human race by the application of Darwinian principles to eliminate supposed hereditary flaws such as mental disability and physical deformity and to alleviate human suffering through selective breeding and birth control; and

WHEREAS, eugenics was endorsed by so-called “progressive” academicians, scientists, politicians, and newspaper editors, often over religious objections that such matters “ought to be left to God”; and

WHEREAS, in 1907, Indiana became the first state to enact a eugenics based sterilization law, mandating the sterilization of “confirmed criminals, idiots, rapists, and imbeciles”; and

WHEREAS, eventually more than 30 states enacted similar compulsory sterilization laws, resulting in the forced sterilization of more than 65,000 individuals in the United States; and

WHEREAS, the Supreme Court sanctioned the practice of compulsory sterilization in the infamous 1927 decision by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in which the court upheld Virginia´s sterilization of a young woman in a mental health facility on the grounds that “three generations of imbeciles [were] enough”; and WHEREAS, with the editorial support of The Atlanta Constitution, the Georgia General Assembly passed a eugenics law in 1935, but that law was vetoed by Governor Eugene Talmadge; and

WHEREAS, in 1937, after Governor Talmadge had left office, Georgia enacted a new law creating the State Board of Eugenics and authorizing the compulsory sterilization of Georgia´s patients in state mental health facilities as well as Georgia inmates in state prisons and reformatories; and

WHEREAS, Georgia´s eugenics law remained on the books until 1970; and

WHEREAS, more compulsory sterilizations were performed in Georgia between 1937 and 1970 than in any other state in the nation except North Carolina; and

WHEREAS, eugenics legislation devalued the sanctity of human life, placed claimed scientific benefit over basic human dignity, and denied the God given rights recognized by our Founding Fathers; and

WHEREAS, eugenics legislation targeted the most vulnerable among us, including the poor and racial minorities, wrongly dehumanizing them under the color of law and for the claimed purposes of public health and good; and

WHEREAS, in the past five years, several other states, including Virginia, Oregon, North Carolina, and California, have publicly repudiated their involvement in the eugenics movement; and

WHEREAS, the year 2007 marks the centennial of the first eugenic sterilization in the United States and the 70th anniversary of the passage of Georgia´s sterilization law.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE SENATE that the members of this body express their profound regret for Georgia´s participation in the eugenics movement and the injustices done under eugenics laws, including the forced sterilization of Georgia citizens.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the members of this body hereby support the full education of Georgia citizens about the eugenics movement in order to foster a respect for the fundamental dignity of human life and the God given rights recognized by our Founding Fathers.

Senator Shafer’s focus on Darwin was not an isolated event. Close attention to internet commentary during this time revealed an interesting trend. One feature of that trend is represented by the writing of John G. West, former professor of political science and now Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute in Seattle.

91 West’s book, Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, is an attempt to link proponents of the Darwinian theory of evolution with eugenics and many other modern ills, such as abortion.

92 West’s argument describes Darwin as the source of modernist “materialism,” which excludes the spiritual from the public sphere and pits evolution against “creation science” and theories of intelligent design.

93 West also credits early 20th Century Progressive movement with much that was wrong with eugenics.

94 West attacks the use of Darwinism as the wellspring of eugenics, and he regularly invokes the case of Buck v. Bell as a dramatic example of how the eugenics movement employed evolutionary theory to achieve horrific ends.

95 In early 2008, West discussed the Buck case during a lecture at the Washington, D.C. Family Research Council on Darwinian Fundamentalism.

96 He described the Buck case as an “example of Darwin’s theories applied destructively,” and repeated the sordid details of the case, including Carrie Buck’s early life in foster care, her mother’s institutionalization, her rape, and her subsequent diagnosis as “feeble-minded.”

97 One sympathetic reviewer summarized West’s presentation, noting how he offered “numerous illustrations of how

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Secretary of the Senate is authorized and directed to transmit an appropriate copy of this resolution to the public and the media. S. Res. 247, 149th Gen. Assemb., Reg. Sess. (Ga. 2007);

for status history and information on voting, see SR 247 – Eugenics; Express Profound Regret for Georgia’s Participation, at (last visited Feb. 3, 2009). 91. See generally Darwin Day in America – About the Author, Biography of John West, at (last visited Feb. 3, 2009);

Discovery Institute, About Discovery, at (last visited Feb. 3, 2009); Center for Science and Culture, Top Questions, at (last visited Feb. 3, 2009).

92. See JOHN G. WEST, DARWIN DAY IN AMERICA: HOW OUR POLITICS AND CULTURE HAVE BEEN DEHUMANIZED IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE 128-33, 156-60 (2007). 93. Id. at xiv-xvii, 225-30, 234-38. 94. Id. at 123-26. 95. Id. at 137-39;

Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927).

96. 7John G. West, Darwin Day in America? Witherspoon Lecture at the Family Research Council (Feb. 12, 2008) [Hereinafter Darwin Day], webcast at 02/video_of_john_g_wests_lecture_1.html (last visited Jan. 16 2009).

97. West, Darwin Day, supra note 96; see also WEST, supra note 92, at 137-39 (describing the plight of Carrie Buck). SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW 2008] DISABILITY, EUGENICS, AND THE CULTURE WARS 73

Darwinian advocates, such as former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., have taken Darwin’s theories and applied them over the years to situations they did not necessarily relate to.”

98 The recent Ben Stein documentary film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a polemic on the purported exclusion of the so-called “intelligent design” perspective and other religious viewpoints from public debate, provided another vehicle for tying Darwin to the origins of eugenics.

99 Conservative activist and one-time Presidential candidate Gary Bauer100 noted that [t]he most compelling part of ‘Expelled’ is its investigation into the historical and intellectual link between Darwinism and the eugenics movement. Eugenics attempts to ‘assist’ evolution in order to move the human race forward into a new and improved world.

Central to social Darwinism are the ideas of natural selection and survival of the fittest, which eugenicists believe can be helped along by controlling birth patterns. Stein offers a striking reminder of where such utilitarian thinking can lead when he visits a death camp in Hadamar, Germany, where thousands of disabled people and other ‘undesirables’ or ‘useless eaters’ were exterminated during the Nazi regime.

101 Comments like Bauer’s typify a pattern of argument that relies on several simple declarations to link Darwin with everything evil.

First, it is said, Charles Darwin believed in a godless creation, and his theory of evolution is the foundation of an atheistic ideology.

102 Second, his likeminded cousin, Francis Galton, launched the eugenics movement from a Darwinian perspective. Third, others like Margaret Sanger supported eugenics and tried to force birth control onto the poor and disabled as a

98. Katherine Kipp, Author Critiques Darwin’s ‘Terrible Ideas’, FLORIDA BAPTIST WITNESS, Feb. 14, 2008, at (last visited Feb. 3, 2009).

99. EXPELLED: NO INTELLIGENCE ALLOWED (Premise Media Corporation 2008).

100. Gary L. Bauer is the president of American Values. The American Values website describes the organization as ”a non-profit organization committed to uniting the American people around the vision of our Founding Fathers. . . . American Values serves to remind the public of the conservative principles that are so fundamental to the survival of our nation and to bring support and ideas to policy makers and empower our elected officials to have the support they need to do what is right, noble and good. . . .

American Values is deeply committed to defending life, traditional marriage and equipping our children with the values necessary to stand against liberal education and cultural forces.” American Values, About American Values, at (last visited Feb. 3, 2009). 101. Gary Bauer, Intelligence ‘Expelled’ from Evolution Debate, HUMAN EVENTS.COM, Feb. 18, 2008, at (last visited Feb. 3, 2009).

For a dramatically contrasting review of Expelled by movie critic Roger Ebert, see Win Ben Stein’s Mind, (Dec. 3, 2008, 12:25 CST). 102. See, e.g., WEST, supra note 92, at 37-41. SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW 74 SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY JOURNAL OF HEALTH LAW & POLICY [Vol. 2:57 way of carrying out eugenic aims. Finally, Hitler also believed in eugenics. Thus, the argument in a nutshell is that the ideas of Darwinian evolution led, via eugenics, to the Holocaust.

Moreover, a new eugenics movement has yielded a second Holocaust in the form of pro-abortion politics that are an outgrowth of Sanger’s eugenic propensities and other Progressive era trends that emphasize science over religion.

This attempt at a thesis is clearly based on a selective memory of the past and a distorted account of eugenic history. This brief essay does not permit a more extensive refutation of the line of argument I have described, but a few examples of what is absent from this account will suggest how deficient it is.

For example, the anti-Darwinians could have pointed out that the first six presidents of the twentieth century—Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover—all had taken positions supporting some kind of eugenic policy.

103 Coolidge signed a federal statute that remained in place for over forty years, limiting immigration of Jews and southern Europeans on eugenic grounds.

104 American laws limiting immigration on “racial” grounds were praised by Hitler in his book, Mein Kampf.

105 And Herbert Hoover was one of the most prominent supporters of the 1921 Second International Congress of Eugenics.

106 But whatever other shortcomings they may have had, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover are hardly responsible for the Holocaust.

107 103. See Paul A. Lombardo, Medicine, Eugenics, and the Supreme Court: From Coercive Sterilization to Reproductive Freedom, 13 J. CONTEMP. HEALTH L. & POL’Y 1, 1 & n.1 (1996);

see, e.g., THOMAS F. GOSSETT, RACE: THE HISTORY OF AN IDEA IN AMERICA 404-05 (1965) (discussing Harding’s 1920 campaign speech enunciating racial differences in the context of immigration restriction laws, and Coolidge’s popular 1921 article, when he was VicePresident, where he argued “that Nordics deteriorate when mixed with other races.”);

JAMES W. TRENT, JR., INVENTING THE FEEBLE MIND: A HISTORY OF MENTAL RETARDATION IN THE UNITED STATES 173 (1994) (discussing then New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson’s enthusiastic support of the legislature’s authorization of mandatory eugenic sterilization for “certain categories of adult feeble minds.”);

Lombardo, Taking Eugenics Seriously, supra note 67, at 208-09, n.114 (discussing an article written by Roosevelt embracing eugenics); CHASE, supra note 20, at 19-20 (discussing then Secretary of Commerce Hoover’s involvement with the Second International Congress of Eugenics, held in New York in 1921).

104. Immigration Act of 1924, ch. 190, 43 Stat. 153 (1924);

see CHASE, supra note 20, at 300-01.

105. Hitler railed against automatic citizenship for “every Jewish or Polish, African or Asiatic child” born in Germany as “thoughtless” and “hare-brained”. ADOLF HITLER, MEIN KAMPF 438-39 (Ralph Manheim trans., 1943) (1925).

America’s policy of “excluding certain races from naturalization” was a law that Hitler could endorse. Id. at 440.

106. CHASE, supra note 20, at 19-20 (discussing then Secretary of Commerce Hoover’s involvement with the Second International Congress of Eugenics, held in New York in 1921).

107. Charles Darwin’s son Leonard Darwin was on the sponsoring committee of the Second International Congress of Eugenics in New York City in 1921. See CHASE, supra note 

75 Theodore Roosevelt’s eugenic sentiments are well documented and he agreed with the leaders of the movement that “society has no business to permit degenerates to reproduce their kind.”

108 But there is no call among the anti-Darwinians for chiseling his face from Mount Rushmore.

Psychologists like Louis Terman, Robert Yerkes, and Leta Hollingworth argued for using the tools of psychometrics such as IQ tests to sort school students, and all three were well know as advocates of eugenics.

109 But the anti-Darwinians are not heard to argue that the mental testing movement was the gateway to the Holocaust.

110 What the anti-Darwinians didn’t say was that Herbert Spencer, not Darwin, coined the terms “survival of the fittest” and “Social Darwinism.”1

11 Nor did they note that the proponents of sterilization in the Buck case did not rely once on Darwin in their arguments in court, but repeatedly invoked the theories of heredity outlined first by Gregor Mendel, a Roman Catholic monk.

112. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., author of the Buck opinion, based his eugenic sentiments not on Darwin, but on the writings of Thomas 20, at 277.

The committee also included then secretary of commerce and later President Herbert Hoover, who presided over the stock market crash on “Black Monday” that ushered in the Depression. See id.

West, Bauer, and their colleagues might have said that these associations prove that Darwin was responsible for the Great Depression, but that would have been similarly inaccurate.

108. Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Charles Davenport (Jan. 3, 1913), at (last visited Feb. 3, 2009).


Robert M. Yerkes, A Point Scale for Measuring Mental Ability, 1 PROC. NAT’L ACAD. SCI. 114 (1915); Robert M. Yerkes, The Benet Versus the Point Scale Method of Measuring Intelligence, 1 J. APP. PSYCHOL. 111 (1917);

LEON J. KAMIN, THE SCIENCE AND POLITICS OF IQ 10 (1974) (noting that Lewis Terman and Robert Yerkes were both pioneers of the Mental Testing Movement and supporters of the Eugenics Movement);


Selden, Transforming Better Babies into Fitter Families, supra note 17, at 204-05 (noting how “Hollingworth framed the causes of varying levels of student performance in eugenic terms”).

110. The federal No Child Left Behind legislation, for example, is also based on extensive reliance on testing, yet that legislation is not condemned by the anti-Darwinians. See No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-110 § 1116, 115 Stat. 1425, 1478 (2002) (detailing the academic assessment procedures required under the Act).

111. HERBERT SPENCER, THE PRINCIPLES OF BIOLOGY 530-31 (1910) (1864); see WEST, supra note 92, at 106-07.

112. Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927);

see generally MENDEL, supra note 11. [Vol. 2:57

Malthus,113 who complained a century before Darwin that imprudent charity was a drag on civilization.

114 An accurate account of U.S. eugenics could also have quoted Frederick Winslow Taylor, whose ideas of industrial efficiency were extremely important to the Progressive era and were often recited as justification for eugenic measures.

115.Blaming Margaret Sanger for the eugenics movement is similarly misleading. Certainly Sanger supported some eugenic aims, and was not above voicing her contempt for the poor, disabled and minorities

116 But she never held a leadership post within the eugenics movement, because leaders like Charles Davenport

117 were fearful of associating with someone so radical, and for years had argued strenuously against her primary objective: widespread availability of birth control.

118 Moreover, identifying eugenics with abortion ignores the near complete absence of support for abortion among leaders in the eugenics movement.

Charles Davenport himself, in one of first and most widely read texts of the eugenics movement, Heredity in Relation to Eugenics, explained unequivocally that while his eugenic program encompassed “control by the state of the propagation of the mentally incompetent”, it also ruled out the “destruction of the unfit either before or after birth.”

119 Harry Laughlin, Davenport’s first lieutenant in the eugenics cause, and author of the Model Sterilization Act that provided the foundation for the law upheld in Buck v. Bell, voiced similar sentiments. “Preventing the procreation of defectives rather than destroying them before birth, or in infancy, or in the later periods

113. Holmes told his friend Harold Laski: “I am a devout Malthusian as you know.” Letter from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. to Harold J. Laski (Sept. 16, 1924), in HOLMES-LASKI LETTERS: THE CORRESPONDENCE OF MR. JUSTICE HOLMES AND HAROLD J. LASKI, 1916-1935, 658, 658 (Mark DeWolfe Howe ed., 1953).

114. See generally T. R. MALTHUS, AN ESSAY ON THE PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION (1992) (1798); CHASE, supra note 20, at 74-77.


see also Amy L. Fairchild, Policies of Inclusion: Immigrants, Disease, Dependency, and American Immigration Policy at the Dawn and Dusk of the 20th Century, 94 AM. J. PUB. HEALTH 528, 529-30 (2004).

116. For example, Sanger states that “the most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the overfertility of the mentally and physically defective.”

Margaret Sanger, The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda, BIRTH CONTROL REV., Oct. 1921, at 5, reprinted in THE SELECTED PAPERS OF MARGARET SANGER, VOLUME 1: THE WOMAN REBEL, 1900-1928, at 321 (Esther Katz ed., 2003).

117. See generally CHASE, supra note 20, at 114-18. 118. Id. at 55 (noting that Davenport declined Sanger’s formal invitation to participate as vice-president in 1925’s Birth Control Conference, not wishing to appear as a supporter of the Birth Control League or the conference, lest it confuse the distinction between eugenics and birth control).

119. Charles Benedict Davenport, Heredity in Relation to Eugenics 4 (1915) (1911).

77 of life, must be the aim of modern eugenics” said Laughlin.

120 Harvey Jordan, an acolyte of Davenport’s, argued strenuously for eugenic sterilization, with no less vehemence and contempt for the poor and disabled than Sanger.

121 Yet Jordan also argued just as strongly against eugenic euthanasia,

122 and Jordan never spoke out in favor of abortion.

123 Claiming that all who put on the mantle of eugenics are responsible for social movements that crystallized long after they were dead requires a cramped idea of eugenics and asks us to believe that anyone who was identified as a “eugenist” was equivalent to everyone else who welcomed that label. Such an assertion is clearly false. But focusing on Darwin, Galton, and Margaret Sanger is more useful for the anti-Darwinians. That focus allows them to link evolution, abortion, and eugenics and taunt liberals who adopt the reform posture of old Progressives.

124 We need to remember that although it is true that Margaret Sanger spoke in favor of eugenics, echoing eugenic themes was also a ploy of evangelist preacher Billy Sunday, who at one point was described at a particularly successful revival, having spent so much time on the influences of heredity that talk of science “almost overshadowed the denunciations of sin.”

125 Neither Sanger nor Sunday can be blamed for the historical footprint left by Hitler.

120. Henry H. Laughlin, Report of the Committee to Study and to Report on the Best Practical Means of Cutting off the Defective Germ-Plasm in the American Population, EUGENICS REC. OFF. BULL. NO. 10A, at 55 (1914);

HENRY HAMILTON LAUGHLIN, EUGENICAL STERILIZATION IN THE UNITED STATES 446-51 (1922) (detailing the Model Eugenical Sterilization Law).

121. Jordan believed that those “grossly and obviously unfit” should not be able to reproduce. See, e.g., Plan Nation-Wide Eugenics Society, N.Y. TIMES, Nov. 16, 1913, at 15 (quoting Harvey E. Jordan during the American Association for the Study and Prevention of Infant Mortality (AASPIM) 1913 organizational meeting in Washington, D.C.).

Jordan’s extensive eugenical writings included: Harvey Ernest Jordan, Eugenics: Its Data, Scope and Promise, as Seen by the Anatomist, in EUGENICS: TWELVE UNIVERSITY LECTURES 107 (1914); H.E. Jordan, The Eugenical Aspect of Venereal Disease, 3 TRANSACTIONS AM. ASS’N FOR STUDY & PREVENTION INFANT MORTALITY 156 (1912-1913); H.E. Jordan, The Place of Eugenics in the Medical Curriculum, in PROBLEMS IN EUGENICS: PAPERS COMMUNICATED TO THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL EUGENICS CONGRESS 396 (1912); H.E. Jordan, Heredity as a Factor in the Improvement of Social Conditions, 2 AM. BREEDERS’ MAG. 246 (1911).

122. See Plan Nation-Wide Eugenics Society, supra note 121 (quoting Harvey E. Jordan as stating that “[e]very child born into the world . . . must be saved, if possible” during the AASPIM 1913 organizational meeting in Washington, D.C.).

123. H.E. Jordan, Eugenics: The Rearing of the Human Thoroughbred, 12 CLEV. MED. J. 875 (1912).

124. See, e.g., WEST, supra note 92, at 120-22. 125. 35,000 Hear Sunday Talk to Men Only, N.Y. TIMES, Apr. 30, 1917, at 20; see Rev. Wm. A. Sunday, Sermon: Chickens Come Home to Roost (Apr. 29, 1917). SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW 78 SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY JOURNAL OF HEALTH LAW & POLICY [Vol. 2:57


We have had occasion in recent years to rediscover the history of eugenics, and it is an ugly history. The history of eugenics reminds us how fear and greed and hate can be exploited to enable bigotry to flourish against the poor, the disabled, and the merely different—and in some of the worst cases bigotry can be delivered at the point of a surgeon’s scalpel or in a death camp gas chamber. Studying that history has also made it possible to revisit some of the mistakes of the past and make amends—to repudiate unjust laws once used against disabled people, and to apologize to some of the victims of those laws.

Thus it is appropriate to argue for increased sensitivity to the history of disability and to point out troubling trends today suggesting that some of that history is not yet past. We may, at such times, have occasion to invoke the dark shadow of eugenics or even Hitler himself. But particularly when we are acting in service of what we would hope are our own most noble motives, we should be careful that we are not distorting history merely to make debating points, or redefining eugenics as a bludgeon to be used in crushing the political opposition. There is a danger when we take that rediscovered history and cynically manipulate the facts it provides us with in order to run up the rhetorical score.

It is possible to have reasoned arguments and heated debates about topics as controversial as race, abortion, crime, and religion—those arguments are not likely to go away any time soon. But in the ocean of ideas, eugenics was a bottom feeder, taking whatever it needed to make the case against social welfare programs, expensive institutions, and the people who lived in them. Many ideas were swept into the mix, none of them alone sufficient to account for the laws passed to advance the eugenic cause, or to explain the crimes committed in the name of eugenics.

There is no inevitable link between Darwin, Sanger, or even Galton and the Holocaust, any more than there is a simple causal relationship between support for immigration restriction, sterilization, or I.Q. testing and the worst crimes of the Nazis. The moment we begin intentionally distorting historical fact to get an edge in the ongoing culture wars, we risk repeating the tactics of some master manipulators of the past.

When someone wants too glibly to shout the name of Hitler as the epithet of choice with which to tar all opponents, we should remember that Hitler’s own propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels,126 was the author of many such big lies, and the man who did the most in the twentieth century to rewrite history to fit his own agenda was Joseph Stalin.

Treating eugenics merely as one of history’s dirty words, without accurately exploring the context in which it came to be used, or the variety of ideas that played a part in its career, can lead to a debasement of 126. See, e.g., PROCTOR, supra note 60, at 79. SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW 2008] DISABILITY, EUGENICS, AND THE CULTURE WARS 79 history itself.

Such a strategy yields no long term benefit to people with disabilities or to those who would advocate for them.  

IV. The Rise of the Institutions 1800 - 1950 D. Protect Society from the Deviant
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During this period, fences that had served to protect the residents of the institutions from the dangers of society now served to isolate them in order to protect society from the “menace of feeblemindedness.”

An increasing amount of misinformation about persons with disabilities that they were dangerous, immoral, capable of ruining the gene pool promoted this “menace” theme.

Institution superintendents, who had previously argued for the humane care and protection of persons with disabilities, now said that these people were a danger to their communities. Feeblemindedness had to be prevented; individuals had to be controlled.



“Moral imbecility,” also referred to as juvenile insanity, moral insanity, physical epilepsy, and moral paranoia, was a broad concept that included everything from minor behavior problems to serious aggressiveness. Persons placed in this category were also referred to as “defective delinquents.” These labels implied an aptitude for misconduct, and the people who were given these labels were perceived as potential causes of the social problems of this time.

In 1910, Dr. Henry Goddard using an adaptation on the Binet IQ test, developed a category of mental retardation he called “moron.” This term replaced the terms “moral imbecile” and “backward,” and added the notion of heredity.

Eugenics Past and Present

Remembering Buck v. Bell

“Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes


Michael J. Berson and Bárbara Cruz

At the end of the nineteenth century, as Charles Darwin’s theories of evolution were making their way to all levels of society, scientists and the general public began to consider how selective breeding could improve a species’s chance of survival. The theories were applied to the human species as well. A number of selective breeding enthusiasts asked: to eliminate undesirable characteristics in humans, should some people be considered so “defective” or “inferior” that they should not be allowed to reproduce?

Out of this climate the eugenics movement grew. First coined by Sir Francis Galton, the term is derived from the Greek word meaning well-born or good in birth. Galton, a cousin of Darwin, incorporated the Darwinian idea of survival of the fittest into his notion of eugenics. The goal of eugenics was the improvement of the human species through the careful selection of parents. Galton identified two primary processes to achieve this end.

Positive eugenics encouraged individuals who were above average both mentally and physically to produce more offspring. Negative eugenics proposed that individuals who were below average should have fewer or no children. This second proposal could be achieved through institutional segregation, marriage restrictions, or sterilization.

Who were the early eugenicists? Some scholars believe that they were well intentioned and progressive, concerned with bettering humanity.1 After all, this was the Progressive Era, a time of hope and reform. Gerald Grob points out that eugenics advocates were persuaded that they were acting on behalf of a noble cause that would benefit humanity. They believed that medical and scientific knowledge, combined with a new technology, had reached a point in time in which the eradication of inherited defects was possible.2

Despite these idealistic beginnings, the eugenics movement had devastating—and in some cases lasting—worldwide effects. The most obvious and extreme example is the use of eugenics in Nazi Germany. Other, perhaps less known, practices include those in Great Britain, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, Austria, Brazil, Japan, Canada, and China.

The movement had substantial support in the United States as well, from citizen and charity groups, politicians, physicians, scientists, and mental health professionals. Proposed policies ranged from segregation laws to marriage prohibitions to immigration restrictions to sterilization, culminating in the Supreme Court case of Buck v. Bell.

The upcoming seventy-fifth anniversary of this momentous legal case presents an occasion to introduce students to the history of eugenics, its practice in the United States and throughout the world, and its lasting legacy. Although the topic is tempting to ignore, instructors should welcome the opportunity to familiarize students with a movement that reminds us that our quest for improvement can never be divorced from ethical questions underlying those ideals.

Eugenics in the United States

The U.S. eugenics movement was most active between the 1870s and World War I. In addition to Darwin’s and Galton’s influences, the movement benefited from the 1877 publication of Richard Dugdale’s study examining the criminality, insanity, and poverty of a family nicknamed “the Jukes.” While interviewing prisoners during an inspection of a jail, Dugdale realized that six prisoners were related. He eventually tracked down 709 relatives who were related, either by marriage or by blood, through five generations.

Although Dugdale’s study stressed that the Jukes’s misfortune could be blamed as much on environmental factors as on heredity, it facilitated inaccurate beliefs that behaviors are genetically inherited. Many people concluded that crime, poverty, and disease were both innate and closely associated with sexual promiscuity, mental illness, and idiocy.3 At the time, scholars overlooked the fact that Dugdale’s findings included only one case of mental retardation out of 709 subjects.

During the years following the study, eugenicists offered a variety of solutions for what they saw as the problems of inherited criminality, harlotry, mental retardation, and feeblemindedness. One solution was the institutional internment and segregation of people with cognitive or emotional impairments. Another was the prohibition of marriage between people with developmental delays or social maladjustments.

In 1895, Connecticut became the first state to ban marriage between “defective” persons. Eventually, forty-one other states ratified comparable legislation. But the marriage laws proved difficult to enforce, and eugenicists turned to other, more drastic measures.4

The medical profession introduced new possibilities for eradicating “the problem.” Eugenicists had already touted castration as a means of protecting institutionalized patients from the evils of sexual promiscuity and ensuring that they had no offspring.5

In 1897, the first reported vasectomy in the United States offered a seemingly less extreme method of sterilization. Five years after its first use to treat prostatitis, a surgeon publicized the procedure as a type of eugenic sterilization. His patients felt and behaved better as a result of the surgery, he reported—an assertion that proponents used for the next forty years.6

Armed with seemingly scientific and medical explanations, eugenicists wanted to make sterilization legal. By 1910, genetic statutes had been enacted in Washington, California, and Connecticut, and by the end of the 1920s, twenty-four states had passed involuntary sterilization laws.7

A major force behind this increase in eugenics legislation was Harry Laughlin, superintendent of the Eugenics Record Office (ERO). In 1922, Laughlin authored a model sterilization law that became the prototype for similar laws enacted in the United States. By January 1935, approximately 20,000 involuntary eugenic sterilizations had been performed in the United States, half of which were conducted in California.8

What was the public’s response?

For his service to eugenics and his efforts to cleanse humanity of defective genes, Laughlin received an honorary doctoral degree from Heidelberg University in Nazi Germany in 1936. Other supporters of eugenics included John D. Rockefeller, Winston Churchill, Edward Thorndike, Alexander Graham Bell, G. Stanley Hall, George Bernard Shaw, John H. Kellogg, H. G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, John Maynard Keynes, Margaret Sanger, and Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt once admonished, “Some day we will realize that the prime duty, the inescapable duty, of the good citizen of the right type is to leave his or her blood behind him in the world.”9

Another major motivation for eugenics was the heavy immigration—and its attendant xenophia—that the United States experienced around the turn of the century. Many psychiatrists warned that if better medical inspections of immigrants were not performed, the consequences would be deportation or sterilization. Eugenicists’ testimony before Congress helped pass the exclusionary 1924 Immigration Act. The economic depression of the 1920s and 1930s, with its high unemployment and poverty rates, further contributed to the public’s tolerance for eugenic sterilization.

The eugenicists were anxious to see how the statutes would hold up legally and constitutionally at the federal level. In effect, supporters welcomed Buck v. Bell as a test case to legitimize the position once and for all. When the superintendent of Virginia’s State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded Persons challenged the Virginia sterilization statute, the practice was finally brought before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case, Buck v. Bell, would have far-reaching implications for public opinion and social policy.

Buck v. Bell

In April 1927, the Supreme Court, under Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, heard testimony on Buck v. Bell. The appeal involved Carrie Buck, a young woman who, at seventeen, was deemed a “moral imbecile” and was committed to the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded Persons. The state argued that Buck was the daughter of a “feebleminded” mother in the same institution and the mother of a seven-month-old child of subnormal intelligence. Although Harry Laughlin never examined the Buck family for the original court case, he summarized the state’s position: “These people belong to the shiftless, ignorant, and worthless class of anti-social whites of the South.”10

Smith and Nelson’s 1989 book The Sterilization of Carrie Buck provides a fascinating and tragic account of Carrie Buck’s story. At age three, Carrie was taken away from her biological mother, Emma Buck, who was interned in the colony in 1920. Carrie progressed normally in school and was recommended for promotion by her last teacher.

But her adoptive family, the Dobbs, treated Carrie differently than their own children, burdening her with extra chores and requiring her to do housework for other families. During one of the family’s out-of-town trips, Carrie was raped by one of the Dobbs’s nephews.

When Carrie told her adoptive parents, the Dobbs blamed her. Once they discovered that Carrie was pregnant, they wanted to rid themselves of her to protect their family’s reputation. In 1923, the family asked a local court to certify her “feebleminded” and to have her admitted to the same institution as her mother. Despite unconvincing and conflicting testimony from the Dobbs, the judge ruled that Carrie was a suitable candidate for the colony. In 1924, after the birth of her own child, seventeen-year-old Carrie was admitted. Carrie’s baby was taken in by the Dobbs family.

The colony’s superintendent, Albert Priddy—a medical doctor who performed dozens of legally questionable eugenic sterilizations—insisted that Carrie needed sterilization or she would have to be confined “both for her protection and the protection of society . . . until her childbearing age [was] past.”11 Priddy’s top priority was to sterilize “feebleminded” women who could work outside the colony.12

As in other states, Virginia had enacted a law that allowed the sterilization of individuals who were thought to carry defective genes. The law was approved on March 20, 1924, and was cited later in Buck v. Bell:

The health of the patient and the welfare of society may be promoted in certain cases by sterilization of mental defectives under careful safeguards, act; that sterilization may be effected in males by vasectomy and females by salpingectomy, without serious pain or substantial danger to life; the commonwealth is supporting in various institutions many defective persons who if now discharged would become a menace but if incapable of procreating might be discharged with safety and self-supporting with benefit to themselves and society; and the experience has shown that heredity plays an important part in the transmission of insanity, imbecility.13

Under this law, the colony proposed that it was in the best interest of the patient and society that Carrie be sexually sterilized because she had a hereditary form of feeblemindedness.

Carrie’s attorney argued that in no case could involuntary sterilization be justified. In addition, the attorney said that the Virginia statute violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and that sterilization was cruel and unusual punishment. Unfortunately for Carrie, her defense attorney, Irving Whitehead, was a eugenics supporter and board member of the colony.14 Legal scholars are certain that Whitehead conspired with his opponents and that his “suspiciously weak defense” failed to provide a suitable challenge to the statute.15

Of the nine-member court, only one judge dissented. On May 2, 1927, the eighty-six-year-old Justice Holmes delivered the majority opinion of the court, upholding the public welfare over the rights of individuals:

It is better for all the world, 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. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover the Fallopian tubes [Jacobsen v. Massachusetts 197 U.S. 11]. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.16

Thus, the court found that the statute did not violate the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Holmes also noted that sterilization could not be considered cruel and unusual punishment because it was not a punishment; it was a means to help Carrie Buck return to the community. Consequently, Carrie Buck was sterilized by Dr. Bell for the “good of herself” and society in October 1927.17 Carrie’s sister, also institutionalized, was later brought into the hospital for appendicitis and was sterilized.

From Virginia to Germany

Naturally, eugenicists rejoiced at the outcome of Buck v. Bell. The judgment prompted other states to pass and enact sterilization laws of their own, initiating a tenfold increase in the number of annual involuntary sterilizations.18

More than 27,000 sterilizations were performed within ten years of the verdict.19 In fact, some scholars believe that up to 100,000 Americans may have been forcibly sterilized.20Curiously, the Buck v. Bell decision did not seem to attract much attention from the general public and received only cursory treatment in the press.21

But the case was followed closely overseas by a country eager to institute a national policy of eugenics: Nazi Germany. Adopted in 1933, the Eugenic Sterilization Law sanctioned the involuntary sterilization of German citizens who possessed hereditary afflictions (such as blindness), epilepsy, mental illnesses (such as schizophrenia), and physical handicaps.

The edict was based on and even borrowed language from Laughlin’s prototype sterilization law. Within one year, more than 56,000 Germans had been deemed “defective” and were sterilized;22 throughout the 1930s, the Reich sterilized some 450,000 people.23Although the legislation began with involuntary sterilization and segregation, it eventually included euthanasia. The policy soon targeted Jews and other “undesirables,” escalating into genocide and the Holocaust.

As the atrocities of the Nazi concentration camps were publicized and entered into the public consciousness, eugenics in the United States began to fall into disfavor. Critics argued that such social ills as poverty, prostitution, and homelessness were not genetically determined but were the result of dire economic and social conditions. Therefore, eugenic sterilization was not only unjust, it was also ineffective.

Modern-Day Movements

Although the simple view of human inheritance has been displaced by a more comprehensive understanding of genetics, people continue to link specific genes to particular human traits and behaviors. Recent studies have attempted to link a number of human characteristics—ranging from alcoholism to homosexuality to aggression to criminality—to genetic markers. But linking complex human traits and behaviors to genetics and heredity is not only erroneous, it can also be dangerous.

The publication of Herrnstein and Murray’s The Bell Curve in 1994 renewed the debate linking intelligence with ethnicity and social class. The book’s central thesis proposed that the significant disparity in intelligence among different ethnic groups could not be eliminated by government programs or legislation intended to improve and equalize economic, social, and educational opportunities.24 Most experts immediately condemned this misguided thinking, but the book appealed to policymakers, segments of the general public, and even some academics.

Two years later, Richard Lynn, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland, published Dysgenics: Genetic Deterioration of Modern Populations, which connected human genetics, social class, and intelligence. His central thesis—that improvements in health care and welfare allow people of low intelligence to have more children—led him to conclude that society is experiencing a general decline in the quality of civilized life:

Natural selection has broken down. In centuries past, it did the job for us of weeding out those with low moral character or low intelligence. There was a high mortality rate. Now the underclass survive and have children. Obviously, some measures need to be taken.25

Strains of the eugenics movements also exist in other countries. China’s one-child policy is a well-known example. It was introduced in 1979 as a voluntary program, but within two years, economic and social incentives, coupled with intense community pressure, had a measurable effect on the birth rate—but the program also incited controversy. In a culture where male heirs are prized, the policy has resulted in some selective abortions in favor of boys, abandonment of baby girls, infanticide, and forced sterilizations. Parents who pledge to have one child but have a second must pay back all the one-child compensation they had received, as well as receive additional financial penalties. The State Family Planning Commission announced that the strict family planning regulation would continue until at least 2003, the end of the current government’s term of office (see Figure 1).26

In Singapore, the government embraced a dual-message approach: encouraging the wealthy and educated to have children while offering incentives to the poor and unschooled to be sterilized after having one or two children. Under the program, the children of university-educated parents received tax discounts and a preference in school selection. Disincentives for poor, single mothers included higher hospital fees for having a third child and cash incentives to be sterilized after the first or second child. But because of Singapore’s overall declining birthrate, the government has begun to offer a lucrative “Baby Bonus”—savings account deposits and fully paid maternity leave—in hopes of persuading the wealthy and educated population to multiply.27

In Sweden, where more than 60,000 people were sterilized under the Swedish Sterilization Act, recent controversy regarding the prevention of reproduction among the country’s “socially inferior” citizens has resurfaced. Between 1935 and 1976, the government’s eugenics program was designed to eliminate social undesirables while simultaneously improving the Nordic racial stock. In 1997, Swedish journalist Maciej Zaremba disclosed a forty-year history of adolescent girls who were involuntarily and arbitrarily sterilized for being sexually promiscuous, unintelligent, or antisocial.28 Other reports revealed that some “undesirable” Swedes were sterilized for having bad eyesight, being of mixed race, or having “unmistakable Gypsy features.”29

After the revelations in Sweden, citizens’ groups in Japan demanded formal apologies and compensation from the government for involuntary sterilizations carried out in their country between 1949 and 1995. With the aim of improving the Japanese people, a law permitted doctors to sterilize people without their consent if they were deemed mentally or physically handicapped or had certain hereditary diseases. The Japanese government refused to apologize or pay compensation, arguing that the procedures were legal and a matter of public record.30

Finally, in North America, Canada and the United States share a similar history with respect to eugenics. In Canada, eugenic sterilization, which was legal between 1929 and 1972, was performed on thousands of people; years later, seven hundred of those sterilized without their consent filed suit in Alberta and received compensation.31 Although the movement fell out of favor in much the same way that it did in the United States, a recent survey of medical professionals has led some health law experts to point to a revival of a Canadian eugenics movement.32

An Ethical Future?

Some critics warn that aspects of current genetic research are eerily reminiscent of a eugenics philosophy in modern medicine. Through programs such as the Human Genome Project, an effort to map the entire human genetic makeup, we now have more information than ever about genes, chromosomes, DNA, and particular medical conditions and diseases. Although we cannot fault modern science for finding biological markers for certain medical conditions, teachers must help students understand how linking complex human traits and behaviors to heredity is erroneous and may lead to unjust social policies.

Some historians worry that contemporary economic and social problems can give rise to a new eugenics movement. Given the perennial struggle over limited resources, we can expect eugenic proposals to resurface from time to time. The story of Carrie Buck provides a point of departure for discussing and understanding these multifaceted issues. Let us hope that educating present and future generations will avert another “disgraceful chapter of American legal history.”33


1. Paul Gray, “Cursed by Eugenics,” New York (11 January 1999): 84-85.

2. Gerald Grob, “Introduction,” in The Surgical Solution: A History of Involuntary Sterilization in the United States, ed. Phillip R. Reilly (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), xi.

3. Ruth Macklin and Willard Gaylin, eds., Mental Retardation and Sterilization: A Problem of Competency and Paternalism (New York: Plenum Press, 1981).

4. Phillip R. Reilly, The Surgical Solution: A History of Involuntary Sterilization in the United States (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991).

5. Macklin and Gaylin, Mental Retardation.

6. Ian Robert Dowbiggin, Keeping America Sane: Psychiatry and Eugenics in the United States, 1880-1940 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press).

7. Daniel J. Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985).

8. Stephen Jay Gould, The Flamingo’s Smile: Reflections in Natural History (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1985).

9. Matt Ridley, “The New Eugenics,” The National Review (31 July 2000): 34-36.

10. David J. Smith, “The Bell Curve and Carrie Buck: Eugenics Revisited,” Mental Retardation (February 1995): 61.

11. David J. Smith and K. Ray Nelson, The Sterilization of Carrie Buck (Fair Hills, N.J.: New Horizon Press, 1989), 47.

12. Paul A. Lombardo, “Three Generations, No Imbeciles: New Light on Buck v. Bell,” New York University Law Review (April 1985): 30-62.

13. Buck v. Bell. 274 U.S. 200, 47 S. Ct. 584 (1927).

14. Steven Selden, Inheriting Shame: The Story of Eugenics and Racism in America (New York: Teachers College Press, 1999).

15. Lombardo, “Three Generations,” 31.

16. United States Supreme Court, United States Reports 274 (1927), 207.

17. After Priddy’s death in 1925, Dr. J. H. Bell headed the Colony—hence the case name.

18. Dowbiggin, Keeping America Sane.

19. Smith and Nelson, The Sterilization of Carrie Buck.

20. “Swedes Resent Scapegoat Role in Eugenics Controversy,” The Financial Times (6 September 1997): 2.

21. Smith and Nelson, The Sterilization of Carrie Buck.

22. Samuel Holmes, Human Genetics and Its Social Import (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1936).

23. Robert Fox and Ben Fenton, “Eugenics: The Skeleton in the Liberals’ Cupboard,” The Daily Telegraph (29 August 1997): 4.

24. Dowbiggin, Keeping America Sane.

25. As quoted in Luke Harding, “Academic Defends Underclass Claim,” The Guardian (23 December 1996): 7.

26. David Rennie, “Chinese Told One Child Is Rule to 2003,” The Daily Telegraph (London) (20 December 2000):13.

27. Richard Beeston, “Singapore Pays Parents to Have More Children,” The Times (London) (22 August 2000): 14.

28. Paul Gallagher, “The Man Who Told the Secret,” Columbia Journalism Review (January/February 1998): 65-66.

29. Associated Press, “Four Decades of Sterilizing Own Citizens Haunts Sweden,” The Post and Courier (26 August 1997): 8A.

30. Associated Press, “Japan Refuses to Admit Error Over Sterilization of Women,” The Post and Courier (18 September 1997): 11A.

31. Catherine Ford, “Alberta’s Sterilization Debate,” The Gazette (Montreal) (16 March 1998): B3.

32. Marily Moysa, “Eugenics Movement Revival? Evidence of Resurgence Reflected in Response to Medical Survey,” The Gazette (Montreal) (31 December 1995): A5.

33. Lombardo, “Three Generations,” 45.

Teaching Resources


Bajema, Carl J., ed. Eugenics: Then and Now. Stroudsburg, Penn.: Dowden, Hutchinson & Ross, 1976. This collection of historical documents on eugenics includes essays by Galton, Darwin, and Schockley. Laughlin’s “Model Eugenical Sterilization Law” and transcripts from Buck v. Bell are also included.

Ginsburg, Faye D., and Rayna Rapp, eds. The New World Order: The Global Politics of Reproduction. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995. The collection of essays investigates reproduction policies around the world.

Paul, Diane B. The Politics of Heredity: Essays on Eugenics, Biomedicine, and the Nature-Nurture Debate. New York: SUNY Press, 1998. Ten essays explore the connections among science, social power, and public policy.

Paul, Diane B. Controlling Human Heredity. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1995. By tracing the history of eugenics, Paul analyzes what events shaped its development and how eugenics became so widely appealing. The book also explores the impact of eugenics on modern-day genetic medicine.

Selden, Steven. Inheriting Shame: The Story of Eugenics and Racism in America. New York: Teachers College Press, 1999. Selden offers a concise history of American eugenics, its impact on public schools, and ethical issues concerning contemporary genetic programs.

Smith, J. David, and K. Ray Nelson. The Sterilization of Carrie Buck. Fair Hills, N.J.: New Horizon Press, 1989. This thorough and accessible book recounts Carrie Buck’s life, the trial, and Buck’s subsequent sterilization.


Eugenics Bibliography
The Institute of Law, Psychiatry, and Public Policy at the University of Virginia developed a thorough reference list on the history of the eugenics movement in the United States.

Eugenics: To Be or Not To Be?
Created by a group of students at the University of New South Wales, this site offers a history, working definitions, and discussions of legal and moral issues surrounding eugenics.

Eugenics and the Misuse of Genetic Information to Restrict Reproductive Freedom
Teachers can use this official statement, approved by the Board of Directors of the American Society of Human Genetics in October 1998, as a primary source document to stimulate class discussion.

The Image Archives on the American Eugenics Movement
This website provides a fascinating and troubling record of more than 1,200 photographs, charts, reports, medical documents, posters, and other images on eugenics in the United States.

Legal Information Institute
The Legal Information Institute houses a collection of historic decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. Users have access to the full decision of Buck v. Bell.

PBS People and Discoveries
This data bank of twentieth century scientists and their biographies provides links to Charles Davenport, William Shockley, and other luminaries in the field.

Michael J. Berson and Bárbara Cruz are associate professors in the Department of Secondary Education, College of Education, University of South Florida.

See also:

Teaching Tips

The history of eugenics and the Buck v. Bell case provide a number of opportunities for instruction, reflection, and debate. Far from an exhaustive list, the following instructional strategies can help teachers begin exploring this little-known event and its far-reaching consequences.


Have students construct a timeline of the eugenics movement, noting early theories of heredity and social Darwinism, key sterilization legislation, the Buck v. Bell case, World War II, and modern-day movements. A sample timeline is included in this article.


After students research the Buck v. Bell case, the class may conduct a role-play of the event. Some of the roles could include Carrie Buck, the Supreme Court Justices, the prosecution and defense attorneys, the Colony’s chief, and the Dobbs family. Students can retry the case either as if they were living in Buck’s time or according to today’s standards. Have the justices discuss the trial, come to an agreement about the outcome, and explain their decision to the rest of the class.

Carrie Buck’s Daughter

Justice Holmes’s reference to “three generations of imbeciles” included Carrie Buck’s daughter, Vivian. Although the child was diagnosed as mentally deficient at six months, school records and other evidence indicate that the child was normal and even bright by many standards. Ask students to read the chapter “Carrie Buck’s Daughter,” in Stephen Jay Gould’s The Flamingo’s Smile. Discuss this interesting, if tragic, postscript to this often-forgotten character in the Buck saga. Have students generate questions that they would ask Vivian in an interview. As a creative writing exercise, ask students to imagine that they are Vivian Buck and, in her voice, write about how it felt to be mislabeled and misjudged.

Debate on Involuntary Sterilization

Have students divide into groups and debate the following topics:

  • Are there any circumstances where the sexual sterilization of people should be allowed? In what cases? Who should decide?
  • Although modern research has concluded that Carrie Buck and her daughter were probably of normal intelligence, discussion continues on the rights of the mentally retarded. Should the mildly mentally retarded be involuntarily sterilized “for their own good”? What about the moderately mentally retarded? The severely mentally retarded?
  • The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) declares that all “men and women of full age . . . have the right to marry and found a family” (Article 16). Does involuntary sterilization—for whatever reason—violate the UN’s Declaration?

Patients’ Rights

When, fifty years later, reporters asked Carrie Buck about her sterilization, she replied, “They just told me I had to have an operation, that was all.” Indeed, thousands of people who were sterilized in North America had the procedure done without their knowledge or consent. Lead a class discussion on patients’ rights. Under what circumstances might a doctor or a hospital have the right to make a decision for a patient? Have students create a Code of Ethical Standards for a hospital in their community.

Case Study

In Breeding Better Vermonters: The Eugenics Project in the Green Mountain State (Boston, Mass.: University Press of New England, 1999), historian Nancy Gallagher provides a fascinating account of Vermont’s sterilization program, which attempted to breed out poor health and bad character. One of the main targets, the Abenaki Indians, claimed that the program was part of a larger government scheme to eradicate their group. Have students investigate other examples of targeting racial and ethnic groups through eugenics. Students can use resources from their school library, the public library, and the Internet.

Discussion of Bioethics

Modern genetic and reproductive technologies have led to bioethical issues, such as sperm banks, in-vitro fertilization, cloning, artificial wombs, genetic screening, sex selection, “designer embryos,” and the purposeful creation of babies for the future harvesting of organs. Ask students when these technologies might be justifiable? What is the potential for abuse?

Using Genetic Screenings

Public debates in the United Kingdom have focused on whether insurance companies should be allowed to use genetic screenings when underwriting life or health insurance. Heated discussions continue in the United States as to whether employers should use genetic information in hiring and firing practices. After studying and debating the issue, have students write a position paper supporting their viewpoints.

Cross-Cultural Issues

Copy and distribute Figure 1 to the class or make an overhead transparency. After informing students about China’s one-child policy and its ramifications for genetic testing, lead a discussion on cultural values and mores. A related topic for discussion is population growth and involuntary sterilization. Should the United States limit trading with China to punish the government for their population growth programs?

Figure 1

What Do Geneticists Think?

Percent agreeing with the statement China Britain United States
Couples who are both carriers of a genetic disease should not have children 92 34 44
Genetic testing should be included in pre-employment physical examinations 86 46 59
Governments should require premarital carrier tests 86 4 5
A woman’s abortion decision should be her own 40 68 85

Source: Andy Coghlan, “Perfect People’s Republic,” New Scientist (24 October 1998): 18.

Eugenic Sterilization Laws

Paul Lombardo, University of Virginia

While some eugenicists privately supported practices such as euthanasia or even genocide, legally-mandated sterilization was the most radical policy supported by the American eugenics movement. A number of American physicians performed sterilizations even before the surgery was legally approved, though no reliable accounting of the practice exists prior to passage of sterilization laws. Indiana enacted the first law allowing sterilization on eugenic grounds in 1907, with Connecticut following soon after. Despite these early statutes, sterilization did not gain widespread popular approval until the late 1920s.

Advocacy in favor of sterilization was one of Harry Laughlin’s first major projects at the Eugenics Record Office. In 1914, he published a Model Eugenical Sterilization Law that proposed to authorize sterilization of the “socially inadequate” – people supported in institutions or “maintained wholly or in part by public expense. The law encompassed the “feebleminded, insane, criminalistic, epileptic, inebriate, diseased, blind, deaf; deformed; and dependent” – including “orphans, ne’er-do-wells, tramps, the homeless and paupers.” By the time the Model Law was published in 1914, twelve states had enacted sterilization laws.

By 1924, approximately 3,000 people had been involuntarily sterilized in America; the vast majority (2,500) in California. That year Virginia passed a Eugenical Sterilization Act based on Laughlin’s Model Law. It was adopted as part of a cost-saving strategy to relieve the tax burden in a state where public facilities for the “insane” and “feebleminded” had experienced rapid growth. The law was also written to protect physicians who performed sterilizing operations from malpractice lawsuits. Virginia’s law asserted that “heredity plays an important part in the transmission of insanity, idiocy, imbecility, epilepsy and crime…” It focused on “defective persons” whose reproduction represented “a menace to society.”

Carrie Buck, a seventeen-year-old girl from Charlottesville, Virginia, was picked as the first person to be sterilized. Carrie had a child, but was not married. Her mother Emma was already a resident at an asylum, the Virginia Colony for the Epileptic and the Feebleminded. Officials at the Virginia Colony said that Carrie and her mother shared the hereditary traits of “feeblemindedness” and sexually promiscuity. To those who believed that such traits were genetically transmitted, Carrie fit the law’s description as a “probable potential parent of socially inadequate offspring.” A legal challenge was arranged on Carrie’s behalf to test the constitutional validity of the law.

At her trial, several witnesses offered evidence of Carrie’s inherited “defects” and those of her mother Emma. Colony Superintendent Dr. Albert Priddy testified that Emma Buck had “a record of immorality, prostitution, untruthfulness and syphilis.” His opinion of the Buck family more generally was: “These people belong to the shiftless, ignorant, and worthless class of anti-social whites of the South.” Although Harry Laughlin never met Carrie, he sent a written deposition echoing Priddy’s conclusions about Carrie’s “feeblemind-edness” and “moral delinquency.”

Sociologist Arthur Estabrook, of the Eugenics Record Office, traveled to Virginia to testify against Carrie. He and a Red Cross nurse examined Carrie’s baby Vivian and concluded that she was “below average” and “not quite normal.” Relying on these comments, the judge concluded that Carrie should be sterilized to prevent the birth of other “defective” children.

The decision was appealed to United States Supreme Court. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., himself a student of eugenics, wrote the formal opinion for the Court in the case of Buck v. Bell (1927). His opinion repeated the “facts” in Carrie’s case, concluding that a “deficient” mother, daughter, and granddaughter justified the need for sterilization. The decision includes the now infamous words: It is better for all the world, 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…Three generations of imbeciles are enough.

Recent scholarship has shown that Carrie Buck’s sterilization was based on a false “diagnosis” and her defense lawyer conspired with the lawyer for the Virginia Colony to guarantee that the sterilization law would be upheld in court. Carrie’s illegitimate child was not the result of promiscuity; she had been raped by a relative of her foster parents. School records also prove that Vivian was not “feebleminded.” Her 1st grade report card showed that Vivian was a solid “B” student, received an “A” in deportment, and had been on the honor roll.

Nevertheless, Buck v. Bell supplied a precedent for the eventual sterilization of approximately 8,300 Virginians. Borrowing from Laughlin’s Model Law, the German Nazi government adopted a law in 1933 that provided the legal basis for sterilizing more than 350,000 people. Laughlin proudly published a translation of the German Law for the Prevention of Defective Progeny in The Eugenical News. In 1936, Laughlin was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Heidelberg as a tribute for his work in “the science of racial cleansing.”

The second Supreme Court case generated by the eugenics movement tested a 1935 Oklahoma law that prescribed involuntary sexual sterilization for repeat criminals. Jack Skinner was chosen to test the law’s constitutionality. He was a three-time felon, guilty of stealing chickens at age nineteen, and convicted twice in later years for armed robbery. By the time his case was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, in 1942 some 13 states had laws specifically permitting sterilization of criminals.

The opinion striking down the sterilization law in the case of Skinner v. Oklahoma (1942) was written by Justice William O. Douglas. He highlighted the inequity of Oklahoma’s law by noting that a three-time chicken thief could be sterilized while a three-time embezzler could not. Said Douglas: “We have not the slightest basis for inferring that … the inheritability of criminal traits follows the neat legal distinctions which the law has marked between those two offenses.”

Despite the Skinner case, sterilization of people in institutions for the mentally ill and mentally retarded continued through the mid-1970’s. At one time or another, 33 states had statutes under which more than 60,000 Americans endured involuntary sterilization. The Buck v. Bell precedent allowing sterilization of the so-called “feebleminded” has never been overruled.

To learn more from an interesting source, click on the links below:


by Augustus Blackstone

The Sovereign, The System: The Interface The Errant Sovereign’s Handbook,

Volume II,

Augustus Blackstone

Read, also,


by Augustus Blackstone





Am J Public Health. 2002 May; 92(5): 742–752.
PMCID: PMC3222231

Making Better Babies: Public Health and Race Betterment in Indiana, 1920–1935


In 1920, Indiana’s Division of Infant and Child Hygiene inaugurated its first Better Babies Contest at the state fair. For the next 12 years, these contests were the centerpiece of a dynamic infant and maternal welfare program that took shape in Indiana during the decade of the federal Sheppard–Towner act. More than just a lively spectacle for fairgoers, these contests brought public health, “race betterment,” and animal breeding together in a unique manner.

This article describes one of the most popular expressions of public health and race betterment in rural America. It also raises questions about the intersections between hereditarian and medical conceptions of human improvement during the early 20th century, especially with respect to child breeding and rearing.

BY 8 AM ON THE MORNING OF September 3, 1929, dozens of mothers were lined up in front of the Better Babies Building at the Indiana State Fair, eagerly waiting for the doors to open.1 Since 1920, and in increasing numbers, babies from nearly every Indiana county had been weighed, measured, and tested at the state fair by physicians and psychologists affiliated with the State Board of Health’s Division of Infant and Child Hygiene

During the 1920s, this division launched a multifaceted program of “child saving” and maternal education, which included radio talks, mother’s classes, the screening of hygiene films, statistical reports, and consultation clinics. The Better Babies Contest, however, was by far the division’s most spectacular and beloved event, drawing hundreds of young entrants and thousands of curious onlookers to the state fairgrounds during the week of Labor Day.

Each year, more and more Hoosiers—as Indianans like to refer to themselves—crowded into the Better Baby facilities. They watched nurses demonstrate infant feeding techniques, collected free pamphlets such as the Indiana Mother’s Baby Book, or perused displays about nutrition and the virtues of sterilized and sparkling bathrooms and kitchens. While individual girls and boys, twins, and triplets competed for blue ribbons and cash prizes, tired mothers could find refuge at the rest tent and noncontestant children could romp in the playground or nap peacefully in the nursery. According to many physicians, the Indianapolis News, and the promotional newsletterThe Hub of the Universe, the Better Babies Contest was one of Indiana’s most anticipated yearly events.2

At the helm of the better babies program was Dr Ada E. Schweitzer. Over the course of little more than a decade, Schweitzer, appointed director of the newly created Division of Infant and Child Hygiene in 1919, assembled one of the most vibrant public health agencies in the nation. Immediately before she was ousted and the division was disbanded in 1933, Schweitzer counted 4 physicians, 4 nurses, and 5 assistants on her core staff.3

During her 14-year reign, Schweitzer worked sedulously to lower infant and maternal death rates and convince Indianans of the importance of scientific motherhood and child rearing. She lectured to hundreds of neighborhood and civic associations, penned voluminous articles and poems, assessed the physical condition of babies in every one of the state’s 92 counties, and fastidiously managed the affairs of her industrious division. Seemingly unfazed by a taxing travel schedule, Schweitzer could frequently be found adding miles to the division’s child hygiene mobile, which had been equipped with a generator to project movies and lantern slides in remote towns and villages. She was even known to take to the air in a 2-seater airplane to arrive punctually for speaking engagements.

4 In part owing to Schweitzer’s efforts, Indiana’s infant mortality dropped by one third, from 8.2% in 1920 to 5.7% in 1930.

5In this article, I explore not only Schweitzer’s better baby crusade but also the particular circumstances that gave rise to such a dynamic child welfare project in Indiana from 1919 to 1933.

6 This work flourished because of the state’s concern with public health and eugenics. By 1907, for example, Indiana had a pure food statute and a vital statistics act on the books and, furthermore, had passed the country’s first eugenic sterilization law. In 1915, the Indiana State Board of Health was ranked sixth nationwide, in terms of effectiveness, by the American Medical Association.

7During this period many Indiana health reformers, including Schweitzer, frightened by what they perceived to be an escalating menace of the feeble-minded, joined the Indiana State Mental Hygiene Association.

8 Through legal and educational means, Indiana Progressives sought to control procreation and endorsed only the birth of the “best” and healthiest babies. For many Hoosiers, born and raised as farmers, breeding superior children was just a step away from producing heartier corn, pigs, and cattle.

9The activities of the Division of Infant and Child Hygiene multiplied markedly in the 1920s owing to the resources made available by the federal Sheppard–Towner Act, passed in 1921.

10 Administered by the US Children’s Bureau, this act provided matching funds to states that approved “enabling legislation” and established agencies devoted to infant and maternal welfare. Schweitzer, who had preexisting ties to the Children’s Bureau, astutely took advantage of the support granted by Sheppard– Towner. With Schweitzer serving as the intermediary, the convergence of state and federal infant and maternal hygiene programs proved exceptionally efficacious in Indiana.

The success of the Division of Infant and Child Hygiene was also facilitated by Indiana’s demography and topography. In 1920, the state’s population hovered at close to 3 million residents, 95% of whom were native-born and 97% of whom were White. The bulk of Indiana’s African American and immigrant communities lived a marginalized and segregated existence in the cities of Indianapolis, Gary, and East Chicago.

11 Unlike Progressive reformers in diverse, multilingual states such as New York, Illinois, and California, Schweitzer and other Indiana child savers did not need to translate their message into foreign languages or tailor their “Americanization” campaigns for Polish, Italian, or Mexican newcomers.

12 Instead, the primary targets of public health and race betterment efforts in Indiana were poor and working-class Whites, especially impoverished farm dwellers living beyond the orbit of urbanization and industrialization.

Despite Indiana’s unusual makeup, it has often been characterized as the quintessentially American state, a reputation most decidedly earned by the 1929 publication of Robert and Helen Lynd’s Middletown: A Study in Modern American Culture, which examined the city of Muncie.

13 If Middletown encapsulated the values of America as idealized in the 1920s, then tracing the emergence of its better babies movement should reveal a great deal about the largely understudied interplay between public health and race betterment in the country as a whole during the first half of the 20th century.14

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The Indiana Child Creed (sidebar) entered the Hoosier vernacular in 1915 when it debuted as the epigraph of the Indiana Mothers’ Baby Book.

15 Published by the State Board of Health, this advice manual was distributed free of charge, along with a letter of introduction, to every mother who registered her newborn with the state.

16 Over the subsequent 2 decades this creed, an awkward patchwork of eugenic, public health, Protestant, and Progressive ideas, would be printed in hundreds of articles and tracts and recited resolutely by the state’s health advocates. Although it is impossible to gauge how many Hoosiers absorbed or heeded the child creed, its appearance signified the inception of better baby work in Indiana.

Promoted on 3 interconnected levels—local, state, and federal—child welfare programs took shape and began to coalesce in the Hoosier heartland in the late 1910s and early 1920s.

Indiana’s burgeoning interest in infant hygiene reflected broader trends at the turn of the century, as reformers from coast to coast began to embrace the doctrine of “progressive maternalism.”

17 According to Molly Ladd-Taylor, progressive maternalists occupied the middle ground between feminists and proponents of sentimental motherhood. Whereas the former waged a fierce battle for sex equality on the streets and in the halls of Congress, the latter saw no place for women outside the home. Progressive maternalists combined and tempered these 2 perspectives, asserting that the biological and social experience of motherhood endowed women with a heightened sense of moral duty that was beneficial to both family and nation. They politicized maternity by arguing that female citizens, who carried the well-being of future generations in their wombs, were entitled to suffrage as well as leadership roles in society and government.

This logic was employed by suffragettes who asserted that New Zealand’s low infant mortality rate was a direct result of more than 20 years of female enfranchisement. One leaflet issued by the National Woman Suffrage Publishing Company, for instance, portrayed a toddler looking warily at a door that was barely ajar and swarming with deadly microbes. The accompanying caption read: “I wish my mother had a vote—to keep the germs away.”

18 Linking the language of bacteriology and biology, progressive maternalists charted an agenda for the country in which national strength, better babies, and the political visibility of women went hand in hand.

On a national scale, the ethos of progressive maternalism was best exemplified by the US Children’s Bureau. Established in 1912 by Progressives long committed to immigrant and infant welfare, the Children’s Bureau was the first government agency directed by a woman, Julia Lathrop, who in 1921 was succeeded by Grace Abbott. Both were veterans of Chicago’s Hull House, one of the first immigrant settlement homes in the United States.

19 Immediately after taking charge of the Children’s Bureau, Lathrop settled on the reduction of infant mortality as the agency’s cardinal objective. In 1910, between 100 and 200 of every 1000 infants born in the United States perished, a figure that had been lowered discernibly since 1900 but still exceeded rates in New Zealand and a handful of European countries.

20Although the Bureau interpreted the manifold problems of children through the prism of public health and medicine, few members of its staff were physicians. The preliminary composition and outlook of the bureau were altered substantially over time, however, as doctors—many of whom were male—began to claim jurisdiction over most arenas of children’s health. One of the historical ironies is that by professionalizing infant and maternal welfare and urging mothers to consult private pediatricians, the Children’s Bureau enhanced the authority of doctors and bolstered the notion that private primary care was the most creditable mode of child health.

21 The development of better baby work in Indiana emulated this pattern, arising in large part from a groundswell of women’s volunteerism in the first decade of the 20th century but thoroughly controlled by male pediatricians by the mid 1930s. Much to her dismay, Schweitzer, a physician and a progressive maternalist, paved the way for this gendered transfer of power in the Hoosier heartland.

Just 2 years after its founding, the Children’s Bureau initiated what would blossom into a fruitful relationship with the Indiana State Board of Health when it dispatched its designated exhibit expert, Dr Anne Louise Strong, to Indianapolis to preside over an upcoming child welfare display.22 Two years later, in January 1916, the Children’s Bureau returned to Indiana. This time, however, the agency came for 4 months, to lay the foundations for a comprehensive infant and maternal hygiene program. During the second decade of the 20th century, the Children’s Bureau rotated its field agents throughout the country to galvanize child welfare initiatives.23 To rural Indiana, it sent Florence Brown Sherbon, a Kansas physician who in the 1920s became a member of the American Eugenics Society and one of the most vocal exponents of “fitter families” contests at agricultural fairs.24 She was later joined by Mary Mills West, author of the acclaimed Children’s Bureau tracts Infant Care and Prenatal Care, and Elizabeth Moore, who had helped Strong with the child welfare exhibit less than 2 years earlier.

25During the winter and spring of 1916, Sherbon, Moore, and West preached the gospel of child saving throughout Indiana. In places often inaccessible by rail or asphalt, they showed movies; handed out pamphlets; examined the eyes, ears, and mouths of children; illustrated infant feeding techniques; and dispensed scales of normal development and nutrition charts, all the while compiling birth and death statistics.

26 Following on the heels of American Farm Bureau agents, who had begun canvassing the countryside at the turn of the century to further modern agriculture, Sherbon and her team used the language of crops and breeding to persuade Hoosiers to apply scientific knowledge to the procreation and bringing up of children.

27 They implored farmers to shed superstition for science, vowing that if they heeded their instructions about milk sterilization, nourishment, and parturition, their sons and daughters would “grow up strong and well.”


Every child has the inalienable right to be born free from disease, free from deformity and with pure blood in its veins and arteries.

Every child has the inalienable right to be loved; to have its individuality respected; to be trained wisely in mind, body, and soul; to be protected from disease, from evil influences and evil persons; and to have a fair chance. In a word, to be brought up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

That state is delinquent which does not ceaselessly strive to secure these inalienable rights to its children.

The crux of the Children’s Bureau mission in Indiana, however, was the “babies’ health conferences” Sherbon and her colleagues orchestrated in towns and cities such as Lagrange, Butler, Kendalville, Petersburg, and Washington. According to the informational brochure, the aim of these gatherings was to “show the physical condition of the children examined and indicate the points at which their health and vigor may be improved by the efforts of the parents.”

29 Spending 4 days in each locale, bureau representatives inspected children younger than 6 years and exposed Hoosiers to films, written materials, and visual aids.

30Aside from ushering in innovative notions about child rearing, one of the topmost goals of these conferences was to expedite the continuation of better baby work in Indiana. In every town on their itinerary, Sherbon and her team scrutinized the feasibility of follow-up efforts among local women’s clubs and medical groups, many of which had independently begun grassroots campaigns.


These activities sparked moderate interest in child hygiene but certainly did not bring about the sweeping program envisioned by the Children’s Bureau. The seeds for a more far-reaching plan were planted at the babies’ health conference held in conjunction with Indiana University’s Extension University in Bloomington in March 1916.

31Sherbon and her colleagues were convinced that the movement would be guaranteed “a much better chance for permanent survival” if it were housed in a state division, not scattered among local groups. Hence, at that meeting they broached the possibilities for such a public health unit with John N. Hurty, director of the Indiana State Board of Health from 1896 to 1922 and an ardent eugenicist and outspoken supporter of the sterilization and marriage laws.

32Not surprisingly, given his concerns with race betterment and child saving, Hurty responded enthusiastically and, in spite of an immediate lack of funds, conveyed his willingness to submit a proposal in the next legislative cycle.

33Three years after these conversations and the Children’s Bureau babies’ health conferences, the Indiana State Board of Health’s Division of the Child and Infant Hygiene was created and Schweitzer was appointed its director.

34Schweitzer’s relationship with Hurty and the Board of Health began in 1906, when she was hired as an assistant bacteriologist at the state laboratory. Born in 1873 in the northern town of Lagrange, Schweitzer grew up on a farm where her Scottish-Irish mother and German father raised mint and purebred poultry. After attending Lima High School, she left Indiana to obtain her baccalaureate at Michigan State Normal College, returning permanently in 1902 to pursue her medical degree at Indiana Medical College.

While in school, Schweitzer conducted bacteriological studies at the state laboratory, concentrating on the prevalence and morbidity of children’s epidemics such as measles, diphtheria, and typhoid.35 Inspired by ideas of progressive maternalism and Hurty’s principles of racial uplift, Schweitzer soon became Indiana’s leading champion of infant hygiene, and by the second decade of the 20th century she was spearheading child welfare projects. In 1916, for example, she represented the State Board of Health at the Children’s Bureau conference in her hometown of Lagrange, delivering 2 talks titled “Personal Hygiene” and “Sanitation in the Home.”36

In 1918 she was elected chairwoman of the Indiana branch of the American Association for the Study and Prevention of Infant Mortality.37 That same year she authored a survey of infant mortality in Gary on special assignment for the Children’s Bureau. In the fall of 1918 she traveled to the South to realize a similar investigation but soon was attending to the crisis engendered by the influenza outbreak. As she was vacating her temporary post in Georgia, Schweitzer received word of Hurty’s invitation to become director of the Division of Infant and Child Hygiene.38

When the division’s starting appropriation of $10 000 became available in October 1919, Schweitzer and her staff of 3—a nurse, a chauffeur, and a stenographer—swung into action.

39 In a detailed letter, Hurty boasted to Lathrop about the extensive and trailblazing endeavors of Schweitzer and her underlings. Hurty explained that Schweitzer was “carrying the news into the rural regions beyond the railways” and venturing “deep into the country” to find areas that had scarcely been reached by health officials or the Indiana Mothers’ Baby Book. Above all, Hurty was proud of the division’s child mobile, a Dodge truck outfitted with “a Delco electric apparatus” that lit up “country school houses or churches” and activated the “stereopticon and moving picture machine.”

In most towns, Schweitzer’s entrance behind the wheel of the mobile—customarily adorned with flags—was a festive event always “announced by a bugle.” In town after town the routine was repeated: “Mothers are invited to bring their babies for physical examination. Advice and circulars are given to them, and then the Division moves on to the next stand, which as said, is always advertised beforehand.”

40As she launched Indiana’s better baby movement, Schweitzer reenergized the mission of the Children’s Bureau. Crisscrossing Indiana from county to county, Schweitzer and her corps handed out pamphlets, mounted exhibits, delivered lectures, screened films, and demonstrated techniques for nursing and preparing formula. Each month, Schweitzer personally scrutinized the health of hundreds of children—assessing their teeth, height, weight, vision, hearing, tonsils, adenoids, possible infections, defects, eating habits, hours of sleep, access to fresh air, and home surroundings.

41Schweitzer’s 1920 annual report revealed that the division had convened conferences in 27 counties, examined 8000 children, and presented lectures or films in 290 towns. Continually striving for lay involvement, the division had collaborated with 476 local, 53 state, and 63 national organizations on joint projects.

42 Furthermore, by 1921, many Indiana mothers, worried about the health of their babies, had sent “Dear Dr Schweitzer” letters to the division’s headquarters at the State House.

43If the division grew steadily in the early 1920s, it expanded exponentially after the passage of the federal Maternity and Infancy, or Sheppard–Towner, Act. Although the Indiana State Medical Associationlike its parent the American Medical Association—loudly opposed Sheppard–Towner and labeled it intrusive state medicine, Hurty’s national prestige and Indiana’s entrenched eugenic and public health programs guaranteed endorsement of the necessary “enabling legislation” by the state assembly.

44 With a budget 3 times her original one, in 1923 Schweitzer substantially broadened and reconfigured the division. She hired additional nurses and assistants, amplified the radius of the child health conferences, founded maternal and infancy centers, augmented public nursing efforts, and realized increasingly ambitious statistical and clinical studies.

45 As in similar agencies across the country, the bulk of her staff were female nonphysicians, an arrangement that provoked the ire of a vocal segment of Indiana’s predominantly male medical establishment.

During this period Schweitzer initiated mothers’ classes to teach pregnant women the fundamentals of prenatal and baby care.

46 In addition to inculcating scientific motherhood and basic precepts of public hygiene, these courses also furnished a venue for Schweitzer to expound on the virtues of Indiana’s eugenic marriage and sterilization laws, which she believed ensured the robustness of Hoosier babies.

47 In 1925, 16 649 women—more than 50% of all attendees nationwide—took mothers’ classes in Indiana under the aegis of the Division of Infant and Child Hygiene.

48That same year, Schweitzer wrote to the Children’s Bureau, “[O]ur work is growing so fast that it is difficult to plan so far ahead.”

49 By 1926, the division’s operating funds had climbed to $60 000 and it counted more than 20 full-time and temporary employees.

50 Moreover, according to the census, Indiana’s infant mortality rates had fallen to the fourth lowest in the country, a decrease due to several intertwined factors, including the division’s campaigns.

51After one decade, the division had examined the health of 77 584 children, enrolled 55 171 mothers in instructional classes, shown health films to 606 364 viewers, and reached almost half of the state’s population of 3 million through the distribution of 1 216 577 pamphlets.

52Schweitzer’s crusade indubitably altered attitudes about health, maternity, and childhood in Indiana. In Muncie, for example, the Lynds found that mothers were voracious readers of pamphlets and installment books on prenatal and infant care, always on the lookout for “every available resource for help in training their children.”

53Moreover, according to the Lynds, most Muncie parents readily embraced the latest pediatric advice.Some, however, were bewildered by this avalanche of new instructional materials and were averse to renouncing tried and true practices that had been handed down from generation to generation through female relatives. Like the Children’s Bureau during its 1916 tour of Indiana, since 1919 the Division of Infant and Child Hygiene had sought to persuade inhabitants of Muncie and the rest of Indiana of the imperative of the rules of scientific motherhood and child rearing. From the perspective of Schweitzer and other reformers, the integrity of Hoosier health and citizenship depended the mass adaptation of infant and maternal hygiene. As Schweitzer was fond of saying, only this would enable Indiana to become a good parent.

54Go to:


The centerpiece of Schweitzer’s quest to groom Indiana into an enlightened guardian of Hoosier children were the better babies contests, inaugurated in 1920 and, until their discontinuation in 1932, one of the most popular events at the state fair. The significance of the contests was layered and complex. As manifestations of the state fair in miniature, each year the better babies contest served as a venue for Hoosiers to negotiate past and present, nostalgia and modernity.

55 They acquainted Indianans with the most up-to-date opinions of child specialists, thereby reinforcing emergent pediatric norms and imbuing university-trained experts with ultimate authority over matters pertaining to the biology, physiology, and psychology of children.

The contests also commercialized this process, through advertising in and sponsorship by the Indianapolis News, by soliciting patronage from businesses such as the Hoosier Fence Company and the Weber Milk Company, and by fostering a competitive climate in which the winner received cash prizes and a trophy.

56 Finally, while the contests bolstered professionalized child medicine and brand name consumerism, they simultaneously depicted babyhood as a time of innocence and purity that was under assault by 20th-century urbanization and industrialization.

57Moreover, by excluding African American children, the contests reinforced patterns of segregation in Indiana and promoted the idea that only White babies could achieve perfection and symbolize the Hoosier state.

58 Schweitzer reportedly ordained the contest “a school of education in eugenics” and countenanced the use of categories that made “some allowance for familial and racial types.”59 More implicitly than overtly, she furthered Indiana’s racial divisions as she strove to improve the overall health of Hoosier children and modernize rural mothers through science.

Despite their immense popularity at the state fair, better babies contests did not originate in Indiana. Adumbrated by 19th-century beauty pageants, the contests began at the Iowa State Fair in 1911 when clubwoman Mary T. Watts asked, “You are raising better cattle, better horses, and better hogs, why don’t you raise better babies?”60To judge infants like livestock, Watts and another rural reformer, Margaret Clark, devised scorecards that tallied level of physical health, anthropometric traits, and mental development. Soon thereafter, the widely read magazineWoman’s Home Companion embarked on its Better Baby Campaign by sending one of its editors, Anna Steese Richardson, to Colorado to advance the contests.61 Soon they were all the rage, and by 1914, Woman’s Home Companion claimed “that contests had been held in every state except West Virginia, New Hamsphire, and Utah, and that more than 100 000 children had been examined.”62

With its field workers already dispersed around the country taking part in local infant hygiene efforts, the Children’s Bureau became involved in the contests as well. Lathrop, however, while supporting the educational aspect of the contests, was disturbed by the competitiveness they fostered, the commercialism they endorsed, and their glaring lack of a standardized scoring system. Thus, she arranged for the Bureau to join forces with the American Medical Association to develop a scorecard acceptable to the pediatric establishment and also began to sponsor an alternative, the children’s health conferences, which contained most of the elements of the better babies contests without numerical rankings. Indeed, during Sherbon’s reconnoitering of Indiana in 1916, she and her colleagues complained in several towns about crowded, confusing, and ill-managed contests that had been inspired by Woman’s Home Companion.63 They hoped that the children’s health conference would “successfully demonstrate a different method.”64

Given her close ties to the Children’s Bureau, Schweitzer was initially reluctant to incorporate better babies contests into her division’s activities. Hence in 1920, when Charles F. Kennedy, then secretary of the State Board of Agriculture, proposed that she oversee a contest at the state fair that year, she evinced skepticism. Kennedy, who had conducted a similar contest in Grand Rapids, Mich, was convinced it would be a wonderful addition to the fair.

65 Schweitzer was soon swayed by Kennedy’s petition and in 1920 presided over one of the fair’s most crowd-pleasing features.

66 Within no time, she was a fervent defender of the contests, justifying them as completely professional endeavors, guided by the firm principles of pediatrics and child psychology. Explaining her decision to avidly back the contests at the state fair, Schweitzer wrote to Dr. Talafierro Clark of the US Public Health Service, “I had numerous consultations with men skilled in pediatrics and specialists” as “we needed to place the contest on as high a plane as possible, in order to free it as near as could be from objectionable features.”

67  Schweitzer consistently distinguished the state fair contest from its makeshift and unregulated imitations in small rural towns and villages. Schweitzer wanted all of Indiana’s baby contests to be directed solely by the division and regularly pleaded with rural reformers to erect an alternative, the baby rest tent, where toddlers would be shielded from dust, crowds, possible exploitation, and the disappointment of losing in an amateur competition.

68 To meet the benchmark of professionalism, she used a scorecard based directly on the template formulated by the American Medical Association and the Children’s Bureau.

69By the mid-1920s, Schweitzer was showcasing the better babies contests on the radio and in articles in theMonthly Bulletin of the ISBH and the Hub of the Universe. She contended that the value of the contests resided in the fact that they “set the best standards of health before the parents that they may compare these with the actual condition of their child.”

70 For the most part, Schweitzer believed that better babies contests provided a level playing field on which infants could be judged according on their own merits.

While Schweitzer certainly viewed the contests as a facet of a more extensive race betterment project, she alleged that the “gates of heredity” were closed after the baby left the womb. It was essential to first restrict birth to only the most fit, through marriage and sterilization laws, and then create only the most desirable children through scientific child rearing and motherhood. Reflecting her particular blend of eugenics and public health, Schweitzer told one Muncie reformer, “You can not make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, neither can we make a citizen out of an idiot or any person who is not well born.”71


Schweitzer frequently extolled the benefits of the contests, claiming, for example, that the lessons taught by the contests had helped to lower the percentage of underweight contestant babies from 10% in 1920 to 2% in 1929.72 To publicize this annual September event, she wrote announcements, published fact sheets, and explained scoring procedures in laborious detail.

73 With each passing year, the contests became more popular among Indianans. In 1920, for example, 78 babies were examined; by 1925 this number had risen more than 10-fold, to 885, and in 1930 when 1301 young entrants were counted, enthusiasm was so overwhelming that Schweitzer opted to cap the number of entrants at 1200 the following year.

74In 1923 the Indianapolis News began to sponsor the contest, giving it a big boost; not only did the paper devote more space to articles, but it also began to print full-length pages with individual photos of hundreds of contestant babies whose mothers had sent in their registration forms by the deadline.

75 In 1924 the contest grounds were enlarged when a window-paneled Better Babies Building was erected, thanks to a $10 000 donation from J. E. Oliver of Oliver Chilled Plow Works. This new edifice housed exhibits, examinations of noncontestant babies, and demonstrations.

76 In 1927, the contests themselves were moved from a partition of the Woman’s Building, where they had been held faithfully since 1920, to a brand-new Better Babies Contest Building. Constructed as part of the state fair’s Diamond Jubilee, this building was financed by a special $5000 appropriation from the State Board of Agriculture and the legislature

.77As the contest grew under Schweitzer’s commanding presence, it also became more streamlined and efficient. For the week-long event, she contracted a general pediatrician—almost always Dr James C. Carter—as well as an optometrist, an otorhinolaryngologist, and several extra nurses and orderlies. In addition, assistance was provided by the Girl and Boy Scouts, who escorted mothers from station to station.

The contest procedure was well honed. Before the event began, the registered infants were divided into groups based on age (12–24 months or 24–36 months), sex, and place of residence. Those categorized as city babies lived in places with 10 000 inhabitants or more; the others were considered rural. With their children classified, parents—usually mothers—arrived at the better babies complex at the state fair at a designated time. As the mothers entered the building they submitted their enrollment form to a female attendant, who recorded the name of the mother and child. Then the baby was whisked away to the next booth, where its overall health history was taken by a nurse.

Mental tests—distinct for each age group—followed. Psychologists observed whether the children could stand, walk, and speak; how they manipulated blocks and balls; and how they responded to questions such as “How does the doggie do?” and “Who is the baby in the mirror?”78 Mental tests completed, the babies were undressed and their clothes placed in a paper bag with an identifying number. Identically robed in flannel togas, the babies were weighed and measured. From here each baby passed from the optometrist to the general pediatrician and finally to the otorhinolaryngologist. After being weighed and measured a second time, each baby was dressed in his or her own clothing and bedecked with a bronze medal on a blue ribbon, courtesy of the Indianapolis News.

Scores were calculated along the way. From a starting score of 1000, deductions were calculated for a wide host of physical defects including unevenness of the head, scaly skin, ill deportment, delayed teething, abnormal ear size or shape, and enlarged glands. Slow reactions to the mental tests or perceived lack of muscular coordination lowered a child’s score, as did deviations from the national standards for height and weight (based on age) and weight-to-height ratio. Tabulated results from the contests indicate that Schweitzer instructed her team to subtract the most infinitesimal of figures for each defect—most likely to maintain high results for every baby, thus diluting the rivalrous nature of the contests. The victor generally scored above 990; Alma Louise Strohmeyer, a 1-year-old Indianapolis girl, triumphed with 999.92813 points in 1923.79

In spite of their professed formality and orderliness, the contests were both crowded and noisy. In 1928, for example, 67 000 people streamed through the better babies complex, watching the psychological tests, spending time at the rest tent and nursery, and taking in the infant and maternal care dioramas.

80 As thousands made their way through the contest rooms, babies howled as they were unclothed, squealed when prodded by the stethoscope, or cooed delightedly when given their blue ribbon.

81 In 1925, the News described the chaos as a packed room filled to overflowing with the “noisy accompaniment of more than 200 child voices. The perfection of the lungs of the babies examined Monday could scarcely be doubted, and if there are not future opera singers and booming voiced orators of the group, many of the attendants and onlookers are exceedingly poor prophets.”

82While the impact of the contests is difficult to gauge, it is not unreasonable to accept Schweitzer’s contention that they played a part in effectively reducing infant mortality rates and prompting mothers to safeguard against the bacterial infection of milk and food. The contests also provided a platform for the commercialization of public health as well as the incorporation of the “better baby” into advertising—a newborn icon that figured regularly in the 1920s, selling products such as condensed milk and infant formula.

Schweitzer’s correspondence, furthermore, reveals that not only did many Hoosiers regularly send her general inquiries about child rearing, but many mothers—of varying degrees of literacy—were concerned enough about their children’s contest scores to contact the division.

In 1922 one parent wrote to Schweitzer anxious to know her daughter’s “failing points” and to find out “in what way she failed a perfect score.”

83 That same year, Schweitzer received a letter from another set of fretful parents: “We are so anxious to know her defects and in what way she was lacking.”

84  These and numerous additional letters demonstrate the extent to which Indianans from every inch of the state viewed Schweitzer as a trusted expert who could direct, or at least make recommendations about, local child-saving events. They also suggest that for those who attended the division’s many conferences, workshops, and classes, the line between public health and eugenics was nebulous or nonexistent.

On one hand, Schweitzer implored Hoosiers to adhere to the state’s marriage laws and spoke out consistently in favor of the state’s sterilization restrictions, which were based on a Mendelian understanding of hereditary transmission.

On the other, she was just as beholden to the gospels of private hygiene, pure milk, vaccination programs, and clean air and sunshine.

For Schweitzer and hundreds of other reformers, particularly the progressive maternalists, these multiple and seemingly paradoxical aspects of infant welfare and scientific motherhood coexisted quite comfortably on a wide continuum of race betterment.


In 1932 the last better babies contest was held, attracting thousands of spectators. In the early 1930s, the Depression, the resentment of Indiana’s male pediatricians, and the election of new Democratic administration converged, setting the stage for the end of the Division of Infant and Child Hygiene. Intent on centralizing his New Deal plan and distancing himself from his Republican predecessors, in 1933 Governor Paul V. McNutt abruptly dismissed Schweitzer and transferred the newly named Department of Child Health and Maternal Welfare to the Indiana University School of Medicine.

Of the division’s more than 20 employees, only Dr James C. Carter—the pediatrician Schweitzer hired each year to examine better babies—was retained to serve on a committee charged with designing a new blueprint for child welfare in Indiana.

85 None of the female physicians or nurses who had so faithfully staffed Schweitzer’s division for more than a decade were asked to join McNutt’s revamped department, which emphasized clinical pediatric teaching instead of hands-on infant and maternal hygiene projects. Nonetheless, Schweitzer’s legacy was felt in 1936 when McNutt oversaw the passage of legislation to receive Title V funds through the Social Security Act and partially revived the division. A Bureau of Maternal and Child Health, both federally and state financed in a manner akin to Sheppard–Towner, was founded, and a male physician closely affiliated with the Indiana State Medical Association was named its director.

86 Many historians of 20th-century America conceptualize public health and eugenics as antithetical movements separated by the conceptual gulf between environment and heredity.

87 Schweitzer’s work in Indiana, and better babies contests across the country more generally, illustrate that race betterment was an expansive rubric with a great deal of space for overlapping ideas and practices. The Division of Infant and Child Hygiene’s experiment demonstrates the active leadership of female reformers in infant and maternal welfare in the 1920s as well as the problematic racial and class implications of making babies better in Indiana.

Figure 1

Contestants (probably winners) from the 1927 Better Babies Contest, accompanied by Division of Infant and Child Hygiene nurses. (Photo courtesy of the Indiana State Archives, Indiana Commission on Public Records.)

Figure 2

Baby Contest Building and spectators, Indiana State Fair, 1929 (Photo courtesy of the Indiana State Archives, Indiana Commission on Public Records.)

Figure 3

Spectators watching the various testing and measurement tables at the 1930 contest. (Photo courtesy of the Indiana State Archives, Indiana Commission on Public Records.)


Research for this article was greatly facilitated by the expertise and good cheer of Vicki Casteel of the Indiana State Archives. I would like to thank the 4 anonymous reviewers who offered helpful and incisive criticism, as well as the following individuals for their insights and historical knowledge: Howard Markel, Janet Tarolli, and James Madison.


Peer Reviewed


1. “Hopeful Mothers and Fathers Bring Children to Baby Contest,” Indianapolis News, 4 September 1929, 1, 14.
2. See Hub of the Universe, Monthly Bulletin of the Indiana State Board of Health (ISBH), and theIndianapolis News, especially editorials from 1920 through 1932.
3. See “Division of Infant and Child Hygiene, Monthly Report, September 1932,” Monthly Bulletin of the ISBH35 (1932): 154–155.
4. Thurman B. Rice, The Hoosier Health Officer: A Biography of Dr. John N. Hurty and the History of the Indiana State Board of Health to 1925 (Indianapolis: np, 1946), 316.
5. James H. Madison, Indiana Through Tradition and Change: A History of the Hoosier State and its People, 1920–1945 (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1982), 322. Rates from 1910 to 1925 listed in “State Fair Better Babies Demonstrations,” 11-16-1, Central File (CF) 1925–28, Record Group (RG) 102, United States Children’s Bureau (CB), National Archives at College Park (NACP). On national infant mortality rates, which averaged about 1% higher than those in Indiana, see Dorothy Pawluch, The New Pediatrics: A Profession in Transition (New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1996).
6. For a longer discussion of Schweitzer and her campaign that contains a more developed section on the history of Indiana, see Alexandra Minna Stern, “Better Babies Contests at the Indiana State Fair: Child Health, Scientific Motherhood, and Eugenics in the Midwest, 1920–1935,” in Formative Years: Children’s Health in the United States, 1880–2000, ed. Alexandra Minna Stern and Howard Markel (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002): 121–152.
7. Madison, Indiana Through Tradition and Change, 309.
8. See, for example, “1917 Conference on Mental Health,” Mental Defectives Files, Indiana State Archives (ISA).
9. See Marilyn Irvin Holt, Linoleum, Better Babies, and the Modern Farm Woman, 1890–1930 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995), chap 4, and Lynne Curry, Modern Mothers in the Heartland: Gender, Health, and Progress in Illinois, 1900–1930 (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1999): 101–107.
10. See Richard A. Meckel, Save the Babies: American Public Health Reform and the Prevention of Infant Mortality, 1850–1929 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998).
11. Madison, Indiana through Tradition and Change, chap 1. Also see John Bartlow Martin, Indiana: An Interpretation (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992 [1947]).
12. See Howard Markel, “For the Welfare of Children: The Origins of the Relationship Between US Public Health Workers and Pediatricians,” American Journal of Public Health 90 (June 2000): 893–899. [PMC free article][PubMed]
13. Robert S. Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd, Middletown: A Study in Modern American Culture (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1957 [1929]).
14. This article was inspired by the work of Martin S. Pernick, one of the few historians of medicine to trace the overlaps between public health and eugenics. See Pernick, “Eugenics and Public Health in American History,”American Journal of Public Health 87 (1997): 1767–1772. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
15. Indiana Mothers’ Baby Book, 2nd ed. (Indianapolis: Indiana State Board of Health, 1920).
16. See Baby Book and Hurty to Children’s Bureau, 18 June 1920, 4-15-2-16, CF 1914-1920, RG 102, CB, NACP.
17. See Molly Ladd-Taylor, Mother-Work: Women, Child Welfare, and the State, 1890–1930 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994); and Molly Ladd-Taylor, ed., Raising a Baby the Government Way: Mothers’ Letters to the Children’s Bureau, 1915–1932 (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1986). Also see Gwendolyn Mink, The Wages of Motherhood: Inequality in the Welfare State, 1917–1942 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995) and Seth Koven and Sonya Michel, eds., Mothers of a New World: Maternalist Politics and the Origins of Welfare States (New York: Routledge, 1993).
18. “Better Babies” (New York: National Woman Suffrage Publishing Company, 1916).
19. See Kriste Lindenmeyer, “Right to Childhood”: The U.S. Children’s Bureau and Child Welfare, 1912–46(Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997); Ladd-Taylor, Mother-Work and Mothers’ Letters.
20. Lindemeyer, “Right to Childhood,” 43–45.
21. See Meckel, Save the Babies; Lindemeyer, “Right to Childhood”; and Jeffrey P. Baker, “Women and the Invention of Well Child Care” Pediatrics 94 (1994): 527–531. [PubMed]
22. See King to Lathrop, 15 October 1914; Lathrop to King, 17 October 1914; King to Lathrop, 25 November 1914; King to Lathrop, 15 January 1915; 8-1-4-2-2, CF 1914–20, RG 102, CB, NACP.
23. See Lindenmeyer, “Right to Childhood” and Ladd-Taylor, Mother-Work.
24. On Sherbon’s role in the fitter families contests, see “Kansas Free Fair Report,” Box 4, Ms 77, Papers of the Eugenics Records Office (ERO), American Philosophical Society Library, Philadelphia. For an excellent analysis of Sherbon and the fitter families contests see Laura LeeAnn Lovett, “Conceiving the Future: Nostalgic Modernism, Reproduction, and the Family in the United States, 1890–1930” (PhD diss, University of California, Berkeley, 1998).
25. See West to Sherbon, 26 February 1916, and Lathrop to West, 15 February 1916, 4-11-1-5, CF 1914–20, RG 102, CB, NACP.
26. See letters and reports from January to April 1916 in file 4-11-1-5, CF 1914–20, RG 102, CB, NACP.
27. See Holt, Linoleum, chap 1 and 4.
28. “Indiana II,” 5 January 1916, 4-11-1-4, CF 1914–20, RG 102, CB, NACP.
29. “Babies’ Health Conferences,” 4-11-1-5, CF 1914–20, RG 102, CB, NACP.
30. Ibid. Sherbon used a scorecard that listed the names of the baby and his or her parents, sex, weight, breast-feeding history, illnesses, feeding regime, and the condition of 20 bodily organs including eyes, glands, liver, and external genitalia. See “Children’s Health Conference,” 4-11-1-5, CF 1914–20, RG 102, CB, NACP.
31. “Community Institute and Babies’ Health Conference,” 15–18 February 1916, 4-11-1-5, CF 1914–20, RG 102, CB, NACP.
32. Grace L. Meigs, director of the Child Hygiene Division, Children’s Bureau, to Sherbon, 10 March 1916, 4-11-1-5, CF 1914–20, RG 102, CB, NACP.
33. Sherbon to Meigs, 19 March 1916, and Meigs to Sherbon, 22 March 1916, 4-11-1-5, CF 1914–20, RG 102, CB, NACP.
34. Hurty to Lathrop, 8 May 1919, 4-15-2-16, CF 1914–20, RG 102, NACP. Reflecting the continual growth of Hurty’s public health and race betterment, 3 sister divisions—Rural Hygiene, Tuberculosis, and Venereal Diseases—were created and granted substantial appropriations in the same legislative session as the Division of Infant and Child Hygiene (see Hurty to Mr Carol Fleming, US Department of Labor, 27 June 1919, 4-15-2-16, CF 1914–20, RG 102, CB, NACP).
35. For biographical information on Schweitzer, see “Indiana’s Work in Child Hygiene,” Indiana Business Woman 4 (1921): 15; “Former County Girl Prominent as Child Hygiene Director,” Lagrange Standard, 1 August 1929, np; untitled and undated biography, Papers of the Division of Infant and Child Hygiene (DICH), ISA. The division’s collection is uncatalogued and unprocessed, thus no folders or box numbers are cited. Also see Rice, Hoosier Health Officer, chap 78, and “Ada Schweitzer, Child Health Expert, Dead,” Indianapolis Star, 2 June 1951.
36. “Community Institute and Babies’ Health Conference,” 15–18 February 1916, 4-11-1-5, CF 1914–20, RG 102, CB, NACP.
37. See Schweitzer to Lathrop, 5 September 1918, 9-1-2-3, CF 1914–20, RG 102, CB, NACP.
38. Rude to Schweitzer, 12 December 1918, 4-15-2-16, CF 1914–20, RG 102, CB, NACP.
39. Hurty to Lathrop, 8 May 1919, 4-15-2-16, CF 1914–20, RG 102, CB, NACP.
40. Hurty to Children’s Bureau, 18 June 1920. Also see “Indiana Progress,” nd, 4-15-2-16, CF 1914–20, RG 102, CB, NACP
41. “Report of the Division of Infant and Child Hygiene, Indiana State Board of Health, for the Year ending September 30, 1920,” 4-11-1-3 (16), CF 1921–24, RG 102, CB, NACP. For a complete overview of Schweitzer’s work, month by month, see “Reports of the Division of Infant and Child Hygiene, Indiana State Board of Health,” Monthly Bulletin of the ISBH, 1920–1933.
42. “Annual Report of the Division of Infant and Child Hygiene, Indiana State Board of Health For the Year Ending September 30, 1921,” 4-11-1-3, CF 1921–24, RG 102, CB, NACP.
43. The papers of the division include dozens of letters from mothers and community leaders. See, for example, Schweitzer to Mr George B. Lockwood, 17 March 1916; Mrs Charles N. Lindley to Schweitzer, 9 July 1920; Schweitzer to Dr Jos. L. Allen, 22 May 1920, DICH, ISA.
44. See Rice, Hoosier Health Officer, and Rice, “History of the Indiana State Board of Health.”
45. See “Report of the Division of Infant and Child Hygiene,” Monthly Bulletin of the ISBH 26 (1923): 39–40; “Indiana State Board of Health, Division, Infant and Child Hygiene, Ordinance, Graf, Rules,” 11-16-1, CF 1921–24, RG 102, CB, NACP.
46. “Supplementary Report for Information Concerning Plans for the Promotion of Maternal and Infant Welfare,” 11-16-1, CF 1921–24.
47. “Abstract of Lectures for Mothers’ Classes,” 11-16-1, CF 1925–28, RG 102, CB, NACP; “Narrative Report of Maternity and Infancy Staff No. 2 for month ending March 31, 1924 by Dr. Wilhelmina Jongewaard, Director,” Monthly Bulletin of the ISBH 27 (1924): 57–59. See Rima D. Apple, “Constructing Mothers: Scientific Motherhood in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries,” in Mothers and Motherhood: Readings in American History, ed. Rima D. Apple and Janet Golden (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1997): 90–110.
48. According to the Children’s Bureau, the number of women who attended mothers’ classes nationwide was 31 529. See “Indiana’s Work under the Maternity and Infancy Law during 1925,” Monthly Bulletin of the Indiana State Board of Health 29 (1926): 136–138.
49. Schweitzer to Florence E. Kraker, associate director, Maternal and Infant Hygiene, CB, 21 January 1925, 11-16-1, CF 1925–28, RG 102, CB, NACP.
50. “Child Hygiene Division, Estimate Budget for 1925, 1926, and 1927,” 11-16-1, CF 1925–28, RG 102, CB, NACP.
51. Schweitzer to Haines, 28 September 1926, 11-16-1, CF 1925–28, RG 102, CB, NACP.
52. “A Survey of Ten Years’ Child Hygiene Work in Indiana,” Monthly Bulletin of the ISBH 32 (1929): 173–174.
53. Lynd and Lynd, Middletown, 150.
54. Schweitzer, “Is Indiana a Good Parent,” Hub of the Universe 6, no. 5 (August 1928): 1.
55. For an excellent discussion of this tension, see Lovett, “Conceiving the Future.”
56. See “The Better Babies,” Monthly Bulletin of the ISBH 31 (1928): 144–145.
57. Schweitzer expressed this sentiment in many of her writings. See, for example, “Child Environment” (ca 1929), DICH, ISA.
58. The archival materials I consulted indicate that the contests were segregated in practice but not on paper. I found several scattered mentions of Schweitzer’s attending segregated “Negro” better baby contests in Indianapolis at which she weighed and measured babies, but no specific details were given.
59. Paul Miner, Indiana’s Best! An Illustrated Celebration of the Indiana State Fairgrounds, 1852–1992(Indianapolis: Indiana State Fair Commission, 1992,) 128–130.
60. Watts to Schweitzer, 17 June 1925, DICH, ISA. See Annette K. Vance Dorey, Better Baby Contests: The Scientific Quest for Perfect Childhood Health in the Early Twentieth Century (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 1999). Dorey found that Louisiana claimed to be the originator of the better babies contest, holding the first one in 1908. Dorey’s study is exceedingly useful and explores many dimensions of the contests. One of its shortcomings, however, is Dorey’s insistence that the contests virtually disappeared after World War I.
61. See Alisa Klaus, “Every Child a Lion:The Origins of Maternal and Infant Health Policy in the United States and France, 1890–1920 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993): 138–157. Also see Anna Steese Richardson, Better Babies and Their Care (New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1914), an advice manual with a prologue outlining her involvement in better babies contests.
62. Ibid, 144.
63. Meigs to Sherbon, 3 February 1916; Sherbon to Meigs, 27 January 1916; 4-11-1-5, CF 1914–20, RG 102, CB, NACP.
64. Ibid.
65. Kennedy to Schweitzer, 5 April 1920, DICH, ISA; “Indiana State Fair Better Babies Activities,” Monthly Bulletin of the ISBH 30 (1927): 136–140.
66. Miner, Indiana’s Best, 129–130.
67. Schweitzer to Clark, 22 October 1922, DICH, ISA.
68. Ibid; Schweitzer to Mrs J.E. Pepple, 26 June 1923; Schweitzer to Miss E. Melville, 5 July, 1923; DICH, ISA.
69. See Schweitzer to Mrs A.F. Bentley, 18 June and 20 June 1923, DICH, ISA.
70. Schweitzer, “Why Have a Baby Contest?” Monthly Bulletin of the ISBH 31 (1928), 125.
71. Schweitzer to Mr George B. Lockwood, 20 March 1916, DICH, ISA.
72. “Better and Better Babies” (radio script), DICH, ISA. This decrease is probably related to the fact that by the late 1920s Schweitzer was using a height–weight ratio instead of correlating each separately with age. See Jeffrey Brosco, “Weight Charts and Well Child Care: When the Pediatrician Became the Expert in Child Health,” in Stern and Markel, Formative Years.
73. See “Better Babies at the State Fair” (several versions); “Better Babies Contest History and Rules”and “Method of Counting Scores in Baby Contests,” DICH, ISA; “Meditation of a Second-Summer Baby,” Hub of the Universe 6, no. 4 (July 1923): 1, 4.
74. “Growth of the State Fair Better Baby Work,” DICH, ISA.
75. “Indiana State Fair Better Baby Activities,” Monthly Bulletin of the ISBH 30 (1927): 136–140. For examples of the group composites, see “Group of Healthy and Robust Citizens of the Future,” Indianapolis News, 1 September 1923; “Maybe Your Baby’s Picture is in This Group,” Indianapolis News, 3 September 1925.
76. Ibid; “The Better Babies Building at the Indiana State Fair,” Indianapolis News 27 (1924), 138.
77. Schweitzer to Miss Ora Marshino, 21 September 1927, 11-16-1, CF 1925–28, RG 102, CB, NACP; “The State Fair Better Babies, 1927,” Monthly Bulletin of the ISBH 30 (1927): 110–111.
78. “Proud Relatives Watch Better Babies Examined at Fair,” Indianapolis News 5 September 1927, 17; “Mothers and Babies on Hand early at State Fair Contest,” Indianapolis News, 3 September 1923, 1.
79. “Alma Louise Strohmeyer Best Baby Entered in State Contest,” Indianapolis News, 10 September 1923, 1.
80. “The Better Babies,” Monthly Bulletin of the ISBH 31 (1928): 144–145.
81. “Willy, Nilly, Every Contest Baby Undergoes Same Test,” Indianapolis News 8 September 1931, 1; “Babies and Their ‘Trainers’ Enter Ring at the State Fair,” Indianapolis News, 1 September 1924, 1.
82. “Lung Power of the Better Babies Contest Entrants 100 Percent, Despite All Else,” Indianapolis News, 8 September 1925, 10.
83. Mrs Cecil Rawlings to Schweitzer, 24 September 1922, DICH, ISA.
84. Mrs Stephen Sprong to Schweitzer, October 1922, DICH, ISA.
85. “The Indiana Plan for Child Health and Maternal Welfare,” Monthly Bulletin of the ISBH 36 (1933): 86–87.
86. Madison, Indiana Through Tradition and Change, 325.
87. Exceptions include Pernick, “Eugenics and Public Health,” and Kathy J. Cooke, “The Limits of Heredity: Nature and Nurture in American Eugenics Before 1915,” Journal of the History of Biology 31 (1998): 263–278.[PubMed]

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