The, perceived, problem was the degradation of America's
gene pool by immigrants and "defectives." The popular solution
was sterilization. While some researchers' advocated euthanasia and even
genocide, those measures were never accepted into the mainstream American
Sterilization began in the prison system of Indiana in 1907. A law
was passed that allowed for the involuntary sterilization of inmates.
The law extended to cover all "wards of the state," and those
"maintained wholly or in part by public expense," to include
"feebleminded, insane, criminalistic, epileptic, inebriate, diseased,
blind, deaf; deformed; and dependent." Also included on the list
were "orphans, ne'er-do-wells, tramps, the homeless and paupers."
(Dolan) Virginia passed similar laws in an effort to ease the tax burden
placed on the state by wards of insane asylums and prisons. Sterilization,
however, did not receive widespread support until the late 1920s.
Henry Laughlin, superintendent of the Station for Experimental Evolution
at Cold Spring Harbor, in N.Y., was a huge advocate for sterilization
and made it his mission to bring sterilization in to the mainstream
of the movement. A eugenics sterilization law that he proposed later
became the model for sterilization laws in 12 states and also served
as a model for the Nazis. (Dolan)
In 1933 the Nazi government passed a "Law for the Prevention of
Congenitally Ill Progeny," allowing for the involuntary sterilization
of over 35,000 people. Laughlin was so proud, that Germany had followed
suite, he translated the law into English and posted it in several eugenics
journals. Laughlin, along with five other Americans, was later awarded
an honorary degree from the University of Heidelberg for his work in
By 1924 more than 3,000 people had been involuntarily sterilized in
the U.S. In 1927 the case of Buck v. Bell set a new precedent for eugenics
law and was perhaps one of the saddest stories of the movement. Carrie
Buck was a 17-year-old girl who lived in Charlottesville, Virginia.
She was chosen as the first to test the new Virginia sterilization law.
Her mother had been committed to the Virginia Colony for the Epileptic
and feebleminded. Carrie was in the care of foster parents and had a
child, but was unmarried. The state claimed that Carrie was unfit to
reproduce because she was "feebleminded," a trait she shared
with her mother, and promiscuous.
The state set out to convict Carrie and used any means necessary to
do it. Dr. Albert Priddy, the Colony superintendent, testified against
Carrie saying "These people belong to the shiftless, ignorant,
and worthless class of anti-social whites of the South."
Harry Laughlin sent a letter reaffirming the claims of Priddy as to
the defective nature of the Bucks, though he had never met either of
them. Arthur Estabrook traveled to Virginia to testify against the Bucks
and upon examination of carries baby concluded that the baby was "below
average." On this testimony the judge concluded that Carrie was
unfit to reproduce and should be sterilized before she had anymore "defective"
The courts formal opinion was issued by Supreme Court 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
Three generations of imbeciles
are enough." (Dolan) Carrie was sterilized and the case had set
a precedent in eugenics law.
The worst part of the story is that recent research shows that Carrie
was not promiscuous, "feebleminded," or the mother of a "below
average" baby. Carries child was not a product of licentious behavior,
but rape by a relative of her foster parents. As for being "feebleminded";
Carries 1st grade report card showed her to be a "B" student.
It has also been discovered that Carrie's attorney conspired, with the
state, against her. The examination performed by Estabrook has also
been brought to light as a sham. (Dolan)
Carrie's case was not the only tragedy of the ignorance and bigotry
of the movement. The sterilization of "defectives" continued
into the mid-1970s. The total number of people sterilized in the U.S.
is above 60,000. Most of these were innocent people whose only crime
was not being able to stand up for themselves.
The American eugenics movement served as a model for which the Nazi
party based its "racial hygiene" program. Between 360,000
and 375,000 people were sterilized under the Nazi party. (Weaver) The
"racial hygiene" program was followed by the "final solution."
The "final solution" to the "Jewish problem" was
decided to be extermination.
During the reign of the Nazi party more than 5,900,000 Jews were murdered
and they got the idea from us.