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Eugenics

Karen Aderer, University of Southern
            Mississippi
Why are ethics and values so
important in our profession?
Definition of Eugenics
• The science of using controlled, selective
  breeding to improve hereditary qualities of
  the human race
• Eugenic theory encompassed both
   – Positive eugenics – encouraging repro of those genetically fit
   – Negative eugenics – aims to prevent those deemed
     physically, mentally or morally unfit to procreate
      • Generally by sterilization or segregation
• It is true that the right to beget children is a natural and
  constitutional right, but it is equally true that no citizen
  has any rights superior to the common welfare. Acting
  for the public good, the State, in the exercise of its police
  powers, may always impose reasonable restrictions upon
  the natural and constitutional rights of its citizens.
  Measured by its injurious effect upon society, what right
  has any citizen or class of citizens to beget children with
  an inherited tendency to crime, feeble-minded, idiocy or
  imbecility? This is the right for which Willie Smith is here
  contending….Under the existing circumstances it was not
  only its undoubted right, but it was its duty to enact
  some legislation that would protect the people and
  preserve the race from the known effects of the
  procreation of children by the feeble-minded, the idiots
  and the imbeciles (Smith v. Wayne Probate Judge, 1925)
Francis Galton
• “Father” of Eugenics
• English Scientist in late 1800’s
• Chose Greek word “eugenes” meaning “noble
  birth”
• Inspired by Darwin’s On the Origin of Species
• Believed biology responsible for not just
  physical characteristics but mental as well
Political and Social Climate
• Britain – Mid to late 1800’s
  – Fear of education of the lower classes

  In Britain and US – late 1800’s – early 1900’s:
    High Birth Rate
    Fears of “overbreeding” of lower classes
    Problems of Poverty
    Interbreeding with Immigrants
The American Eugenics movement
• Stemmed from Social Darwinism and Galton’s
  ideas
• At height in the 1920’s
• Many became convinced that traits like
  intelligence, sexual orientation and criminality
  were caused by bad blood
Widespread Acceptance of Eugenics
• Charles Darwin, Alexander Graham
  Bell, Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt
• John Harvey Kellogg:
  – “I wish we had the power to do that very thing….it
    certainly would be a great deal better than to
    have the U.S. a great stock farm, breeding
    mongrels – which is what we are doing now”
Eugenics Movement
• US Supreme Court ruled in favor of involuntary
  sterilization laws for inmates in mental instit in 1927
• By 1941 – 33 states had laws pertaining to the
  handicapped, convicts and “degenerates”
• Foreign born, African Americans and Mexicans all
  operated on at disproportionate rates
• Impoverished women receiving public assistance
  were told they would have to undergo sterilization to
  continue to receive benefits
What does all this have to do with
         Social Work?
Fitter Family Contests
• Example of positive Eugenics
• Purpose: To encourage the fit to
  reproduce, raise racial consciousness, bring
  public awareness to the eugenics agenda and
  emphasize the value of marriage and the
  family
• Took place in “human stock” sections of fair
• Also “Better Babies” contests
Fitter Family Contest: Kansas State Fair
Fitter Family Contests
• Different Categories
• Judged on physical, mental, moral traits
• Examined by doctors, historians, social
  workers, dentists, etc.
• Grades given to each member along with
  examination record
• Copy sent to Eugenics Records Office
Fitter Family Medal
Negative Eugenics – Forced Sterilizations

• Hoped to curtail problems of mental
  illness, crime, low IQ
• US Supreme Court ruled in favor of for
  inmates in mental institutions (1927)
• By 1941, 33 states had laws pertaining to
  handicapped, ‘feeble-minded’ convicts and
  ‘degenerates’
Stanford Binet IQ Test
• Lewis Terman
 It is safe to predict that in the near future intelligence tests will
   bring tens of thousands of these high-grade defectives under
   the surveillance and protection of society. This will ultimately
   result in curtailing the reproduction of feeble-mindedness and
   in the elimination of an enormous amount of
   crime, pauperism and industrial inefficiency….
Not all criminals are feeble-minded but all feeble-minded are at
   least potential criminals. That every feeble-minded woman is
   a potential prostitute would hardly be disputed by
   anyone….considering the tremendous cost of vice and crime it
   is evident that psychological testing has found here one of its
   richest applications. (Terman, 1916)
Sterilizations
• California study (Popenoe)
  – Immigrants, African Americans and Mexicans all
    operated on disproportionately
  – Most in either working or lower middle class
  – Early 20’s and younger
  – Listed as: schizophrenia, epilepsy, mental
    deficiency, promiscuousness, masturbators, havin
    g child out of wedlock
  – Frequently tied to benefits
Nazis and Eugenics
• Nazi Hereditary Health courts
• Eugenic Sterilization Law
  – Compulsary sterilizations of all citizens with
    hereditary afflictions
     • Blindness, deafness, physical deformities

     • Rassen-hygiene led to genocide
Eugenics in America after Nazi Era
• Eye-opening for Americans as to dangers of
  Eugenics
• Dampening effect
• Sterilization laws stayed on books in some
  states until 1979
Relevancy of Eugenics Today
• Human Genome Mapping Project
• Identify markers for congenital defects such as
  Down Syndrome and cystic fibrosis and future
  vulnerabilities (cancer, diabetes)
• Identify markers for personality traits
• Lazy monkeys / monogamous
  voles/homosexual mice
• Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis – only
  wealthy can afford
Discrimination
• C.R.A.C.K. (1999)
  – Monetary rewards for sterilization and long term
    birth control for crack addicts
  – African Americans disproportionately represented
    at 33.3% when only 12-13% of population
  – Based upon myth of “crack babies
C.R.A.C.K. Flyer
• Paul Gray – Time Magazine – “Cursed by Eugenics”
  – “The rise and fall of the theory known as eugenics is in
    every respect a cautionary tale. The early eugenicists were
    usually well-meaning and progressive types. They had
    imbibed their Darwin and decided that the process of
    natural selection would improve if it were guided by
    human intelligence. They did not know they were shaping
    a rationale for atrocities.”

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Eugenics

  • 1. Eugenics Karen Aderer, University of Southern Mississippi
  • 2. Why are ethics and values so important in our profession?
  • 3. Definition of Eugenics • The science of using controlled, selective breeding to improve hereditary qualities of the human race • Eugenic theory encompassed both – Positive eugenics – encouraging repro of those genetically fit – Negative eugenics – aims to prevent those deemed physically, mentally or morally unfit to procreate • Generally by sterilization or segregation
  • 4. • It is true that the right to beget children is a natural and constitutional right, but it is equally true that no citizen has any rights superior to the common welfare. Acting for the public good, the State, in the exercise of its police powers, may always impose reasonable restrictions upon the natural and constitutional rights of its citizens. Measured by its injurious effect upon society, what right has any citizen or class of citizens to beget children with an inherited tendency to crime, feeble-minded, idiocy or imbecility? This is the right for which Willie Smith is here contending….Under the existing circumstances it was not only its undoubted right, but it was its duty to enact some legislation that would protect the people and preserve the race from the known effects of the procreation of children by the feeble-minded, the idiots and the imbeciles (Smith v. Wayne Probate Judge, 1925)
  • 5. Francis Galton • “Father” of Eugenics • English Scientist in late 1800’s • Chose Greek word “eugenes” meaning “noble birth” • Inspired by Darwin’s On the Origin of Species • Believed biology responsible for not just physical characteristics but mental as well
  • 6. Political and Social Climate • Britain – Mid to late 1800’s – Fear of education of the lower classes In Britain and US – late 1800’s – early 1900’s: High Birth Rate Fears of “overbreeding” of lower classes Problems of Poverty Interbreeding with Immigrants
  • 7. The American Eugenics movement • Stemmed from Social Darwinism and Galton’s ideas • At height in the 1920’s • Many became convinced that traits like intelligence, sexual orientation and criminality were caused by bad blood
  • 8. Widespread Acceptance of Eugenics • Charles Darwin, Alexander Graham Bell, Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt • John Harvey Kellogg: – “I wish we had the power to do that very thing….it certainly would be a great deal better than to have the U.S. a great stock farm, breeding mongrels – which is what we are doing now”
  • 9. Eugenics Movement • US Supreme Court ruled in favor of involuntary sterilization laws for inmates in mental instit in 1927 • By 1941 – 33 states had laws pertaining to the handicapped, convicts and “degenerates” • Foreign born, African Americans and Mexicans all operated on at disproportionate rates • Impoverished women receiving public assistance were told they would have to undergo sterilization to continue to receive benefits
  • 10. What does all this have to do with Social Work?
  • 11. Fitter Family Contests • Example of positive Eugenics • Purpose: To encourage the fit to reproduce, raise racial consciousness, bring public awareness to the eugenics agenda and emphasize the value of marriage and the family • Took place in “human stock” sections of fair • Also “Better Babies” contests
  • 12. Fitter Family Contest: Kansas State Fair
  • 13.
  • 14.
  • 15.
  • 16. Fitter Family Contests • Different Categories • Judged on physical, mental, moral traits • Examined by doctors, historians, social workers, dentists, etc. • Grades given to each member along with examination record • Copy sent to Eugenics Records Office
  • 17.
  • 19. Negative Eugenics – Forced Sterilizations • Hoped to curtail problems of mental illness, crime, low IQ • US Supreme Court ruled in favor of for inmates in mental institutions (1927) • By 1941, 33 states had laws pertaining to handicapped, ‘feeble-minded’ convicts and ‘degenerates’
  • 20. Stanford Binet IQ Test • Lewis Terman It is safe to predict that in the near future intelligence tests will bring tens of thousands of these high-grade defectives under the surveillance and protection of society. This will ultimately result in curtailing the reproduction of feeble-mindedness and in the elimination of an enormous amount of crime, pauperism and industrial inefficiency…. Not all criminals are feeble-minded but all feeble-minded are at least potential criminals. That every feeble-minded woman is a potential prostitute would hardly be disputed by anyone….considering the tremendous cost of vice and crime it is evident that psychological testing has found here one of its richest applications. (Terman, 1916)
  • 21. Sterilizations • California study (Popenoe) – Immigrants, African Americans and Mexicans all operated on disproportionately – Most in either working or lower middle class – Early 20’s and younger – Listed as: schizophrenia, epilepsy, mental deficiency, promiscuousness, masturbators, havin g child out of wedlock – Frequently tied to benefits
  • 22. Nazis and Eugenics • Nazi Hereditary Health courts • Eugenic Sterilization Law – Compulsary sterilizations of all citizens with hereditary afflictions • Blindness, deafness, physical deformities • Rassen-hygiene led to genocide
  • 23. Eugenics in America after Nazi Era • Eye-opening for Americans as to dangers of Eugenics • Dampening effect • Sterilization laws stayed on books in some states until 1979
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  • 33. Relevancy of Eugenics Today • Human Genome Mapping Project • Identify markers for congenital defects such as Down Syndrome and cystic fibrosis and future vulnerabilities (cancer, diabetes) • Identify markers for personality traits • Lazy monkeys / monogamous voles/homosexual mice • Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis – only wealthy can afford
  • 34. Discrimination • C.R.A.C.K. (1999) – Monetary rewards for sterilization and long term birth control for crack addicts – African Americans disproportionately represented at 33.3% when only 12-13% of population – Based upon myth of “crack babies
  • 36. • Paul Gray – Time Magazine – “Cursed by Eugenics” – “The rise and fall of the theory known as eugenics is in every respect a cautionary tale. The early eugenicists were usually well-meaning and progressive types. They had imbibed their Darwin and decided that the process of natural selection would improve if it were guided by human intelligence. They did not know they were shaping a rationale for atrocities.”