Tag: Eugenics

What Britney Spears’s Forced IUD Can Teach Us About Women’s History

When Britney Spears announced that she was forced to use long-term birth control in the form of an IUD and wasn’t being allowed to have another child, the world was shocked. If the fight for reproductive rights usually centers on access to birth control and abortions, it’s in part because there’s no debate that forcefully… Read more →

“Containment and Control, Not Care or Cure”: An Interview with Elizabeth Catte on Virginia’s Eugenics Movement

In Pure America: Eugenics and the Making of Modern Virginia, Dr. Elizabeth Catte expertly investigates and contextualizes the local history of eugenics in Staunton, Virginia. The story of the former Western State Lunatic Asylum—now renovated as a luxury hotel and pricey condos—demonstrates how race, gender, class and capitalism intersect in the American eugenics movement to… Read more →

“I Assumed It Was Urgent”: Helen Hurd’s Story

As an archivist, I gain deep knowledge of people through their personal papers. I come to appreciate their senses of humor or feel moved by their personal tragedies. A decade ago, I became intrigued by a woman whose collection contains signed photographs of 1920s movie stars. Helen Hurd’s journey from Hollywood reporter to Rutgers University… Read more →

Changing the Narrative: The Importance of Centering Choice

On September 14, Dawn Wooten, a former nurse at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, filed a whistleblower complaint alleging there was a complete lack of protection against COVID-19. Wooten also testified that doctors at the center performed hysterectomies on detainees at alarmingly high rates. When speaking about one physician, Wooten stated, “everybody… Read more →

Pathologizing Politics: Eugenics and Political Discourse in the Modern United States

Carrie Buck was three months shy of her twenty-second birthday when she was forcibly sterilized on October 19, 1927. Buck’s fate was based on the 1924 Virginia eugenic sterilization law, which marked individuals for sterilization based on vague and misleading concepts such as immorality, defectiveness, weak-mindedness, and promiscuity.1 Eugenicists, social hygienists, and lawmakers passed state… Read more →

What to Expect When You’re Expecting in the Nineteenth-Century U.S.

Type “pregnancy” into any internet search engine today, and you’ll literally get a billion results. This plethora of information at our fingertips feels quite modern, and yet it has a long history: American women have long turned to the printed word for advice about their reproductive bodies. In the nineteenth century, there were many competing… Read more →

The Politics of Reproductive Rights Legislation in the “Modern” South

On May 15, 2019 Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed legislation that will make the state’s abortion laws the most restrictive in the United States. Furthermore, it will establish extremely stringent penalties for violating these laws. The Human Life Protection Act, as it is formally named, would ban abortion in nearly every instance, including rape and… Read more →

The Eugenicists on Abortion

Clarence Thomas recently issued a twenty-page opinion on the Supreme Court decision Box v. Planned Parenthood that went viral because he drew on Margaret Sanger, founder of the first birth control clinic in the U.S., and her connection to eugenics in order to argue that abortion is and historically has been a tool to control… Read more →

Land-Grant Eugenics: Spreading an Idea in Rural America

Eugenics as an explicit social program went mostly out of favor in the United States after the Second World War, although many of its underlying beliefs, methods, and goals persisted. The science and language of genetics remained. The techniques used to modify plants and animals continued. Horticulture continued to develop (“Horticulture!?” you ask. Why yes,… Read more →

From Mooktie to Juan: The Eugenic Origins of the “Defective Immigrant”

On a Monday in November 1905, a “little deaf and dumb … 10-year old Eurasian girl” called Mooktie Wood arrived in the US on the steamship Canopic. An orphan with no known relatives, Mooktie had been “picked up” by an American Pentecostal missionary, Lillian Sprague, in the wake of one of the many devastating famines… Read more →