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Re: War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to

PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 9:31 pm
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A Note on the Text

War Against the weak utilized published and private sources spanning a century, and in several languages, and as such presented numerous textual challenges. We relied upon established style conventions as often as possible, and, when required, adapted and innovated styles. Readers may notice certain inconsistencies. Some explanation follows.

Every phrase of quoted material has remained as true as possible to the original terminology, punctuation and capitalization, even to the point of preserving archaic and sometimes offensive terms when used by the original source. No attempt was made to filter out ethnic denigrations when they appeared in period materials. Eugenicists in America called themselves eugenicists, but in Britain referred to themselves as eugenists, and sometimes the usage crossed; we used eugenicists in narrative but eugenists whenever it appeared in a specific quotation. In several instances we quoted from profoundly misspelled handwritten letters, and it was our decision to transcribe these as authentically as possible.

When referring to materials originally published in German, journals and magazines are cited by their legal name in German, such as Archiv fur Rossen- und Gesellschaftsbiologie, with the first usage including a translation in parentheses. Titles of books are referred to by their English translations; the first usage includes the original German title in parentheses. When multiple translations of a book title or organization name exist, we selected the most appropriate. We made an exception when a book's title rose to the public awareness of a Mein Kampf. We used the German fur whenever possible but were compelled to use the variant fuer when it was used in American headlines.

For most points of style, this book has followed The Chicago Manual of Style. Unfortunately, not even the near-thousand pages of standards set forth in Chicago could cover all the varied forms in which primary information was received. This is especially true when dealing with electronic sources such as Internet web pages, and actual documents -- new and old -- reproduced in PDF formats, electronic books and other Internet sources. This is one of the first history books to incorporate widespread use of legitimate materials on the Internet. For example, we obtained copies of Papal encyclicals from the Vatican's website, PDFs of original historical programs, and electronic books -- all on the Internet. These are legitimate materials when used with extreme caution.

Citing the Internet is a profound challenge. Given the lack of style consensus, and the fact that websites are continuously updated and rearranged, it was necessary to create a new style for Internet citations. We decided to include just two key elements: the website's home page address and the title of the document. General search engines such as Google and site-specific search engines will be the best means of locating the content of these cited pages. Naturally we retained printouts of all cited web materials.

Re: War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to

PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 9:55 pm
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PART ONE: From Peapod to Persecution

CHAPTER 1: Mountain Sweeps

When the sun breaks over Brush Mountain and its neighboring slopes in southwestern Virginia, it paints a magical, almost iconic image of America's pastoral splendor. Yet there are many painful stories, long unspoken, lurking in these gentle hills, especially along the hiking paths and dirt roads that lead to shanties, cabins and other rustic encampments. Decades later, some of the victims have been compelled to speak.

In the 1930s, the Brush Mountain hill folk, like many of the clans scattered throughout the isolated Appalachian slopes, lived in abject poverty. With little education, often without running water or indoor plumbing, and possessing few amenities, they seemed beyond the reach of social progress. Speaking with the indistinct drawls and slurred vestigial accents that marked them as hillbillies, dressed in rough-hewn clothing or hand-me- downs, and sometimes diseased or poorly developed due to the long-term effects of squalor and malnutrition, they were easy to despise. They were easily considered alien. Quite simply, polite Virginia society considered them white trash.

Yet Brush Mountain people lived their own vibrant rural highlands culture. They sang, played mountain instruments with fiery virtuosity to toe-tapping rhythms, told and retold engaging stories, danced jigs, sewed beautiful quilts and sturdy clothing, hunted fox and deer, fished a pan full and fried it up. [1] Most of all, they hoped for better -- better health, better jobs, better schooling, a better life for their children. Hill people did produce great men and women who would increasingly take their places in modern society. But hopes for betterment often became irrelevant because these people inhabited a realm outside the margins of America's dream. As such, their lives became a stopping place for America's long biological nightmare.

A single day in the 1930s was typical. The Montgomery County sheriff drove up unannounced onto Brush Mountain and began one of his many raids against the hill families considered socially inadequate. More precisely, these hill families were deemed "unfit," that is, unfit to exist in nature. On this day the Montgomery County sheriff grabbed six brothers from one family, bundled them into several vehicles and then disappeared down the road. Earlier, the sheriff had come for the boys' sister. Another time, deputies snared two cousins. [2]

"I don't know how many others they took, but they were after a lot of them," recalled Howard Hale, a former Montgomery County supervisor, as he relived the period for a local Virginia newspaper reporter a half century later. From Brush Mountain, the sheriff's human catch was trucked to a variety of special destinations, such as Western State Hospital in Staunton, Virginia. Western State Hospital, formerly known as the Western Lunatic Asylum, loomed as a tall-columned colonial edifice near a hill at the edge of town. The asylum was once known for its so-called "moral therapy," devised by Director Dr. Francis T. Stribling, who later became one of the thirteen founding members of the American Psychiatric Association. By the time Brush Mountain hillbillies were transported there, Western housed not only those deemed insane, but also the so-called "feebleminded." [3]

No one was quite sure how "feebleminded" was defined. [4] No matter. The county authorities were certain that the hill folk swept up in their raids were indeed mentally -- and genetically -- defective. As such, they would not be permitted to breed more of their kind.

How? These simple mountain people were systematically sterilized under a Virginia law compelling such operations for those ruled unfit. Often, the teenage boys and girls placed under the surgeon's knife did not really comprehend the ramifications. Sometimes they were told they were undergoing an appendectomy or some other unspecified procedure. Generally, they were released after the operation. Many of the victims did not discover why they could not bear children until decades later when the truth was finally revealed to them by local Virginia investigative reporters and government reformers. [5]

Western State Hospital in Staunton was not Virginia's only sterilization mill. Others dotted the state's map, including the Colony for Epileptics and the Feebleminded near Lynchburg, the nation's largest facility of its kind and the state's greatest center of sterilization. Lynchburg and Western were augmented by hospitals at Petersburg, Williamsburg and Marion. Lower-class white boys and girls from the mountains, from the outskirts of small towns and big city slums were sterilized in assembly line fashion. So were American Indians, Blacks, epileptics and those suffering from certain maladies -- day after day, thousands of them as though orchestrated by some giant machine. [6]

Retired Montgomery County Welfare Director Kate Bolton recalled with pride, "The children were legally committed by the court for being feebleminded, and there was a waiting list from here to Lynchburg." She added, "If you've seen as much suffering and depravity as I have, you can only hope and pray no one else goes through something like that. We had to stop it at the root." [7]

"Eventually, you knew your time would come," recalled Buck Smith about his Lynchburg experience. His name is not really Buck Smith. But he was too ashamed, nearly a half century later, to allow his real name to be used during an interview with a local Virginia reporter. "Everybody knew it. A lot of us just joked about it .... We weren't growed up enough to think about it. We didn't know what it meant. To me it was just that 'my time had come."' [8]

Buck vividly recounted the day he was sterilized at Lynchburg. He was fifteen years old. "The call came over the dormitory just like always, and I knew they were ready for me," he remembered. "There was no use fighting it. They gave me some pills that made me drowsy and then they wheeled me up to the operating room." The doctor wielding the scalpel was Lynchburg Superintendent Dr. D. L. Harrell Jr., "who was like a father to me," continued Buck. Dr. Harrell muttered, "Buck, I'm going to have to tie your tubes and then maybe you'll be able to go home." Drowsy, but awake, Buck witnessed the entire procedure. Dr. Harrell pinched Buck's scrotum, made a small incision and then deftly sliced the sperm ducts, rendering Buck sterile. "I watched the whole thing. I was awake the whole time," Buck recalled. [9]

Buck Smith was sterilized because the state declared that as a feebleminded individual, he was fundamentally incapable of caring for himself. Virginia authorities feared that if Buck were permitted to reproduce, his offspring would inherit immutable genetic traits for poverty and low intelligence. Poverty, or "pauperism," as it was called at the time, was scientifically held by many esteemed doctors and universities to be a genetic defect, transmitted from generation to generation. Buck Smith was hardly feebleminded, and he spoke with simple eloquence about his mentality. "I've worked eleven years at the same job," he said, "and haven't missed more than three days of work. There's nothing wrong with me except my lack of education." [10]

"I'll never understand why they sterilized me," Buck Smith disconsolately told the local reporter. "I'll never understand that. They [Lynchburg] gave me what life I have and they took a lot of my life away from me. Having children is supposed to be part of the human race." [11]

The reporter noticed a small greeting card behind Buck Smith. The sterilized man had eventually married and formed a lasting bond with his stepchildren. The card was from those stepchildren and read: "Thinking of you, Daddy." Through tears, Buck Smith acknowledged the card, "They call me Daddy." [12]

Mary Donald was equally pained when she recalled her years of anguish following her sterilization at Lynchburg when she was only eleven. Several years later, she was "released" to her husband-to-be, and then enjoyed a good marriage for eighteen years. But "he loved kids," she remembered. "I lay in bed and cried because I couldn't give him a son," she recounted in her heavily accented but articulate mountain drawl. "You know, men want a son to carry on their name. He said it didn't matter. But as years went by, he changed. We got divorced and he married someone else." With these words, Mary broke down and wept. [13]

Like so many, Mary never understood what was happening. She recalled the day doctors told her. "They ask me, 'Do you know what this meeting is for?' I said, 'No, sir, I don't.' 'Well this is a meeting you go through when you have to have a serious operation, and it's for your health.' That's the way they expressed it. 'Well,' I said, 'if it's for my health, then I guess I'll go through with it.' See, I didn't know any difference." Mary didn't learn she had been sterilized until five years after her operation. [14]

The surgeon's blade cut widely. Sometimes the victims were simply truants, petty thieves or just unattended boys captured by the sheriffs before they could escape. Marauding county welfare officials, backed by deputies, would take the youngsters into custody, and before long the boys would be shipped to a home for the feebleminded. Many were forced into virtual slave labor, sometimes being paid as little as a quarter for a full week of contract labor. Runaways and the recalcitrant were subject to beatings and torturous ninety-day stints in a darkened "blind room." Their release was generally conditional on family acquiescence to their sterilization. [15]

Mary Donald, "Buck Smith," the brothers from Brush Mountain and many more whose names have long been forgotten are among the more than eight thousand Virginians sterilized as a result of coercion, stealth and deception in a wide-ranging program to prevent unwanted social, racial and ethnic groups from propagating. But the agony perpetrated against these people was hardly a local story of medical abuse. It did not end at the Virginia state line. Virginia's victims were among some sixty thousand who were forcibly sterilized all across the United States, almost half of them in California. [16]

Moreover, the story of America's reproductive persecution constitutes far more than just a protracted medical travesty. These simple Virginia people, who thought they were isolated victims, plucked from their remote mountain homes and urban slums, were actually part of a grandiose, decades-long American movement of social and biological cleansing determined to obliterate individuals and families deemed inferior. The intent was to create a new and superior mankind.

The movement was called eugenics. It was conceived at the onset of the twentieth century and implemented by America's wealthiest, most powerful and most learned men against the nation's most vulnerable and helpless. Eugenicists sought to methodically terminate all the racial and ethnic groups, and social classes, they disliked or feared. It was nothing less than America's legalized campaign to breed a super race -- and not just any super race. Eugenicists wanted a purely Germanic and Nordic super race, enjoying biological dominion over all others. [17]

Nor was America's crusade a mere domestic crime. Using the power of money, prestige and international academic exchanges, American eugenicists exported their philosophy to nations throughout the world, including Germany. Decades after a eugenics campaign of mass sterilization and involuntary incarceration of "defectives" was institutionalized in the United States, the American effort to create a super Nordic race came to the attention of Adolf Hitler.

Those declared unfit by Virginia did not know it, but they were connected to a global effort of money, manipulation and pseudoscience that stretched from rural America right into the sterilization wards, euthanasia vans and concentration camps of the Third Reich. Prior to World War II, the Nazis practiced eugenics with the open approval of America's eugenic crusaders. As Joseph DeJarnette, superintendent of Virginia's Western State Hospital, complained in 1934, "Hitler is beating us at our own game." [18]

Eventually, out of sight of the world, in Buchenwald and Auschwitz, eugenic doctors like Josef Mengele would carry on the research begun just years earlier with American financial support, including grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Institution. Only after the secrets of Nazi eugenics horrified the world, only after Nuremberg declared compulsory sterilization a crime against humanity, did American eugenics recede, adopt an enlightened view and then resurface as "genetics" and "human engineering." [19] Even still, involuntary sterilization continued for decades as policy and practice in America.

True, the victims of Virginia and hundreds of thousands more like them in countries across the world were denied children. But they did give birth to a burning desire to understand how the most powerful, intelligent, scholarly and respectable individuals and organizations in America came to mount a war against the weakest Americans to create a super race. Just as pressing is this question: Will the twenty-first-century successor to the eugenics movement, now known as "human engineering," employ enough safeguards to ensure that the biological crimes of the twentieth century will never happen again?

Re: War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to

PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 10:09 pm
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CHAPTER 2: Evolutions

Mankind's quest for perfection has always turned dark. Man has always existed in perpetual chaos. Continuously catapulted from misery to exhilaration and back, humanity has repeatedly struggled to overcome vulnerability and improve upon its sense of strength. The instinct is to "play God" or at least mediate His providence. Too often, this impulse is not just to improve, but to repress, and even destroy those deemed inferior.

Eventually, the Judeo-Christian world codified the principle that all human life should be valued. A measure of our turbulent civilization and even of our humanity has always been how well people have adhered to that precept. Indeed, as societies became more enlightened, they extended respect for life to an ever-widening circle of people, including the less fortunate and the less strong.

Racism, group hatred, xenophobia and enmity toward one's neighbors have existed in almost every culture throughout history. But it took millennia for these deeply personal, almost tribal hostilities to migrate into the safe harbor of scientific thought, thus rationalizing destructive actions against the despised or unwanted.

Science offers the most potent weapons in man's determination to resist the call of moral restraint. To forge the new science of human oppression -- a race science -- several completely disconnected threads of history twined. Indeed, it took centuries of development for three disciplines -- socioeconomics, philosophy and biology -- to come together into a resilient and fast-moving pseudoscience that would change the world forever.

Perhaps the story truly begins with the simple concept of charity. Charity is older than the Bible. [1] Organized refuges for the poor and helpless date to the Roman era and earlier. [2] The concept of extending a helping hand was established in the earliest Judeo-Christian doctrine. "There will always be poor people in the land, therefore, I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land," declared Deuteronomy. [3] Jesus Christ based his ministry on helping the helpless -- the lame, the blind, lepers, the mentally deranged, and social outcasts such as thieves and prostitutes. He proclaimed, "The meek ... shall inherit the earth." [4]

After the Roman Empire adopted Christianity, the Canones Arabici Nicaeni of 325 A.D. mandated the expansion of hospitals and other monastic institutions for the sick and needy. [5] During medieval times, the church was chiefly responsible for "houses of pity." [6] In England, such charitable institutions for the poor were abundantly required.

The Black Death killed millions across Europe between 1348 and 1350. Labor shortages motivated bands of itinerant workers and beggars to wander from town to town in search of the highest paying pittance. As they wandered, many resorted to petty thievery, highway robbery, and worse. With their impoverished existence carne the associated afflictions of illiteracy, poor health, rampant disease and physical disability. [7]

During the early and mid-1500s, economic upheavals took their toll on all but the richest of the nobility. Silver from the New World and official coinage debasements caused prices to rise, increasing the suffering of the poor. Tribes of vagrants migrated from the countryside to villages. Later, in response to the booming wool market, England's landowners switched from estate farming to vast sheep breeding enterprises. Consequently, great numbers of farm workers were evicted from their peasant domiciles, bloating the hordes of the unemployed and destitute. This teeming hardship only increased the church's role in tending to a multitude of the wretched and poor. [8]

Everything changed in the 1530s when Pope Clement VII refused to annul Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Furious, King Henry seized church property and monasteries in England, and charitable institutions slowly became a governmental responsibility. [9] Tending to the poor was expensive but the alternative was food riots. [10]

By the early sixteenth century, the first poor laws were enacted in England. Such measures categorized the poor into two groups. The deserving poor were the very young and the very old, the infirm and families who fell on financial difficulties due to a change in circumstances. The undeserving poor were those who had turned to crime -- such as highwaymen, pickpockets, and professional beggars -- and also included paupers who roamed the country looking for a day's work. The undeserving poor were considered an affliction upon society, and the law laid out harsh punishment. Poverty, or more precisely, vagrancy, was criminalized. Indeed, the concept of criminal vagrancy for those with "no visible means of support" has persisted ever since. [11]

Despite all attempts to contain welfare spending, England's enormous expenditures only escalated. In 1572, compulsory poor law taxes were assessed to each community to pay for poor houses and other institutions that cared for the deranged, diseased and decrepit among them. These taxes created a burden that many resented. [12] Now it was the poor and helpless against the rest of society.

Indeed, a distinct pauper class had emerged. These people were perceived by the establishment as both an arrogant lot who assumed an inherited "right to relief," and as seething candidates for riot and revolution. Overcrowded slums and dismal poorhouses caused England to reform its poor laws and poverty policies several times during the subsequent three hundred years. The urbanization of poverty was massively accelerated by the Industrial Revolution, which established grim, sunless sweatshops and factories that in turn demanded -- and exploited -- cheap labor. Appalling conditions became the norm, inspiring Charles Dickens to rouse the public in novels such as Oliver Twist. Despite progress, by the mid-1800s the state was still spending £1,400 a year (equivalent to about $125,000 in modern money) per 10,000 paupers. The ruling classes increasingly rebelled against "taxing the industrious to support the indolent." [13]

Soot-smeared and highly reproductive, England's paupers were looked down upon as a human scourge. The establishment's derogatory language began to define these subclasses as subhumans. For example, a popular 1869 book, The Seven Curses of London, deprecated "those male and female pests of every civilized community whose natural complexion is dirt, whose brow would sweat at the bare idea of earning their bread, and whose stock-in- trade is rags and impudence." [14]

England's complex of state-sponsored custodial institutions stretched across a distant horizon. Over time, the proliferation of poor houses, lunacy asylums, orphanages, health clinics, epilepsy colonies, rescue shelters, homes for the feebleminded and prisons inevitably turned basic Christian charity into what began to be viewed as a social plague.

While Britain's perceived social plague intensified, a new social philosophy began evolving in Europe. In 1798, English economist Thomas Malthus published a watershed theory on the nature of poverty and the controlling socioeconomic systems at play. Malthus reasoned that a finite food supply would naturally inhibit a geometrically expanding human race. He called for population control by moral restraint. He even argued that in many instances charitable assistance promoted generation-to-generation poverty and simply made no sense in the natural scheme of human progress. Many who rallied behind Malthus's ideas ignored his complaints about an unjust social and economic structure, and instead focused on his rejection of the value of helping the poor. [15]

In the 1850s, agnostic English philosopher Herbert Spencer published Social Statics, asserting that man and society, in truth, followed the laws of cold science, not the will of a caring, almighty God. Spencer popularized a powerful new term: "survival of the fittest." He declared that man and society were evolving according to their inherited nature. Through evolution, the "fittest" would naturally continue to perfect society. And the "unfit" would naturally become more impoverished, less educated and ultimately die off, as well they should. Indeed, Spencer saw the misery and starvation of the pauper classes as an inevitable decree of a "far-seeing benevolence," that is, the laws of nature. He unambiguously insisted, "The whole effort of nature is to get rid of such, and to make room for better .... If they are not sufficiently complete to live, they die, and it is best they should die." Spencer left no room for doubt, declaring, "all imperfection must disappear." As such, he completely denounced charity and instead extolled the purifying elimination of the "unfit." The unfit, he argued, were predestined by their nature to an existence of downwardly spiraling degradation. [16]

As social and economic gulfs created greater generation-to-generation disease and dreariness among the increasing poor, and as new philosophies suggested society would only improve when the unwashed classes faded away, a third voice entered the debate. That new voice was the voice of hereditary science.

In 1859, some years after Spencer began to use the term "survival of the fittest," the naturalist Charles Darwin summed up years of observation in a lengthy abstract entitled The Origin of Species. Darwin espoused "natural selection" as the survival process governing most living things in a world of limited resources and changing environments. He confirmed that his theory "is the doctrine of Malthus applied with manifold force to the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms; for in this case, there can be no artificial increase of food, and no prudential restraint from marriage." [17]

Darwin was writing about a "natural world" distinct from man. But it wasn't long before leading thinkers were distilling the ideas of Malthus, Spencer and Darwin into a new concept, bearing a name never used by Darwin himself: social Darwinism. [18] Now social planners were rallying around the notion that in the struggle to survive in a harsh world, many humans were not only less worthy, many were actually destined to wither away as a rite of progress. To preserve the weak and the needy was, in essence, an unnatural act.

Since ancient times, man has understood the principles of breeding and the lasting quality of inherited traits. The Old Testament describes Jacob's clever breeding of his and Laban's flocks, as spotted and streaked goats were mated to create spotted and streaked offspring. Centuries later, Jesus sermonized, "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." [19]

Good stock and preferred traits were routinely propagated in the fields and the flocks. Bad stock and unwanted traits were culled. Breeding, whether in grapes or sheep, was considered a skill subject to luck and God's grace.

But during the five years between 1863 and 1868, three great men of biology would all promulgate a theory of evolution dependent upon identifiable hereditary "units" within the cells. These units could actually be seen under a microscope. Biology entered a new age when its visionaries proclaimed that good and bad traits were not bestowed by God as an inscrutable divinity, but transmitted from generation to generation according to the laws of science.

Spencer, in 1863, published Principles of Biology, which suggested that heredity was under the control of "physiological units." [20]

Three years later, the obscure Czech monk Gregor Mendel published his experiments with smooth-skinned and wrinkled peas; he constructed a predictable hereditary system dependent on inherited cellular "elements." [21]

Finally, in 1868, Darwin postulated the notion that "the units throw off minute granules which are dispersed throughout the entire system .... They are collected from all parts of the system to constitute the sexual elements, and their development in the next generation forms a new being; but they are likewise capable of transmission in a dormant state to future generations." Darwin named these minute granules gemmules. [22]

By any name, science had now pulled away the shroud covering the genetic realities of mankind.

Far-flung notions of social planning, philosophy and biology -- centuries in the making -- now gravitated toward each other, culminating in a fascinating new ideology that sought to improve the human race -- not by war or charity, but by the progressive logic of science and mathematics. The driving force behind this revelation was not really a scientist, although his scientific methodology influenced many scientists. He was not really a philosopher, although his ability to weave scientific principles into social philosophy spawned fiery movements of dogma. He was not really a physician, although his analyses of human physiology ultimately governed much of the surgical and medical profession. The man was Francis J. Galton. He was above all a clever and compulsive counter -- a counter of things, of phenomena, of traits, of all manner of occurrences, obvious and obscure, real and conjured. If any pattern could be discerned in the cacophony of life, Galton's piercing ratiocination could detect it and just maybe systemize it to the level of predictability.

Galton never finished his studies at London's King College Medical School and instead studied math at Cambridge, where he quickly became an aficionado of the emerging field of statistics. [23] He joyously applied his arithmetic prowess and razor-like powers of observation to everyday life, seeking correlation. Galton distinguished himself by his ability to recognize patterns, making him an almost unique connoisseur of nature -- sampling, tasting and discerning new character in seemingly random flavors of chaos.

More than correlation, Galton's greatest quest was prediction. To his mind, what he could predict, he could outwit -- even conquer. And so Galton's never-ending impulse was to stand before life and defy its mysteries, one by one, with his indomitable powers of comprehension.

Perhaps counting relieved the throbbing of his constant headaches or was an intellectual consequence of his insatiable desire to excel. More than once, he succumbed to palpitations and even a nervous breakdown amidst the fury of his cogitations. Even his visage seemed sculpted to seek and measure. A pair of bushy eyebrows jutted out above his orbits almost like two hands cupped over the brow of a man peering into an unfathomable distance. At the same time, his dense windswept sideburns swerved back dramatically just behind his earlobes, as though his mind was speeding faster than the rest of his head. [24]

Galton counted the people fidgeting in an audience and tried to relate it to levels of interest. He tried to make sense of waves in his bathtub. He gazed from afar at well-endowed women, using a sextant to record their measurements. "As the ladies turned themselves ... to be admired," wrote Galton, "I surveyed them in every way and subsequently measured the distance of the spot where they stood ... and tabulated the results at my leisure." He even tried to map the concentration of beauty in Britain by noting how many lovely women were located in different regions of the country. [25]

Galton's favorite adage was, "Whenever you can, count." [26]

Much of Galton's quantitative musings amounted to little more than distraction. But some of it became solid science. In 1861, he distributed a questionnaire to the weather stations of Europe, asking the superintendents to record all weather details for the month of December. He found a pattern. Analyzing the data, Galton drew up the world's first weather maps, peppering them with his own idiosyncratic symbols for wind direction, temperature and barometric pressure. His maps, revealing that counterclockwise wind currents marked sudden changes in pressure, eventually made isobaric charts possible. Galton's 1863 publication, Meteorographica: or Methods of Mapping the Weather, greatly advanced the science of meteorology. [27]

Later, he discovered that the raised ridges on human fingertips were each unique. No two were alike. He devised a system for analyzing and categorizing the distinctive sworls, and inking them into a permanent record. Galton simply called these fingerprints. The new discipline permitted the identification of criminals -- this at a time when a wave of crime by unidentifiable felons gripped London and Jack the Ripper prowled the East End. Galton's book, Finger Prints, featured the author's own ten arched across the page as a personal logotype. [28]

About the time Darwin, Spencer and Mendel began explaining the heredity of lower species, Galton was already looking beyond those theories. He began to discern the patterns of various qualities in human beings. In 1865, Galton authored a two-part series for Macmillan Magazine that he expanded four years later into a book entitled Hereditary Genius. Galton studied the biographical dictionaries and encyclopedias, as well as the genealogies of eminent scholars, poets, artists and military men. Many of them were descendants of the same families. The frequency was too impressive to ignore. Galton postulated that heredity not only transmitted physical features, such as hair color and height, but mental, emotional and creative qualities as well. Galton counted himself among the eminent, since he was Darwin's cousin, and both descended from a common grandfather. [29]

Galton reasoned that talent and quality were more than an accident. They could be calculated, managed and sharpened into a "highly gifted race of men by judicious marriages during several consecutive generations." Far from accepting any of Malthus's notions of inhibited procreation, Galton suggested that bountiful breeding of the best people would evolve mankind into a superlative species of grace and quality. He actually hoped to create a regulated marriage process where members of the finest families were only wed to carefully selected spouses. [30]

Galton did not worry that inbred negative qualities would multiply. He said there was "no reason to suppose that, in breeding for the higher order of intellect, we should produce ... a feeble race." He explained his own incapacitating physical frailties away as a manifestation of hereditary distinction. "Men who leave their mark on the world," wrote Galton, "are very often those who, being gifted and full of nervous power, are at the same time haunted and driven by a dominant idea, and are therefore within a measurable distance of insanity." [31]

Galton struggled to find the pattern, the predictability, the numerical formula that governed the character of progeny. Mathematics would be the key to elevating his beliefs from an observation to a science. He didn't have the answer yet, but Galton was certain that the secret of scientific breeding could be revealed -- and that it would forever change humankind. "Could not the undesirables be got rid of and the desirables multiplied?" he asked. [32]

In 1883, Galton published Inquiries into Human Faculty and Development and created a new term for his discipline. He played with many names for his new science. Finally, he scrawled Greek letters on a hand-sized scrap of paper, and next to them the two English fragments he would join into one. The Greek word for well was abutted to the Greek word for born. [33]

In a flourish, Galton invented a term that would tantalize his contemporaries, inspire his disciples, obsess his later followers and eventually slash through the twentieth century like a sword. The finest and the fiendish would adopt the new term as their driving mantra. Families would be shattered, generations would be wiped away, whole peoples would be nearly erased -- all in the name of Galton's word. The word he wrote on that small piece of paper was eugenics. [34]


Eugenics was a protoscience in search of vindicating data. Galton had described the eugenically well-born man as a trend in science, but he desperately sought to quantify the biological process. After all, if Galton could advance from merely discovering the scientific mechanism controlling human character to actually predicting the quality of the unborn, his knowledge would become almost divine. In theory, the master of any enforced eugenics program could play God -- deciding who would be born and who would not. Indeed, the notion of constructing a brave new world by regimented reproduction has never receded.

Numbers were needed. In 1884, Galton opened his Anthropometric Laboratory at London's International Health Exhibition. Using question naires -- just as he had in quantifying weather -- Galton asked families to record their physical characteristics, such as height, weight and even lung power. Later Galton even offered cash rewards for the most comprehensive family history. The data began to accrue. It wasn't long before nine thousand people, including many complete families, offered their physical details for Galton's calculations. [35] He began pasting numbers together, sculpting formulas, and was finally able to patch together enough margins of error and coefficients of correlation into a collection of statistical eugenic probabilities.

At the same time, German cellular biologist August Weismann, using more powerful microscopes, announced that something called "germ plasm" was the true vehicle of heredity. Weismann observed what he termed a "nucleus." He theorized, "The physical causes of all apparently unimportant hereditary habits ... of hereditary talents, and other mental peculiarities must all be contained in the minute quantity of germ-plasm which is possessed by the nucleus of a germ cell." [36] Others would later identify character- conveying threads termed "chromatic loops" or "chromosomes."

Superseding Darwinian precepts of descent and Weismann's germ plasm, Galton, in his essays and an 1889 book entitled Natural Inheritance, tried to predict the precise formulaic relationship between ancestors and their descendants. He concluded, "The influence, pure and simple, of the mid-parent may be taken as 1/2, of the mid-grandparent 1/4, of the mid-great- grandparent 1/8, and so on. That of the individual parent would therefore be 1/4, of the individual grandparent 1/16, of an individual in the next generation 1/64, and so on." In other words, every person was the measurable and predictable sum of his ancestors' immortal germ plasm. Inheritable traits included not only physical characteristics, such as eye color and height, but subtle qualities, such as intellect, talent and personality. Galton ultimately reduced all notions of heritage, talent and character to a series of complex, albeit fatally flawed, eugenic equations. [37]

Above all, Galton concluded that the caliber of progeny always reflected its distant ancestry. Good lineage did not improve bad blood. On the contrary, in any match, undesirable traits would eventually outweigh desirable qualities. [38] Hence, when eugenically preferred persons mated with one another, their offspring were even more valuable. But mixing eugenically well-endowed humans with inferior mates would not strengthen succeeding generations. Rather, it would promote a downward biological spiral. What was worse, two people of bad blood would only create progressively more defective offspring.

It was all guesswork, ancestral solipsism and mathematical acrobatics -- some of it well-founded and some of it preposterous -- forged into a self-congratulatory biology and social science. Scholarly kudos and celebration abounded. Yet Galton himself was forced to admit in 1892, in the preface to the second edition of Hereditary Genius, that his theories and formulae were still completely unprovable. "The great problem of the future betterment of the human race is confessedly, at the present time, hardly advanced beyond the state of academic interest." [39]

Years later, in a preface to a eugenic tract about gifted families, Galton again warned that musing about "improved breeds" of the human race were still nothing more than "speculations on the theoretical possibility." [40]

Nonetheless, Galton remained convinced that germ-plasm was the ultimate, elusive governing factor. As such, environment and the quality of existence were by and large irrelevant and actually an impediment to racial improvement. No amount of social progress or intervention could help the unfit, he insisted. Qualifying his sense of charity with a biological imperative, Galton asserted, "I do not, of course, propose to neglect the sick, the feeble or the unfortunate. I would do all ... for their comfort and happiness, but I would exact an equivalent for the charitable assistance they receive, namely, that by means of isolation, or some other drastic yet adequate measure, a stop should be put to the production of families of children likely to include degenerates." [41]

Galton called for a highly regulated marriage licensing process that society at large would endorse. By prohibiting eugenically flawed unions and promoting well-born partners, Galton believed "what ature does blindly, slowly and ruthlessly, man may do providently, quickly and kindly." [42]

Galton believed that eugenics was too broad a societal quest to be left to individual whim. He espoused a new definition of eugenics that wed the biology to governmental action. "Eugenics," asserted Galton, "is the study of all agencies under social control which can improve or impair the racial quality of future generations." [43]

Galton's ideas ultimately became known as "positive eugenics," that is, suggesting, facilitating, predicting and even legally mandating biologically conducive marriages. Every family hopes its offspring will choose wisely, and Galton hoped his scientific, equation-filled epistles would encourage families and government bureaus to require as much. His convictions, even those involving legislation and marriage regimentation, were, within his own utopian context, deemed noninvasive and nondestructive.

But a few years later, by the dawn of the twentieth century, Galton's notions of voluntary family planning and positive governmental structures would be transmogrified into an entirely different constellation of negative and coercive thought. The new faithful called it "negative eugenics." Galton died in 1911. With his passing, his positive eugenic principles of marriage regimentation also disappeared from the eugenics main stage. Certainly his name lived on as a rallying call, stamped on the plaques of societies and academic departments. But before long others would come along to chew up his ideas and spit them out as something new and macabre, barely resembling the original.

What Galton hoped to inspire in society, others were determined to force upon their fellow man. If Galton was correct -- and these new followers were certain he was -- why wait for personal choice or flimsy statutory power? In their minds, future generations of the genetically unfit -- from the medically infirm to the racially unwanted to the economically impoverished -- would have to be wiped away. Only then could genetic destiny be achieved for the human race -- or rather, the white race, and more specifically, the Nordic race. The new tactics would include segregation, deportation, castration, marriage prohibition, compulsory sterilization, passive euthanasia -- and ultimately extermination.

As the twentieth century opened for business, the eugenic spotlight would now swing across the ocean from England to the United States. In America, eugenics would become more than an abstract philosophy; it would become an obsession for policymakers. Galton could not have envisioned that his social idealism would degenerate into a ruthless campaign to destroy all those deemed inadequate. But it would become nothing less than a worldwide eugenic crusade to abolish all human inferiority.

Re: War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to

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CHAPTER 3: America's National Biology

America was ready for eugenics before eugenics was ready for America. What in England was the biology of class, in America became the biology of racial and ethnic groups. In America, class was, in large measure, racial and ethnic.

Everything Galtonian eugenics hoped to accomplish with good matrimonial choices, American eugenicists preferred to achieve with draconian preventive measures designed to delete millions of potential citizens deemed unfit. American eugenicists were convinced they could forcibly reshape humanity in their own image. Their outlook was only possible because American eugenicists believed the unfit were essentially subhuman, not worthy of developing as members of society. The unfit were diseased, something akin to a genetic infection. This infection was to be quarantined and then eliminated. Their method of choice was selective breeding -- spaying and cutting away the undesirable, while carefully mating and grooming the prized stock.

Breeding was in America's blood. America had been breeding humans even before the nation's inception. Slavery thrived on human breeding. Only the heartiest Africans could endure the cruel middle passage to North America. Once offloaded, the surviving Africans were paraded atop auction stages for inspection of their physical traits. [1]

Notions of breeding society into betterment were never far from post- Civil War American thought. In 1865, two decades before Galton penned the word eugenics, the utopian Oneida Community in upstate New York declared in its newspaper that, "Human breeding should be one of the foremost questions of the age .... " A few years later, with freshly expounded Galtonian notions crossing the Atlantic, the Oneida commune began its first selective human breeding experiment with fifty-three female and thirty-eight male volunteers. [2]

Feminist author Victoria Woodhull expressed the growing belief that both positive and negative breeding were indispensable for social improvement. In her 1891 pamphlet, The Rapid Multiplication of the Unfit, Woodhull insisted, "The best minds of today have accepted the fact that if superior people are desired, they must be bred; and if imbeciles, criminals, paupers and [the] otherwise unfit are undesirable citizens they must not be bred." [3]

America was ready for eugenic breeding precisely because the most established echelons of American society were frightened by the demographic chaos sweeping the nation. England had certainly witnessed a mass influx of foreigners during the years leading up to Galton's eugenic doctrine. But the scale in Britain was dwarfed by America's experience. So were the emotions.

America's romantic "melting pot" notion was a myth. It did not exist when turn-of-the-century British playwright Israel Zangwill optimistically coined the term. [4] In Zangwill's day, America's shores, as well as the three thousand miles in between, were actually a cauldron of undissolvable minorities, ethnicities, indigenous peoples and other tightly-knit groups -- all constantly boiling over.

Eighteen million refugees and opportunity-seeking immigrants arrived between 1890 and 1920. German Lutherans, Irish Catholics, Russian Jews, Slavic Orthodox -- one huddled mass surged in after another. [5] But they did not mix or melt; for the most part they remained insoluble.

But ethnic volatility during the late 1800s arose from more than the European influx. Race and group hatred crisscrossed the continent. Millions of Native Americans were being forced onto reservations. Mexican multitudes absorbed after the Mexican-American War, in which Mexico lost fully half its land to United States expansion, became a clash point in the enlarged American West and Southwest. Emancipated African slaves struggled to emerge across the country. But freed slaves and their next generation were not absorbed into greater society. Instead, a network of state and local Jim Crow laws enforced apartheid between African Americans and whites in much of the nation, especially in the South. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 temporarily halted the immigration through California of any further Chinese laborers, and blocked the naturalization of those already in the country; the measure was made permanent in 1902. [6]

"Race suicide" was an alarum commonly invoked to restrict European immigration, as 1880 Census Bureau Director Francis Walker did in his 1896 Atlantic Monthly article, "Restriction of Immigration." Walker lamented the statistical imbalance between America's traditional Anglo- Saxon settlers and the new waves flowing in from southern Europe. Eminent sociologist E.A. Ross elevated the avoidance of "race suicide" to a patriotic admonishment, decrying "the beaten members of beaten breeds" from Croatia, Sicily and Armenia flooding in through Ellis Island. Ross warned that such groups "lack the ancestral foundations of American character, and even if they catch step with us they and their children will nevertheless impede our progress." [7]

As the nineteenth century closed, women still could not vote, Native Americans who had survived governmental genocide programs were locked onto often-barren reservations, and Blacks, as well as despised "white trash," were still commonly lynched from the nearest tree -- from Minnesota to Mississippi. In fact, 3,224 Americans were lynched in the thirty-year period between 1889 and 1918 -- 702 white and 2,522 black. Their crimes were as trivial as uttering offensive language, disobeying ferry regulations, "paying attention to [a] white girl," and distilling illicit alcohol. [8]

The century ahead was advertised as an epoch for social progress. But the ushers of that progress would be men and women forged from the racial and cultural fires of prior decades. Many twentieth-century activists were repelled by the inequities and lasting scars of racial and social injustice; they were determined to transform America into an egalitarian republic. But others, especially American eugenicists, switched on the lights of the new century, looked around at the teeming, dissimilar masses and collectively declared they had unfinished business.

Crime analysis moved race and ethnic hatred into the realm of heredity. Throughout the latter 1800s, crime was increasingly viewed as a group phenomenon, and indeed an inherited family trait. Criminologists and social scientists widely believed in the recently identified "criminal type," typified by "beady eyes" and certain phrenological shapes. The notion of a "born criminal" became popularized. [9] Ironically, when robber barons stole and cheated their way into great wealth, they were lionized as noble leaders of the day, celebrated with namesake foundations, and honored by leather-bound genealogies often adorned with coats of arms. It was the petty criminals, not the gilded ones, whom polite society perceived as the great genetic menace.

Petty criminals and social outcasts were abundant in Ulster County, New York. Little did these seemingly inconsequential people know they were making history. In the first decades of the nineteenth century, this rustic Catskill Mountain region became a popular refuge for urban dropouts who preferred to live off the land in pastoral isolation. Fish and game were abundant. The lifestyle was lazy. Civilization was yonder. But as wealthy New Yorkers followed the Hudson River traffic north, planting opulent Victorian mansions and weekend pleasure centers along its banks, the very urbanization that Ulster's upland recluses spurned caught up to them. Pushed from their traditional fishing shores and hillside hunting grounds, where they lived in shanties, the isolated, unkempt rural folk of Ulster now became "misfits." Not a few of them ran afoul of property and behavior laws, which became increasingly important as the county's population grew. [10] Many found themselves jailed for the very lifestyle that had become a local tradition.

In 1874, Richard Dugdale, an executive of the New York Prison Association, conducted interviews with a number of Ulster County's prisoners and discovered that many were blood relatives. Consulting genealogies, courthouse and poorhouse records, Dugdale documented the lineages of no fewer than forty-two families heavily comprised of criminals, beggars, vagrants and paupers. He claimed that one group of 709 individuals were all descendants of a single pauper woman, known as Margaret and crowned "mother of criminals." Dugdale collectively dubbed these forty-two troubled families "the Jukes." His 1877 book, The Jukes, a Study in Crime, Pauperism, Disease and Heredity, calculated the escalating annual cost to society for welfare, imprisonment and other social services for each family. The text immediately exerted a vast influence on social scientists across America and around the world. [11]

While Dugdale's book spared no opportunity to disparage the human qualities of both the simple paupers and the accomplished criminals among the Jukes family, he blamed not their biology, but their circumstances. Rejecting notions of heredity, Dugdale instead zeroed in on the adverse conditions that created generation-to-generation pauperism and criminality. "The tendency of heredity is to produce an environment which perpetuates that heredity," he wrote. He called for a change in social environment to correct the problem, and predicted that serious reform could effect a "great decrease in the number of commitments" within fifteen years. Dugdale cautioned against statistics that inspired false conclusions. He even reminded readers that not a few wealthy clans made their fortunes by cheating the masses -- yet these scandalous people were considered among the nation's finest families. [12]

But Dugdale's cautions were ignored. His book was quickly hailed as proof of a hereditary defect that spawned excessive criminality and poverty -- even though this was the opposite of what he wrote. For exam pie, Robert Fletcher, president of the Anthropological Society of Washington, insisted in a major 1891 speech that germ plasm ruled, that one criminal bred another. "The taint is in the blood," Fletcher staunchly told his audience, "and there is no royal touch which can expel it .... Quarantine the evil classes as you would the plague." [13]

The Jukes was the first such book, but not the last. Tribes of paupers, criminals and misfits were tracked and traced in similar books. The Smokey Pilgrims of Kansas, the Jackson Whites of New Jersey, the Hill Folk of Massachusetts and the Nam family of upstate New York were all portrayed as clans of defective, worthless people, a burden to society and a hereditary scourge blocking American progress. Most convincing was a presentation made in 1888 to the Fifteenth National Conference of Charities and Correction by the social reformer Reverend Oscar McCulloch. McCulloch, a Congregationalist minister from Indianapolis, presented a paper entitled Tribe of Ishmael: A Study of Social Degeneration. The widely-reported speech described whole nomadic pauper families dwelling in Indianapolis, all related to a distant forefather from the 1790s. [14]

Ishmael's descendants were in fact bands of roving petty thieves and con artists who had victimized town and countryside, giving McCulloch plenty of grist for his attack on their heredity. He compared the Ishmael people to the Sacculina parasites that feed off crustaceans. Paupers were inherently of no value to the world, he argued, and would only beget succeeding generations of paupers -- and all "because some remote ancestor left its independent, self-helpful life, and began a parasitic, or pauper life." His research, McCullouch assured, "resembles the study of Dr. Dugdale into the Jukes and was suggested by that." [15]

Many leading social progressives devoted to charity and reform now saw crime and poverty as inherited defects that needed to be halted for society's sake. When this idea was combined with the widespread racism, class prejudice and ethnic hatred that already existed among the turn-of-the- century intelligentsia -- and was then juxtaposed with the economic costs to society -- it created a fertile reception for the infant field of eugenics. Reformers possessed an ingrained sense that "good Americans" could be bred like good racehorses.

Galton had first pronounced his theory of the well-born in 1883. For the next twenty years, eugenics bounced around America's intellectual circles as a perfectly logical hereditary conclusion consistent with everyday observations. But it lacked specifics. Then, as one of the first sparks of the twentieth century, Gregor Mendel's theory of heredity was rediscovered. True, between 1863 and 1868, various theories of heredity had been published by three men: Spencer, Darwin and Mendel. But while Darwin and Spencer presided with great fanfare in London's epicenter of knowledge, Mendel was alone and overlooked by the world of science he aspired to.

The son of simple mountain peasants, Mendel was not socially adept. Combative exchanges with those in authority made him prefer solitude. "He who does not know how to be alone is not at peace with himself," he wrote. Originally, he had hoped to devote himself to the natural sciences. But he failed at the university and retreated to an Augustinian monastery in Brno, Moravia. There, while tending the gardens, he continued the work of a long line of students of plant hybridization. [16]

Mendel preferred peas. Peering through flimsy wire-rim glasses into short tubular microscopes and scribbling copious notes, Mendel studied over ten thousand cross-fertilized pea plants. Key differences in their traits could be predicted, depending upon whether he bred tall plants with short plants, or plants yielding smooth pods with plants yielding wrinkled pods. Eventually, he identified certain governing inheritable traits, which he called "dominating" and "recessive." These could be expressed in mathematical equations, or traced in a simple genealogical chart filled with line-linked A's and B's. Among his many conclusions: when pea plants with wrinkled skins were crossed with plants yielding smooth skins, the trait for wrinkled skin dominated. [17] In other words, the smooth pea pod skin was corrupted by wrinkled stock. Wrinkled pea pods ultimately became a powerful image to those who found the human simile compelling.

Mendel's scientific paper, describing ten years of tedious work, was presented to a local scientific society in Brno and mailed to several prominent biologists in Europe, but it was ignored by the scientific world. Mendel grew more unhappy with the rejection. His combative exchanges with local officials on unrelated issues were so embarrassing to the order that when Mendel died in 1884, the monastery burned all his notes. [18]

In May of 1900, however, the esteemed British naturalist and Darwin disciple William Bateson unexpectedly discovered references to Mendel's laws of heredity in three separate papers. The three papers were independently researched and simultaneously submitted by three different students. Amazed at Mendel's findings, an excited Bateson announced to the world through the Royal Horticultural Society that he had "rediscovered" Mendel's crucial studies in plant heredity. The science that Bateson called genetics was born. Mendel's laws became widely discussed throughout the horticultural world. [19]

But Galton's eugenic followers understood that the biological arithmetic of peapods, cattle and other lower species did not ordain the futures of the most complex organism on earth: Homo sapiens. Height, hair color, eye color and other physical attributes could be partially explained in Mendelian terms. But intelligent, thought-driven humans beings were too subtle, too impressionable, too variable and too unpredictable to be reduced to a horticultural equation. Man's environment and living conditions were inherent to his development. Nutrition, prenatal and childhood circumstances, disease, injury, and upbringing itself were all decisive, albeit not completely understood, factors that intervened in the development of any individual. Some of the best people came from the worst homes, and some of the worst people came from the best homes.

Hence, during the first decade of the twentieth century, as Mendel was being debated, most Galtonian eugenicists admitted that their ideas were still too scantily clad to be called science, too steeped in simple statistics rather than astute medical knowledge, too preliminary to even venture into the far-reaching enterprise of organized human breeding. Eugenics was all just theory and guesswork anyway. For example, in 1904 Galton wrote to his colleague Bateson seeking any initial evidence of "Mendelianism in Man," suggesting that any data could contribute to what he still called a "theoretical point of view." In another 1904 letter, Galton reminded Bateson, "I do indeed fervently hope that exact knowledge may be gradually attained and established beyond question, and I wish you and your collaborators all success in your attempts to obtain it." [20]

As late as 1910, Galton's most important disciple, mathematician Karl Pearson, head of the Eugenics Laboratory, admitted just how thin their knowledge was. In a scientific paper treating eugenics and alcoholism, Pearson confessed, "The writers of this paper are fully conscious of the slenderness of their data; they have themselves stated that many of their conclusions are probabilities ... rather than demonstrations. They will no doubt be upbraided with publishing anything at all, either on the ground that what they are dealing with is 'crude and worthless material' or that as 'mathematical outsiders,' they are incapable of dealing with a medico-social problem." Pearson added in a footnote that he also understood why some would find the linkage of eugenics and alcoholism an act of inebriation in itself. He went on to quote a critic: "The educated man and the scientist is as prone as any other to become the victim ... of his prejudices .... He will in defense thereof make shipwreck of both the facts of science and the methods of science ... by perpetrating every form of fallacy, inaccuracy and distortion." [21]

Galton himself dismissed the whole notion of human breeding as socially impossible -- with or without the elusive data he craved. "We can't mate men and women as we please, like cocks and hens," Galton quipped to Bateson in 1904. At the time, Galton was defending his recently published Index to Achievements of Near Kinfolk, which detailed how talent and skill run in the same celebrated families. Wary of being viewed as an advocate of human breeding, Galton's preface cautioned Mendelian devotees with strong conditionals, ifs and buts. "The experience gained in establishing improved breeds of domestic animals and plants," he wrote, "is a safe guide to speculations on the theoretical possibility of establishing improved breeds of the human race. It is not intended to enter here into such speculations but to emphasize the undoubted fact that members of gifted families are ... more likely ... to produce gifted offspring." [22]

Nor did Galton believe regulated marriages were a realistic proposition in any democratic society. He knew that "human nature would never brook interference with the freedom of marriage," and admitted as much publicly. In his published memoir, he recounted his original error in suggesting such utopian marriages. "I was too much disposed to think of marriage under some regulation," he conceded, "and not enough of the effects of self-interest and of social and religious sentiment." [23]

Unable to achieve a level of scientific certainty needed to create a legal eugenic framework in Britain, Galton hoped to recast eugenics as a religious doctrine governing marriages, a creed to be taken on faith without proof. Indeed, faith without proof constitutes the essence of much religious dogma. Eugenical marriage should be "strictly enforced as a religious duty, as the Levirate law ever was," wrote Galton in a long essay, which listed such precedents in the Jewish, Christian and even primitive traditions. He greeted the idea of a religion enthusiastically, suggesting, "It is easy to let the imagination run wild on the supposition of a whole-hearted acceptance of eugenics as a national religion." [24]

Many of Galton's followers agreed that founding a national religion was the only way eugenics could thrive. Even the playwright George Bernard Shaw, a eugenic extremist, agreed in a 1905 essay that "nothing but a eugenic religion can save our civilization." Late in his life, in 1909, Galton declared that eugenics in a civilized nation would succeed only as "one of its religious tenets." [25]

But in America, it did not matter that Galton and his followers found themselves fighting for intellectual acceptance with little evidence on their side. Nor did it matter that British eugenic leaders themselves admitted that eugenics did not rise to a level of scientific certainty sufficient to formulate public policy. Nor did it matter that Mendel's newly celebrated laws of heredity might make good sense for peapods, but not for thinking, feeling men, women and children.

In America, racial activists had already convinced themselves that those of different races and ethnic backgrounds considered inferior were no more than a hereditary blight in need of eugenic cleansing. Many noted reformers even joined the choir. For example, in a 1909 article called "Practical Eugenics," the early twentieth-century education pioneer John Franklin Bobbitt insisted, "In primal days was the blood of the race kept high and pure, like mountain streams." He now cautioned that the "highest, purest tributaries to the stream of heredity" were being supplanted by "a rising flood in the muddy, undesirable streams." [26]

Bobbitt held out little value for the offspring of "worm-eaten stock." Although considered a social progressive, he argued that the laws of nature mandating "survival of the fittest" were constantly being countermanded by charitable endeavors. "Schools and charities," he harangued, "supply crutches to the weak in mind and morals ... [and] corrupt the streams of heredity." Society, he pleaded, must prevent "the weaklings at the bottom from mingling their weakness in human currents." [27]

Defective humans were not just those carrying obvious diseases or handicaps, but those whose lineages strayed from the Germanic, Nordic and/or white Anglo-Saxon Protestant ideal. Bobbitt made clear that only those descended from Teutonic forefathers were of pure blood. In one such remonstration, he reminded, "One must admit the high purity of their blood, their high average sanity, soundness and strength. They were a wellborn, well-weeded race." Eugenic spokesman Madison Grant, trustee of the American Museum of Natural History, stated the belief simply in his popular book, The Passing of the Great Race, writing that Nordics "were the white man par excellence." [28]

Indeed, the racism of America's first eugenic intellectuals was more than just a movement of whites against nonwhites. They believed that Germans and Nordics comprised the supreme race, and a typical lament among eugenic leaders such as Lothrop Stoddard was that Nordic populations were decreasing. In The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy, Stoddard wrote that the Industrial Revolution had attracted squalid Mediterranean peoples who quickly outnumbered the more desirable Nordics. "In the United States, it has been much the same story. Our country, originally settled almost exclusively by Nordics, was toward the close of the nineteenth century invaded by hordes of immigrant Alpines and Mediterraneans, not to mention Asiatic elements like Levantines and Jews. As a result, the Nordic native American has been crowded out with amazing rapidity by these swarming, prolific aliens, and after two short generations, he has in many of our urban areas become almost extinct." Madison Grant agreed: "The term 'Caucasian race' has ceased to have any meaning." [29]

By no means did the eugenics movement limit its animus to non- English speaking immigrants. It was a movement against non-Nordics regardless of their skin color, language or national origin. For example, Stoddard denigrated the "swart cockney" in Britain "as a resurgence of the primitive Mediterranean stock, and probably a faithful replica of his ancestors of Neolithic times." All mixed breeds were vile. "Where the parent stocks are very diverse," wrote Stoddard, "as [in] matings between whites, Negroes and Amerindians, the offspring is a mongrel -- a walking chaos, so consumed by his jarring heredities that he is quite worthless." [30]

Grant's tome lionized the long-headed skulls, blue eyes and blond hair of true Nordic stock, and outlined the complex history of Nordic migrations and invasions across Eurasia and into Great Britain. Eventually, these Nordic settlements were supplanted by lesser breeds, who adopted the Nordic and Anglo-Saxon languages but were in fact the carriers of corrupt human strains. [31]

Indeed, those Americans descended from lower-class Scottish and Irish families were also viewed as a biological menace, being of Mediterranean descent. Brunette hair constituted an ancestral stigma that proved a non- Nordic bloodline. Any claims by such people to Anglo-Saxon descent because of language or nationality were considered fraudulent. Grant railed, "No one can question ... on the streets of London, the contrast between the Piccadilly gentleman of Nordic race and the cockney costermonger [street vendor] of the Neolithic type." [32] Hence, from Ulster County to the Irish slums of Manhattan, to the Kentucky and Virginia hills, poor whites were reviled by eugenicists not for their ramshackle and destitute lifestyles, but for a heredity that supposedly made pauperism and criminality an inevitable genetic trait.

Even when an individual of the wrong derivation was healthy, intelligent and successful, his existence was considered dangerous. "There are many parents who, in many cases, may themselves be normal, but who produce defective offspring. This great mass of humanity is not only a social menace to the present generation, but it harbors the potential parenthood of the social misfits of our future generations." [33]

Race mixing was considered race suicide. Grant warned: "The cross between a white man and an Indian is an Indian; the cross between a white man and a Negro is a Negro; the cross between a white man and a Hindu is a Hindu; and the cross between any of the three European races and a Jew is a Jew." [34]

The racial purity and supremacy doctrines embraced by America's pioneer eugenicists were not the ramblings of ignorant, unsophisticated men. They were the carefully considered ideals of some of the nation's most respected and educated figures, each an expert in his scientific or cultural field, each revered for his erudition.

So when the facts about Mendel's pea pods appeared in America in 1900, these influential and eloquent thinkers were able to slap numbers and a few primitive formulas on their class and race hatred, and in so doing create a passion that transcended simple bigotry. Now their bigotry became science -- race science. Now Galtonian eugenics was reborn, recast and redirected in the United States as a purely and uniquely American quest.

To succeed, all American eugenics needed was money and organization.

Enter Andrew Carnegie.

Steel made Andrew Carnegie one of America's wealthiest men. In 1901, the steel magnate sold out to J.P. Morgan for $400 million and retreated from the world of industry. The aging Scotsman would henceforth devote his fortune to philanthropy. The next year, on January 28, 1902, the millionaire endowed his newly created Carnegie Institution with $10 million in bonds, followed by other endowments totaling $12 million. The entity was so wealthy that in 1904, Washington agreed to reincorporate the charity by special act of Congress, chartering the new name "Carnegie Institution of Washington." This made the Carnegie Institution a joint incarnation of the steel man's money and the United States government's cachet. [35]

The Carnegie Institution was established to be one of the premier scientific organizations of the world, dedicated by charter "to encourage, in the broadest and most liberal manner, investigation, research, and discovery, and the application of knowledge to the improvement of mankind." Twenty-four of America's most respected names in science, government and finance were installed as trustees. The celebrated names included National Library of Medicine cofounder John Billings, Secretary of War Elihu Root and philanthropist Cleveland Dodge. Renowned paleontologist John C. Merriam became president. Merriam and his staff were required under the bylaws to closely scrutinize and preapprove all activities, audit all expenditures and regularly publish research results. [36]

Several principal areas of scholarly investigation were identified from the worthy realms of geophysics, astronomy and plant biology. Now another scientific endeavor would be added: negative eugenics. The program would quickly become known as "the practical means for cutting off defective germ-plasm" and would embrace a gamut of remedies from segregation to sterilization to euthanasia. [37] This radical human engineering program would spring not from the medical schools and health clinics of America, but from the pastures, barns and chicken coops -- because the advocates of eugenics were primarily plant and animal breeders. Essentially, they believed humans could be spawned and spayed like trout and horses.

America's formless eugenics movement found its leader in zoologist Charles Davenport, a man who would dominate America's human breeding program for decades. Davenport, esteemed for his Harvard degrees and his distinguished background, led the wandering faithful out of the wilderness of pure prejudice and into the stately corridors of respectability. More than anyone else, it was Davenport who propelled baseless American eugenics into settled science -- wielding a powerful sociopolitical imperative.

Who was Charles Benedict Davenport?

He was a sad man. No matter how celebrated Davenport became within his cherished circles, throughout his career he remained a bitter and disconsolate person boxing shadows for personal recognition. Even as he judged the worthiness of his fellow humans, Davenport struggled to prove his own worthiness to his father and to God. Ironically, it was his mother who inspired the conflict between devotion to science and subservience to God that Davenport would never bridge. [38]

Davenport grew up in Brooklyn Heights as the proud descendent of a long line of English and Colonial New England Congregationalist ministers. His authoritarian father, Amzi Benedict Davenport, did not join the clergy, but nonetheless cloaked his family's world in the heavy mantle of puritanical religion. The elder Davenport's business was real estate. But as a cofounder of two Brooklyn churches -- ruling elder of one and a longtime deacon of the other -- Amzi Davenport infused his household with pure fire and brimstone, along with the principles of commerce and market value. He demanded from his family impossible levels of Bible-thumbing rectitude and imposed an unyielding disdain for joy. [39]

A close friend described the father's face as one of "bitter unhappiness," and characterized his parental manner as "harsh masterfulness." Charles Davenport was the last of eleven children. Siblings were born like clock work in the Davenport home, every two years. Rigorous and often punishing Gospel studies intruded into every aspect of young Davenport's upbringing, morning and night. The boy's diary records one typical entry about grueling Sunday school lessons. Using personal shorthand and misspelling as a boy would, young Davenport scribbled, "stuiding S.S. lesson from 8:30 A.M. to 9:30 P.M. All day!" Once, it was the day after Christmas, he jotted, "Woke at 6:30 A.M. and was late for prayers. After breakfast father sent me to bed for that reason for two hours." [40]

Ancestry was a regular theme in the Davenport household. The elder Davenport organized two extensive volumes of family genealogy, tracing his Anglo-Saxon tree back to 1086. That was the year William the Conqueror compiled his massive Domesday census book. [41] Shades of Davenport's glorified fore bearers must have pursued the boy at every moment.

Yet in the midst of young Davenport's dour, patriarchal domination, his mother Jane was somehow permitted to live a life of irrepressible brightness. A Dutch woman, Jane offered unconditional affection to her children, a wonderful flower garden to delight in, and a fascination with natural history. Young Davenport's refuge from the severe and unapproachable man he trepidatiously called "Pa" was the world of beauty his mother represented. [42]

When Davenport as a young man escaped from theology into academia, it was to the world of measurable mysteries: science, math and engineering. In doing so, he declared that God's work was not infinite-it could indeed be quantified. That surely spurned the absolutist precepts of his father's sermonizing. Later, Davenport dedicated his first scientific book, Experimental Morphology, "to the memory of the first and most important of my teachers of Natural History -- my mother." Such inscriptions were not a sign of intellectual liberation. Davenport was never quite comfortable with his defection to the world of nature. At one point, he formally requested his father's written permission to study the sciences; seven weeks later he finally received an answer permitting it. His father's written acquiescence hinged on "the question of prime importance, [that] is how much money can you make for yourself and for me." [43]

After his graduation from Brooklyn Polytechnic, Davenport became a civil engineer. His love of animals and natural history led Davenport to Harvard, where he enrolled in nearly every natural science course offered and quickly secured his doctorate in biology. In the 1890s, he became a zoology instructor at Harvard. Later, he held a similar position at the University of Chicago. [44]

Long-headed and mustachioed, Davenport always looked squeezed. His goatee created a slender but dense column from chin to lower lip; as he aged, it would fade from black to white. With a deeply parted haircut hanging high above his ears, Davenport's face tapered from round at the top to a distinct point at the inverted apex of his beard. [45]

Davenport married Gertrude Crotty in 1894. A fellow biologist, Gertrude would continually encourage him to advance in personal finance and career. However, Davenport never escaped his upbringing. Puritanical in his sexual mores, domineering in his own family relationships, inward and awkward in most other ways, Davenport was described by a close lifelong colleague as "a lone man, living a life of his own in the midst of others, feeling out of place in almost any crowd." Worse, while Davenport's thirst for scholarly validation never quenched, he could not tolerate criticism. Hearing adverse comments, reading them, just sensing that rejection might dwell between the lines of a simple correspondence caused Davenport so much distress, he could blurt out the wrong words, sometimes the exact opposite of his intent. Criticism paralyzed him. [46] Yet this was the scientist who would discover and deliver the evidence that would decide the biological fate of so many.

Davenport's pivotal role as eugenic crusader-in-chief began taking shape at the very end of the nineteenth century. He found a modicum of professional and personal success directing the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences's biological laboratory on Long Island. There, he could apply his precious Harvard training. The quiet, coveside facility at Cold Spring Harbor was located about an hour's train and carriage ride from Manhattan. Situated down the road from the state fish hatchery, and ensconced in a verdant, marshy inlet ideal for marine and mammal life, the biological station allowed Davenport to concentrate on the lowest species. He investigated such organisms as the Australian marine pill bug, which clings to the underside of submerged rocks and feeds on rotted algae. He employed drop nets to dredge for oysters and other mollusks. Flatfish and winter flounder were purchased for spawning studies. [47]

To supplement his income during school breaks, Davenport, aided by botany instructors from other institutions, offered well-regarded summer courses at Cold Spring Harbor. Students in bacteriology, botany and animal biology from across the nation were attracted to these courses. [48] Davenport also corresponded with other academic institutions, which pleased him greatly.

While at the Brooklyn Institute's biological station, Davenport became fascinated with Galton. In a series of fawning missives to Galton during the spring of 1897, Davenport praised the British scientist's work, requested his photograph, and ultimately tried to schedule a meeting in London that summer. Galton hardly knew what to make of the unsolicited admiration. "I am much touched," Galton replied to Davenport's earliest praise, "by the extremely kind expression in your letter, though curious that you ascribe to me more than I deserve." [49] The two exchanged brief notes thereafter. Davenport's were formal and typed. Galton's were scrawled on monarch stationery.

Davenport incorporated the statistical theories of Galton and Galton's disciple, Pearson, into an 1899 book, Statistical Methods with Special Reference to Biological Variation. He wanted the volume to be a serious scientific publication of international merit, and he proudly mailed a copy to Galton for his inspection. Galton penned back a short word of thanks for "your beautiful little book with its kindly and charming lines." Later, Galton sent Davenport some sample fingerprints to examine. [50] But meteorology, statistics and fingerprints were only the threshold to the real body of Galtonian knowledge that riveted Davenport. The precious revelation for the American biologist was the study of superiority and ancestry, the principle Galton called eugenics.

Eugenics appealed to Davenport not just because his scientific mind was shaped by a moralized world choked with genealogies and ancestral comparisons, but because of his racial views and his obsession with race mixture. [51] Davenport saw ethnic groups as biologically different beings -- not just physically, but in terms of their character, nature and quality. Most of the non-Nordic types, in Davenport's view, swam at the bottom of the hereditary pool, each featuring its own distinct and indelible adverse genetic features. Italians were predisposed to personal violence. The Irish had "considerable mental defectiveness," while Germans were "thrifty, intelligent, and honest." [52]

Social reformers may have held out hope that America's melting pot might one day become a reality, but eugenicists such as Davenport's outspoken ally Lothrop Stoddard spoke for the whole movement when he declared, "Above all, there is no more absurd fallacy than the shibboleth of 'the melting pot.' As a matter of fact, the melting pot may mix but does not melt. Each race-type, formed ages ago, and 'set' by millenniums of isolation and inbreeding, is a stubbornly persistent entity. Each type possesses a special set of characters: not merely the physical characters visible to the naked eye, but moral, intellectual and spiritual characters as well. All these characters are transmitted substantially unchanged from generation to generation." [53]

When Mendel's laws reappeared in 1900, Davenport believed he had finally been touched by the elusive but simple biological truth governing the flocks, fields and the family of man. He once preached abrasively, "I may say that the principles of heredity are the same in man and hogs and sun-flowers." [54] Enforcing Mendelian laws along racial lines, allowing the superior to thrive and the unfit to disappear, would create a new superior race. A colleague of Davenport's remembered him passionately shaking as he chanted a mantra in favor of better genetic material: "Protoplasm. We want more protoplasm!" [55]

Shortly after the Carnegie Institution appeared in 1902, in its pre- Congressional form, Davenport acted to harness the institution's vast financial power and prestige to launch his eugenic crusade. The Carnegie Institution was just months old, when on April 21, 1902, Davenport outlined a plan for the institution to establish a Biological Experiment Station at Cold Spring Harbor "to investigate ... the method of Evolution." Total initial cost was estimated to be $32,000. [56]

By the time Davenport penned his formal proposal to Carnegie trustees two weeks later on May 5, 1902, his intent was unmistakably racial: "The aims of this establishment would be the analytic and experimental study of ... race change." He explained how: "The methods of attacking the problem must be developed as a result of experience. At present, the following seems the most important: Cross-breeding of animals and plants to find the laws of commingling of qualities. The study of the laws and limits of inheritance." Davenport tantalized the trustees with the prospect: "The Carnegie fund offers the opportunity for which the world has so long been waiting." [57]

Hence from the very start, the trustees of the Carnegie Institution understood that Davenport's plan was a turning-point plan for racial breeding.

Redirecting human evolution had been a personal mission of Davenport's for years, long before he heard of Mendel's laws. He first advocated a human heredity project in 1897 when he addressed a group of naturalists, proposing a large farm for preliminary animal breeding experiments. Davenport called such a project "immensely important." With the Carnegie Institution now receptive to his more grandiose idea, Davenport knew it was important to continue rallying support from the scientific establishment. He convinced the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Science, which controlled the lab site at Cold Spring Harbor, to form a prestigious scientific committee to press the "plan for a permanent research laboratory ... in connection with the Carnegie Institution at Washington." [58]

Knowing Carnegie officials would refer the question to the institution's Zoological Committee, Davenport elicited support from prominent zoologists. [59] In May of 1902, he sent a letter of tempting intrigue to his friend Professor Henry Fairfield Osborn, director of the New York Zoological Society and the American Museum of Natural History. "I do not think this is the place to tell in detail what I should expect to do," wrote Davenport, adding only, "The station should undertake to do what is impracticable elsewhere." [60]

Osborn, a like-minded eugenicist, wrote back with encouragement, reporting that Carnegie's committee had considered the general topic before. British eugenicists had already approached Andrew Carnegie directly. But Osborn assured, "I know of no one better qualified to do this work than you." [61]

Shoring up his knowledge and enlisting wider consensus, Davenport traveled to Europe for four months, where he briefly visited with Galton. The founding eugenicist warned Davenport that any such effort must be a serious scientific enterprise, not just "any attempt at showy work, for the sake of mere show." Untroubled, Davenport traveled to several European marine life research centers gathering academic accord for his project. [62]

Fresh from his European travels, and fortified with the latest international views on eugenics, Davenport dispatched to the Carnegie Institution a more detailed letter plus a lengthy report on the state of human evolution studies to date. The documents made clear that far-reaching American race policy could not be directed without supportive scientific data based on breeding experiments with lower species. The results of those experiments would be applied in broad strokes to humans. "Improvement of the human race can probably be effected only by understanding and applying these methods," he argued. "How appalling is our ignorance, for example, concerning the effect of a mixture of races as contrasted with pure breeding; a matter of infinite importance in a country like ours containing numerous races and subspecies of men." [63]

Davenport hoped to craft a super race of Nordics. "Can we build a wall high enough around this country," he asked his colleagues, "so as to keep out these cheaper races, or will it be a feeble dam ... leaving it to our descendants to abandon the country to the blacks, browns and yellows and seek and an asylum in New Zealand." [64]

Man was still evolving, he reasoned, and that evolution could and should be to a higher plane. Carnegie funds could accelerate and direct that process. "But what are these processes by which man has evolved," posited Davenport, "and which we should know ... in hastening his further evolution." He disputed the value of improved conditions for those considered genetically inferior. He readily admitted that with schooling, training and social benefits, "a person born in the slums can be made a useful man." But that usefulness was limited in the evolutionary scheme of things. No amount of book learning, "finer mental stuff" or "intellectual accumulation" would transfer to the next generation, he insisted, adding that "permanent improvement of the race can only be brought about by breeding the best." [65]

Drawing on his belief in raceology, Davenport offered the Carnegie trustees an example he knew would resonate: "We have in this country the grave problem of the negro," he wrote, "a race whose mental development is, on the average, far below the average of the Caucasian. Is there a prospect that we may through the education of the individual produce an improved race so that we may hope at last that the negro mind shall be as teachable, as elastic, as original, and as fruitful as the Caucasian's? Or must future generations, indefinitely, start from the same low plane and yield the same meager results? We do not know; we have no data. Prevailing 'opinion' says we must face the latter alternative. If this were so, it would be best to export the black race at once." [66]

Proof was needed to fuel the social plans the eugenicists and their allies championed. Davenport was sure he could deliver the proof. "As to a person to carry out the proposed work," he wrote Carnegie, "I am ready at the present moment to abandon all other plans for this." To dispel any doubt of his devotion, Davenport told the institution, "I propose to give the rest of my life unreservedly to this work." [67]

The men of Carnegie were impressed. They said yes.


During 1903, while the esteemed men of the Carnegie Institution were readying their adventure into eugenics, Davenport worked to broaden support for the perception of American eugenics as a genuine science. Since the great men of medicine were, for the most part, devoted to improving individual health, not stunting it, few of them wanted to be affiliated with the nascent movement. So Davenport instead turned to the great men of the stable, the field and the barnyard.

He found a willing ear at the newly established American Breeders Association. The ABA was created in 1903 by the Association of Agricultural Colleges and Experimental Stations, after four years of preparatory effort spurred by a request from the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. The American government urged animal breeders and seed experts to "join hands." The idea of bringing the two groups together was first suggested to Washington in 1899 by the Hybridizer's Conference in London meeting under the auspices of the Royal Horticultural Society. In light of Mendel's discoveries about peapods, the American government pushed the plan. [68]

Many breeders were convinced that their emerging Mendelian knowledge about corn and cattle was equally applicable to the inner quality of human beings. A typical declaration came from one New York State breeder: "Every race-horse, every straight-backed bull, every premium pig tells us what we can do and what we must do for man .... The results of suppressing the poorest and breeding from the best would be the same for them as for cattle and sheep." [69]

At the ABA's first annual meeting in St. Louis during the chilly final days of December 1903, Davenport was well received and elected to the permanent five-man oversight committee. Two organizational sections were established: Plants and Animals. But Davenport prevailed upon the ABA to add a third group, a so-called Eugenics Committee. The establishing resolution declared the committee should "devise methods of recording the values of the blood of individuals, families, people and races." The resolution specified that the goal was to "emphasize the value of superior blood and the menace to society of inferior blood." [70]

Eventually, Davenport bluntly confessed to an ABA audience: "Society must protect itself; as it claims the right to deprive the murderer of his life, so also it may annihilate the hideous serpent of hopelessly vicious protoplasm." A report to the committee called for broad public awareness through "popular magazine articles, in public lectures ... in circular letters to physicians, teachers, the clergy and legislators." The report decried "such mongrelization as is proceeding on a vast scale in this country .... Shall we not rather take the steps ... to dry up the springs that feed the torrent of defective and degenerate protoplasm?" In the process, the report claimed, the United States would curtail the $100 million in annual expenditures for the destitute, insane, feebleminded, defective and criminal elements-a group comprised of at least two million people. How? The report, circulated to the entire ABA membership and the federal government, was explicit: "By segregation during the reproductive period or even by sterilization." [71]

Once defectives were eliminated in America, the same methods could be employed worldwide. ABA president Willet Hays, who also served as assistant secretary of agriculture, authored an article entitled "Constructive Eugenics" for American Breeders Magazine, in which he proposed a global solution to all unwanted races. "Eugenic problems are much the same throughout as the problems of plant breeding and animal improvement," wrote Hays, adding, "May we not hope to ... lop off the defective classes below, and also increase the number of the efficient at the top?" His suggestion? A massive international numbering convention, assigning descriptive eleven-digit "number names" to every man, woman and child on earth using census bureaus. By creating a series of nearly 100 billion numbers, for an estimated world population of only 1.5 billion, Hays hoped to enroll "every person now living, any person of whom there is any history, and any person who might be born in the next thousand years .... No two persons would have the same number." These eleven-digit "number names" would not only identify the individual, they would trace his lineage and assign a genetic rating, expressed as a percentage. Methodically, one nation after another would identify its population and eliminate the unwanted strains. "Who, except the prudish, would object if public agencies gave to every person a lineage number and genetic percentage ratings, that the eugenic value of every family and of every person might be available to all who have need of the truth as to the probable efficiency of the offspring." [72]

On January 19, 1904, the Carnegie Institution formally inaugurated what it called the Station for Experimental Evolution of the Carnegie Institution at bucolic Cold Spring Harbor. Davenport's annual salary was fixed at $3,500 plus travel expenses. It was a significant compensation package for its day. For example, in 1906, the president of the University of Florida received only $2,500 per year, and Northwestern University's librarian earned only $1,200. [73]

A new building for the experimental station costing $20,000 was approved. Everything would be first class, as it should be, endowed by Andrew Carnegie's fortune. The undertaking was not merely funded by Carnegie, it was an integral part of the Carnegie Institution itself. Letterhead prominently made it clear at the top that the station was wholly part of the Carnegie Institution. Moreover, the purse strings would be tightly held with the smallest activity being considered in advance and authorized after approval. "The sum of $300 [shall] be paid to Prof. Davenport to enable him to procure certain animals for the proposed laboratory," instructed Carnegie's chairman, John Billings, "... provided that he shall furnish properly acceptable vouchers for the expenditure of this money." [74]

Billings was fastidious about record keeping and supervision. He was one of America's most distinguished citizens. Some would eventually call him "the father of medical and vital statistics" in the United States. He ensured that medical statistics were included in the United States Census of 1880, and he took a leadership role in drawing up the nation's vital statistics for the censuses of 1890 and 1900. During Billings's tenure in the Surgeon General's Office, he was considered America's foremost expert on hygiene. [75]

Billings and the Carnegie Institution would now mobilize their prestige and the fortune they controlled to help Davenport usher America into an age of a new form of hygiene: racial hygiene. The goal was clear: to eliminate the inadequate and unfit. Now it was time to search the nation, from its busiest metropolises to its most remote regions, methodically identifying exactly which families were qualified to continue and which were not.

Re: War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to

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Hunting the Unfit

The Carnegie Institution's Station for Experimental Evolution at Cold Spring Harbor opened for business in 1904. But in the beginning, little happened. The experimental station's first years were devoted to preparatory work, mostly because Davenport was fundamentally unsure of just how he would go about reshaping mankind in his image. "I have little notion of just what we shall do," Davenport confided in a note. "We shall reconnoiter the first year." [1]

So Davenport focused on the basics. Lab animals were purchased: a tailless Manx cat, long-tailed fowl, canaries and finches for breeding experiments. Hundreds of seeds were acquired for Mendelian exercises. A staff was hired, including an animal keeper from Chicago, several research associates, an expert in botany and entomology, plus a gardener and a librarian. The librarian assembled shelf after shelf of the leading English, German and French biology publications: 2,000 books, 1,500 pamphlets, and complete sets of twenty-three leading journals, including American Journal of Physiology, Canadian Entomologist, Der Zoologische Garten and L'Annee Biologique. Associates were recruited from the scholarly ranks of Harvard, the University of Chicago, Columbia University and other respected institutions to actively research and consult. Corresponding scientists were attracted from Cambridge, Zurich, Vienna, Leipzig and Washington, D.C. to share their latest discoveries from the fields of entomology, zoology and biology. [2]

Davenport was so busy getting organized that the Carnegie Institution did not issue its official announcement about the experimental station until more than a year later, in March of 1905. [3]

Indeed, only after Davenport had recruited enough scholars and amassed enough academic resources to create an aura of eugenic preeminence, did he dispatch a letter to Galton, in late October of 1905, inviting him to become a so-called "correspondent." Clearly, Davenport wanted Galton's name for its marquee value. "Acceptance of this invitation," Davenport wrote, "[is] implying only [a] mutual intention to exchange publications and occasionally ideas by letter." But Galton was reluctant. "You do me honor in asking," Galton scribbled back, " ... but I could only accept in the understanding that it is an wholly honorary office, involving no duties whatever, for I have already more on my head than I can properly manage." That said, Galton asked Davenport to "exercise your own judgment" before using his name "under such bald restriction." [4]

During the next two years, Davenport's new experimental station confined its breeding data to the lower life forms, such as mice, canaries and chickens, and he contributed occasional journal articles, such as one on hereditary factors in human eye color. [5]

But how could Davenport translate his eugenic beliefs into social action?

Talk and theories gave way to social intervention at the December 1909 American Breeders Association meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. Subcommittees had already been formed for different human defects, such as insanity, feeblemindedness, criminality, hereditary pauperism and race mongrelization. Davenport encouraged the ABA to escalate decisively from pure hereditary research into specific ethnic and racial investigation, propaganda and lobbying for legislation. He convinced his fellow breeders to expand the small Eugenics Committee to a full-fledged organizational section. ABA members voted yes to Davenport's ideas by a resounding 499 to 5. Among his leading supporters was Alexander Graham Bell, famous for inventing the telephone and researching deafness, but also a dedicated sheep breeder and ardent eugenicist. [6]

Now the real work began. Davenport and Bell had already devised a so-called "Family Record" questionnaire. Bell agreed to use his influence and circulate the forms to high schools and colleges. The ABA also agreed to distribute five thousand copies. Davenport's eugenic form asked pointed questions about eye defects, deafness and feeblemindedness in any of a suspect family's ancestry. Bell wondered why Davenport would not also trace the excellence in a suspect family, as well as its defects. [7]

But Davenport was only interested in documenting human defects in other races and ethnic groups, not their achievements. He believed that inferiority was an inescapable dominant Mendelian trait. Even if a favorable environment produced a superior individual, if that individual derived from inferior ethnic or racial stock, his progeny would still constitute a biological "menace." [8]

Davenport's scientific conclusion was already set in his mind; now he craved the justifying data. Even with the data, making eugenics a practical and governing doctrine would not be easy. American demographics were rapidly transforming. Political realities were shifting. Davenport well understood that as more immigrants filed into America's overcrowded political arena, they would vote and wield power. Race politics would grow harder and harder to legislate. It mattered not. Davenport was determined to prevail against the majority -- a majority he neither trusted nor respected.

The inspiration to persevere against a changing world of ethnic diversity would come weeks later, during a visit to Kent, England. Davenport called the experience "one of the most memorable days of my life." That morning, the weather was beautiful and Davenport could not help but walk several miles through the bracing English countryside. He found himself at Downe House, Darwin's longtime residence. For an hour, the American eugenicist pondered Darwin's secluded walking paths and gardens. "It is a wonderful place," Davenport wrote, "and seems to me to give the clue to Darwin's strength -- solitary thinking out of doors in the midst of nature. I would give a good deal for such a walk .... Then I would build a brick wall around it .... I know you will laugh at this," he continued, "but it means success in my work as opposed to failure. I must have a convenient, isolated place for continuous reflection." [9]

Davenport returned to America and began constructing his scientific bastion, impervious to outside interference. The first step would be to establish the so-called Eugenics Record Office to quietly register the genetic backgrounds of all Americans, separating the defective strains from the desired lineages. Borrowing nomenclature and charting procedures from the world of animal breeding, these family trees would be called pedigrees. Where would the ERO obtain the family details? "They lie hidden," Davenport told his ABA colleagues, "in records of our numerous charity organizations, our 42 institutions for the feebleminded, our 115 schools and homes for the deaf and blind, our 350 hospitals for the insane, our 1,200 refuge homes, our 1,300 prisons, our 1,500 hospitals and our 2,500 almshouses. Our great insurance companies and our college gymnasiums have tens of thousands of records of the characters of human bloodlines. These records should be studied, their hereditary data sifted out and properly recorded on cards, and [then] the cards sent to a central bureau for study ... [of] the great strains of human protoplasm that are coursing through the country." [10]

At the same time, Davenport wanted to collect pedigrees on eminent, racially acceptable families, that is, the ones worth preserving. [11]

The planned ERO would also agitate among public officials to accept eugenic principles even in the absence of scientific support. Legislation was to be pressed to enable the forced prevention of unwanted progeny, as well as the proliferation by financial incentives of acceptable families. Whereas the experimental station would concentrate on quotable genetic research, the ERO would transduce that research into governing policy in American society.

In early 1910, just after the impetus for the new eugenics section of the American Breeders Association, Davenport swiftly began making his Eugenics Record Office a reality. Once more, the undertaking would require a large infusion of money. So once again he turned to great wealth. Reviewing the names in Long Island's Who's Who, Davenport searched for likely local millionaires. Going down the list, he stopped at one name: "Harriman." [12]

E.H. Harriman was legendary. America's almost mythic railroad magnate controlled the Union Pacific, Wells Fargo, numerous financial institutions and one of the nation's greatest personal fortunes. Davenport knew that Harriman craved more than just power and wealth; he fancied himself a scientist and a naturalist. The railroad man had financed a famous Darwin-style expedition to explore Alaskan glaciers. The so-called "Harriman Expedition" was organized by famous botanist and ornithologist C. Hart Merriam, a strong friend of eugenics. In 1907, Merriam had singlehandedly arranged a private meeting between Davenport's circle of eugenicists and President Theodore Roosevelt at the president's Long Island retreat. [13]

Harriman died in 1909, leaving a fabulous estate to his wife, Mary. [14]

Everything connected in Davenport's mind. He remembered that three years earlier, Harriman's daughter, also named Mary, had enrolled in one of Cold Spring Harbor's summer biology courses. She was so enthusiastic about eugenics, her classmates at Barnard College had nicknamed her "Eugenia." Mrs. Harriman was the perfect candidate to endow the Eugenics Record Office to carry on her husband's sense of biological exploration, and cleanse the nation of racial and ethnic impurity. [15]

Quickly, Davenport began cultivating a relationship with the newly widowed Mrs. E.H. Harriman. Her very name invoked the image of wealth and power wielded by her late husband, but identified her as now possessing the power over that purse. Even though the railroad giant's wife was now being plagued by philanthropic overtures at every turn, Davenport knew just how to tug the strings. Skilled in the process, it only took about a month. [16]

In early 1910, just days after the ABA elected to launch the Eugenics Record Office, Davenport reconnected with his former student about saving the social and biologic fabric of the United States. Days later, on January 13, Davenport visited Mary to advance the cause. On February 1, Davenport logged an entry in his diary: "Spent the evening on a scheme for Miss Harriman. Probably time lost." Two days later, the diary read: "Sent off letter to Miss Harriman." By February 12, Davenport had received an encouraging letter from the daughter regarding a luncheon to discuss eugenics. On February 16, Davenport's diary entry recorded: "To Mrs. Harriman's to lunch" and then several hours later, the final celebratory notation: "All agreed on the desirability of a larger scheme. A Red Letter Day for humanity!" [17]

Mrs. E. H. Harriman had joined the eugenic crusade. She agreed to create the Eugenics Record Office, purchasing eighty acres of land for its use about a half mile from the Carnegie Institution's experimental station at Cold Spring Harbor. She also donated $15,000 per year for operations and would eventually provide more than a half million dollars in cash and securities. [18]

Clearly, the ERO seemed like an adjunct to the Carnegie Institution's existing facility. But in fact it would function independently, as a joint project of Mrs. Harriman and the American Breeders Association's eugenic section. "As the aims of the [ABA's] Committee are strongly involved," Davenport wrote Mrs. Harriman on May 23, 1910, "it is but natural that, on behalf of the Committee, I should express its gratitude at the confidence you repose in it." [19]

Indeed, all of Davenport's numerous and highly detailed reports to Mrs. Harriman were written on American Breeders Association eugenic section letterhead. Moreover, the ABA's eugenics committee letterhead itself conveyed the impression of a semiofficial U.S. government agency. Prominently featured at the top of the stationery were the names of ABA president James Wilson, who was also secretary of the Department of Agriculture, and ABA secretary W. M. Hays, assistant secretary of the Department of Agriculture. In fact, the words "U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington D.C." appeared next to Hays's name, as a credential. [20] The project must have seemed like a virtual partnership between Mrs. Harriman and the federal government itself. [21]

Although the establishment of the Eugenics Record Office created a second eugenics agency independent of the Carnegie Institution, the two facilities together with the American Breeders Association's eugenic section in essence formed an interlocking eugenic directorate headquartered at Cold Spring Harbor. Davenport ruled all three entities. Just as he scrupulously reported to Carnegie trustees in Washington about the experimental station, and ABA executives about its eugenic section, Davenport continuously deferred to Mrs. Harriman as the money behind his new ERO. Endless operational details, in-depth explanations regarding the use of cows to generate milk for sale at five cents per quart to defray the cost of a caretaker, plans to plant small plots of hay and com, and requests to spend $10 on hardware and $50 on painting -- they were all faithfully reported to Mrs. Harriman for her approval. [22] It gave her the sense that she was not only funding a eugenic institution, but micromanaging the control center for the future of humanity.

While the trivialities of hay and hardware consumed report after report to Mrs. Harriman, the real purpose of the facility was never out of anyone's mind. For example, in his May 23, 1910 report to Mrs. Harriman, Davenport again recited the ERO's mission: "The furtherance of your and its [the ABA's] ideal to develop to the utmost the work of the physical and social regeneration of our beloved country [through] the application ... of ascertained biological principles." Among the first objectives, Davenport added, was "the segregation of imbeciles during the reproductive period." No definition of "imbeciles" was offered. In addition, he informed Mrs. Harriman, "This office has addressed to the Secretary of State of each State a request for a list of officials charged with the care of imbeciles, insane, criminals, and paupers, so as to be in a position to move at once ... as soon as funds for a campaign are available. I feel sure that many states can be induced to contribute funds for the study of the blood lines that furnish their defective and delinquent classes if only the matter can be properly brought to their attention." [23]

Referring to the increase in "defective and delinquent classes" that worried so many of America's wealthy, Davenport ended his May 23 report by declaring, "The tide is rising rapidly; I only regret that I can do so little." [24]

Davenport could not do it alone. Fundamentally, he was a scientist who preferred to remain in the rarefied background, not a ground-level activist who could systemize the continuous, around-the-clock, county-by-county and state-by-state excavation of human data desired. He could not prod the legislatures and regulatory agencies into proliferating the eugenic laws envisioned. The eugenics movement needed a lieutenant to work the trenches -- someone with ceaseless energy, a driven man who would never be satisfied. Davenport had the perfect candidate in mind.

"I am quite convinced," Davenport wrote Mrs. Harriman, "that Mr. Laughlin is our man." [25]


Fifty-five miles west of where northeast Missouri meets the Mississippi River, rolling foothills and hickory woodlands veined with lush streams finally yield to the undulating prairie that seats the town of Kirksville. In colonial times, mound-building Indians and French trappers prowled this region's vast forests hunting beaver, bear and muskrat pelts. After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, only the sturdiest pioneers settled what became known as the state of Missouri. Kirksville was a small rural town in its northeast quadrant, serving as the intellectual and medical center of its surrounding agricultural community. [26]

In 1891, the Laughlin clan was among the tough middle-class pioneer families that settled in Kirksville, hoping to make a life. George Laughlin, a deeply religious college professor, migrated from Kansas to become pastor at Kirksville's Christian Church. The next year, the classically trained Laughlin was hired as chairman of the English Department of the Normal School, the area's main college. [27] Quickly, the Laughlins became a leading family of Kirksville.

In a modest home on East Harrison Street, the elder Laughlin raised ten children including five sons, one of whom was Harry Hamilton Laughlin. Young Harry was expected to behave like a "preacher's kid," even though his father was a college professor and no longer a clergyman. Preacher's kid or not, Harry was prone to youthful pranks and was endearingly nicknamed "Hi Yi" by his siblings. Once, on a sibling dare, Harry swung an axe at his younger brother Earl's hand, which was poised atop a chopping block. One of Earl's fingers was nearly severed, but was later reattached. [28]

Ancestry and social progress were both important in the Laughlin household. Reverend Laughlin could trace his lineage back to England and Germany, and it included U.S. President James Madison. His mother, Deborah, a Temperance League activist, acknowledged that her great-grandfather was a soldier in the English Light Dragoons during colonial times. [29]

When a well-educated Harry Laughlin graduated from college, he saw himself destined for greater things. Unfortunately, opportunity did not approach. So Laughlin became a teacher at a desolate one-room schoolhouse in nearby Livonia, Missouri. Life in Livonia was an unhappy one for Laughlin. He had to walk through a small stream just to reach the front door of the schoolhouse. Laughlin referred to his ramshackle school as being "20 miles from any civilized animal." Sneering at the locals, he wrote, "People here are 75 years behind the times." Laughlin denigrated his students as "very dull" and admitted to "a forced smile" when he wasn't grumbling. [30]

Laughlin returned to Kirksville at his first chance. Initially, he hired on as principal of the local high school in 1900. However, he soon advanced to the Department of Agriculture, Botany and Nature at his college alma mater, the Normal School. His wife Pansy had also graduated from there. Hence, it was where Laughlin felt most comfortable. Indeed, despite the wide travels and illustrious circles he ultimately attained, Laughlin always considered simple Kirksville his true home and refuge. [31]

Still, Laughlin was convinced his days at Normal were temporary. A political dreamer, Laughlin had already drafted the first of numerous outlines for a one-world government comprised of six continental jurisdictions, complete with an international parliament apportioning seats in favor of the hereditarily superior nations. In Laughlin's world scheme, the best stocks would rule. Laughlin submitted his detailed plans to heads of state and opinion makers, but to no avail. No one paid attention. [32]

Highfalutin proposals for a personally crafted world order were only the outward manifestations of a man who desperately sought to make a mark, and not just any mark, but an incandescent mark visible to all. In pursuit of this, Laughlin spent a lifetime submitting his writings on everything from politics to thoroughbred horseracing to world leaders and influential personalities, seeking favorable comments, approval and recognition. And if none of that was possible, just a simple "thank you" would do.

It was not unusual for Laughlin to mail an obscure journal article or scientific paper to dozens of perfect strangers in high places, soliciting any measure of written approbation. These reply letters typed on important letterheads were then filed and cherished. Many were little more than polite but depthless two-sentence acknowledgments written by well-placed people who scarcely understood why they had been contacted. For example, Laughlin sent one immigration study to dozens of embassies, newspaper editors, business tycoons and private foundation leaders seeking comment. The Columbian Ambassador to Washington formally wrote back: "I take pleasure in acknowledging receipt of ... the books ... which I will be glad to look over." The editor of Foreign Affairs magazine issued a curt two-sentence thank you, indicating, "It will be useful in our reference files." An assistant in Henry Ford's office dashed off a two-sentence pro forma note, "We ... wish to take this opportunity of thanking you on behalf of Mr. Ford for the copy of your work .... " [33]

Self-promotion was a way of life for Laughlin. [34] But no matter how high his station, it was never high enough. "If I can't be great," Laughlin once confessed to his mother, at least "I can certainly do much good." [35]

Laughlin's desperate quest for greatness turned a historic corner on May 17, 1907, when he wrote to Davenport asking to attend one of Cold Spring Harbor's continuing summer biology courses. His application was immediately approved. [36] The relationship between Davenport and Laughlin finally ignited in January of 1909 when both men attended the American Breeders Association meeting in Columbia, Missouri. [37] The next year, after Mrs. Harriman approved the ERO, Laughlin was Davenport's number one choice.

Within Davenport's grandiose ideas about reshaping mankind, Laughlin could both find a niche and secure personal gratification. Working in the eugenics movement, with his notions of a one-world government, Laughlin might achieve a destiny he could barely imagine in any other endeavor.

Davenport understood Laughlin's deeply personal needs. As such, he structured Laughlin's employment to be more than just a career. The Eugenics Record Office would become Laughlin's life-from morning to night and into the next morning. Laughlin found such rigor comforting; it represented a personal acceptance he'd never known. Davenport had certainly chosen the right man.

Stressing to Mrs. Harriman that the ERO's task was a long-term project, Davenport proposed that Laughlin be hired for at least ten years. Laughlin's residence would actually be on the grounds of the Eugenics Record Office, and his title would be "superintendent." Davenport understood human nature. The very title "superintendent" was reminiscent of railroad station managers, the kind who had catered to Mrs. Harriman's late husband's steel-tracked empire. "Do you wish first to see Mr. Laughlin," Davenport asked Mrs. Harriman with apparent deference, but quickly added, "or do you authorize me to offer Mr. Laughlin $2,400 for the first year?" [38]

Mrs. Harriman approved. Davenport notified Laughlin. The campaign to create a superior race would soon be launched.


By late 1910 the Laughlins had arrived at Cold Spring Harbor to open the facility. They lived on the second floor of the ERO's main building, where they enjoyed four large rooms and a fifth smaller one. Laughlin would have continuous access to the library, dining room and kitchen adjacent to the main business area on the first floor. He would eat and sleep eugenics. Working fastidiously on the smallest details of the ERO's establishment, it was not uncommon to find him in the office seven days a week including most holidays. [39]

The Eugenics Record Office went into high gear even before the doors opened in October of 1910. Its first mission was to identify the most defective and undesirable Americans, estimated to be at least 10 percent of the population. This 10 percent was sometimes nicknamed the "submerged tenth" or the lower tenth. At the time, this amounted to millions of Americans. When found, they would be subjected to appropriate eugenic remedies to terminate their bloodlines. Various remedies were debated, but the leading solutions were compulsory segregation and forced sterilization. [40]

No time was wasted. During the ERO's preparatory summer months, a dozen field workers, mainly women, were recruited to canvas prisons and mental institutions, establishing good working relationships with their directors. The first junket on July 15, 1910, proved to be typical. First, field workers visited the notorious prison at Ossining, New York, known as Sing Sing, where they were granted a complete tour of the "hereditary criminals" they would be studying. After Sing Sing, the group traveled to the State Asylum at Matteawan, New York, where Superintendent Lamb promised to open all patient records to help "demonstrate at once the hereditary basis of criminal insanity." An albino family was then examined in nearby Millerton, New York. The eugenic investigators ended their outing at a school for the feebleminded in Lakeville, Connecticut. In Lakeville, once again, "the records were turned over to us," Davenport reported to Mrs. Harriman, enabling the "plotting on a map of Connecticut the distribution of birth-places of inmates." None of the institutions hesitated to turn over their confidential records to the private ERO -- even before the agency opened its doors. [41]

After a few weeks of training in eugenic characteristics and principles, Laughlin's enthusiastic ERO field investigators swept across the eastern seaboard. Their mission was to identify those perceived as genetically inferior, as well as their extended families and their geographic concentrations. By pegging hotspot origins of defectives, eugenic cleansing priorities could be established. By no means was this a campaign directed solely against racial groups, but rather against any individual or group -- white or black -- considered physically, medically, morally, culturally or socially inadequate in the eyes of Davenport and Laughlin. Often there was no racial or cultural consistency to the list of those targeted. The genuinely lame, insane and deformed were lumped in with the troubled, the unfortunate, the disadvantaged and those who were simply "different," thus creating a giant eugenic underclass simply labeled "the unfit."

The hunt began.

ERO researcher A. H. Estabrook traveled to western Massachusetts and Connecticut to collect family trees on albino families. He was then "attached" to the State Asylum at Matteawan to research criminal insanity. Thereafter, Laughlin assigned him to search for "degenerates in the isolated valleys around the upper Hudson [River]." Estabrook developed 35 pages of pedigrees and 168 pages of personal descriptions in his first forays, but Laughlin became most interested in one "large family with much intermarriage that promises to be as interesting as the Juke or Zero family." [42]

Mary Drange-Graebe was assigned to Chicago where she worked with the Juvenile Psychopathic Institute under Dr. William Healy. After four months in Chicago, she was reassigned to track down the so-called Ishmael clan of nomadic criminals and vagabonds in and around Indianapolis. The tribe of racially mixed white gypsies, Islamic blacks and American Indians had been described years earlier in the study The Tribe of Ishmael: a Study in Social Degeneration, as a prime example of genetic criminality. This book had become a fundamental text for all eugenics. Now the ERO considered the book, written a generation earlier, as "too advanced for the times." So Drange-Graebe would resume tracing the family lineages of the infamous Ishmaelites. Within months, she had assembled 77 pages of family pedigrees and 873 pages of individual descriptions. [43]

Criminal behavior was hardly a prerequisite for the ERO's scrutiny. Field worker Amey Eaton was assigned to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to report on the Amish. Buggy-riding Amish folk, the most conservative wing of Mennonite Christians, were among the most law-abiding, courteous and God-fearing people in America. But they were also known for their unshakable pacifism, their peculiar refusal to adopt industrial technology and their immutable clannishness. This made them different. "In this small sect," Laughlin reported, "considerable intermarriage has occurred. These people kindly cooperated in our efforts to learn whether ... these consanguineous [family-linked] marriages had resulted in defective offspring." [44]

The ERO's sights were broad, so their workers continued fanning out. Helen Reeves sought records of so-called feebleminded patients in various New Jersey institutions. Another researcher was sent to trawl the files of the special genealogy collection of the New York Public Library, looking for family ties to unfit individuals. Various hospitals around the country were scoured, yielding records on eighty immigrant families with Huntington's chorea, a devastating disease of the central nervous system. Even when Davenport vacationed in Maine, he used the occasion to visit the area's islands and peninsulas to record the deleterious effects of intermarriage in groups considered unfit. Idyllic Washington and Hancock counties in Maine were of particular interest. [45]

Epileptics were a high-priority target for Laughlin and the ERO. Field worker Florence Danielson was dispatched to collect the family trees of epileptics at Monson State Hospital for Epileptics in Massachusetts. Monson had previously been an almshouse or poorhouse. In line with eugenic thought, Monson's administrators believed that epilepsy and poverty were genetically linked. [46]

Laughlin dispatched a second ERO investigator, Sadie Deavitt, to the New Jersey State Village for Epileptics at Skillman to chart individual pedigrees. At Skillman, Deavitt deftly interviewed patients and their families about the supposed traits of their relatives and ancestors. The ERO's scientific regimen involved ascribing various qualities and characteristics to epileptic patient family members, living or dead. These qualities included medical characteristics such as "deaf" or "blind," as well as strictly social factors such as "wanderer, tramp, confirmed runaway" and "criminal." [47] The definition of "criminal" was never delineated; it included a range of infractions from vagrancy to serious felony.

Miss Deavitt employed warmth and congeniality to extract family and acquaintance descriptions from unsuspecting patients, family members and friends. A New Jersey State instructive report explained, "The investigator visits the patients in their cottages. She does this in the way of a friendly visit and leads the patient on to tell all he can about his friends and relatives, especially as to addresses. Often they bring her their letters to read and from these she gleans considerable information. Then comes the visit to the [family's] home. It is the visitor's recent and personal knowledge of the patient that often assures her of a cordial welcome." By deftly gaining the confidence of one family member and friend after another, Miss Deavitt was able to map family trees with various social and medical qualities penned in with special codes. "Sx" meant "sexual pervert"; "im" stood for "immoral." [48] None of the hundreds of people interviewed knew they were being added to a list of candidates for sterilization or segregation in special camps or farms.

Laughlin and the ERO focused heavily on the epileptic menace because they believed epilepsy and "feeblemindedness" were inextricably linked in human nature. Indeed, they often merged statistics on epileptic patients with those of the feebleminded to create larger combined numbers. The term "feeblemindedness" was never quite defined; its meaning varied from place to place, and even situation to situation. The eugenically damning classification certainly included genuine cases of severely retarded individuals who could not care for themselves, but it also swept up those who were simply shy, stuttering, poor at English, or otherwise generally nonverbal, regardless of their true intellect or talent. [49] Feeblemindedness was truly in the eye of the beholder and frequently depended upon the dimness or brightness of a particular moment.

But there was little room for gray in Laughlin's world. To accelerate the campaign against epileptics, Laughlin distributed to hospital and institutional directors a special thirty-page bulletin, filled with dense scientific documentation, number-filled columns, family charts and impressive Mendelian principles warning about the true nature of epilepsy. The bulletin, entitled "A First Study of Inheritance of Epilepsy," and first published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, was authored by Davenport and a doctor employed by New Jersey's epileptic village. The treatise asserted conclusively that epilepsy and feeblemindedness were manifestations of a common defect, due to "the absence of a protoplasmic factor that determines complete nervous development." The bulletin emphasized that the genetic menace extended far beyond the family into the so-called genetic "fraternity," or the lineages of everyone related to every person who was considered epileptic. The more such "tainted" defectives were allowed to reproduce, the more numerous their epileptic and feebleminded descendants would become. In one example, the research declared that "in 28 families of normal parents of epileptic children every one shows evidence of mental weakness." [50]

The ERO dismissed the well-known traumatic causes of epilepsy or insanity, such as a fall or severe blow to the head, in favor of hereditary factors. In one typical insanity case originally blamed on a fall, the bulletin explained, "This defect may be purely traumatic but, on the other hand, he has an epileptic brother and a feeble-minded niece so there was probably an innate weakness and the fall is invoked as a convenient 'cause.''' [51]

Strikingly, the ERO's definition of epilepsy itself was so sweeping that it covered not only people plagued by seizures, but also those suffering from migraine headaches and even brief fainting spells possibly due to exhaustion, heat stroke or other causes. "Epilepsy is employed in this paper," Davenport wrote, "in a wide sense to include not only cases of well-marked convulsions, but also cases in which there has been only momentary loss of consciousness." [52]

The prospect of epileptics in the population would haunt Laughlin for decades as he feverishly launched every effort to identify them. Once he identified them, Laughlin wanted to neutralize their ability to reproduce. The ERO's epilepsy bulletin concluded: "The most effective mode of preventing the increase of epileptics that society would probably countenance is the segregation during the reproductive period of all epileptics." [53]

America's geography was diverse. Since the western regions of the United States were still being settled, the ERO understood that many family trees in those regions would be incomplete. Indeed, many people moved out West precisely because they wanted to begin a new life detached from their former existence. Public records in western locales often lacked information about extended family and ancestry. Overcoming the challenge of documenting the population of a vast continent with only broken bits of family data, the ERO promised that "the office is now prepared to index any material, no matter how fragmentary or how extensive, concerning the transmission of biological traits in man; and it seeks to become the depository of such material." To that end, the ERO contacted "the heads of all institutions in the United States concerned with abnormal individuals." [54]

Extending beyond the reach of his field workers, Laughlin promised the eugenics movement that the ERO would register information on all Americans no matter where they lived to "[prevent] the production of defective persons." While defectives were to be eliminated, the superior families were to be increased. The eugenics movement would seek out and list "men of genius" and "special talents," and then advocate that those families receive special entitlements, such as financial rewards and other benefits for increased reproduction. [55] Eventually, the superior race would be more numerous and would control American society. At some point, they alone would comprise American society.

The eugenic visions offered by Davenport and Laughlin pleased the movement's wealthy sponsors. On January 19, 1911, Andrew Carnegie doubled the Carnegie Institution's endowment with an additional ten million dollars for all its diverse programs, including eugenics. Mrs. Harriman increased her enthusiastic grants. John D. Rockefeller's fortune also contributed to the funding. A Rockefeller philanthropic official became "much interested in eugenics and seems willing to help Dr. Davenport's work," reported one eugenic leader to Mrs. Harriman in a handwritten letter. "His preference is to give a small sum at first ... raising the amount as the work advances." Initial Rockefeller contributions amounted to just $21 ,650 in cash and were earmarked to defray field worker expenses. But the highly structured Rockefeller philanthropic entities donated more than just cash; they provided personnel and organizational support, as well as the visible name of Rockefeller. [56]

Clearly, eugenics and its goal of purifying America's population was already more than just a complex of unsupported racist theorems and pronouncements. Eugenics was nothing less than an alliance between biological racism and mighty American power, position and wealth against the most vulnerable, the most marginal and the least empowered in the nation. The eugenic crusaders had successfully mobilized America's strong against America's weak. More eugenic solutions were in store.


On May 2 and May 3, 1911, in Palmer, Massachusetts, the research committees of the ABA's eugenic section adopted a resolution creating a special new committee. "Resolved: that the chair appoint a committee commissioned to study and report on the best practical means for cutting off the defective germ-plasm of the American population." Laughlin was the special committee's secretary. He and his colleagues would recruit an advisory panel from among the country's most esteemed authorities in the social and political sciences, medicine and jurisprudence. The advisory panel eventually included surgeon Alexis Carrel, M.D., of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, who would months later win the Nobel Prize for Medicine; O. P. Austin, chief of the Bureau of Statistics in Washington, D.C.; physiologist W. B. Cannon and immigration expert Robert DeCourcy Ward, both from Harvard; psychiatrist Stewart Paton from Princeton; public affairs professor Irving Fisher from Yale; political economist James Field from the University of Chicago; renowned attorney Louis Marshall; and numerous other eminent men of learning. [57]

Commencing July 15, 1911, Laughlin and the main ABA committee members met at Manhattan's prestigious City Club on West Forty-fourth Street. During a number of subsequent conferences, they carefully debated the "problem of cutting off the supply of defectives," and systematically plotted a bold campaign of "purging the blood of the American people of the handicapping and deteriorating influences of these anti-social classes." Ten groups were eventually identified as "socially unfit" and targeted for "elimination." First, the feebleminded; second, the pauper class; third, the inebriate class or alcoholics; fourth, criminals of all descriptions including petty criminals and those jailed for nonpayment of fines; fifth, epileptics; sixth, the insane; seventh, the constitutionally weak class; eighth, those predisposed to specific diseases; ninth, the deformed; tenth, those with defective sense organs, that is, the deaf, blind and mute. In this last category, there was no indication of how severe the defect need be to qualify; no distinction was made between blurry vision or bad hearing and outright blindness or deafness. [58]

Not content to eliminate those deemed unfit by virtue of some malady, transgression, disadvantage or adverse circumstance, the ABA committee targeted their extended families as well. Even if those relatives seemed perfectly normal and were not institutionalized, the breeders considered them equally unfit because they supposedly carried the defective germ-plasm that might crop up in a future generation. The committee carefully weighed the relative value of "sterilizing all persons with defective germ-plasm," or just "sterilizing only degenerates." The group agreed that "defective and potential parents of defectives not in institutions" were also unacceptable. [59]

Normal persons of the wrong ancestry were particularly unwanted. "There are many others of equally unworthy personality and hereditary qualities," wrote Laughlin, "who have ... never been committed to institutions." He added, "There are many parents who, in many cases, may themselves be normal, but who produce defective offspring. This great mass of humanity is not only a social menace to the present generation, but it harbors the potential parenthood of the social misfits of our future generations." Davenport had consistently emphasized that "a person who by all physical and mental examinations is normal may lack in half his germ cells the determiner for complete development. In some respects, such a person is more undesirable in the community than the idiot, (who will probably not reproduce), or the low-grade imbecile who will be recognized as such." [60]

How many people did the eugenics movement target for countermeasures? Prioritizing those in custodial care -- from poor houses to hospitals to prisons -- the unfit totaled close to a million. An additional three million people were "equally defective, but not under the state's care." Finally, the group focused on the so-called "borderline," some seven million people, who "are of such inferior blood, and are so interwoven in kinship with those still more defective, that they are totally unfitted to become parents of useful citizens." Laughlin insisted, "If they mate with a higher level, they contaminate it; if they mate with the still lower levels, they bolster them up a little only to aid them to continue their unworthy kind." The estimated first wave alone totaled nearly eleven million Americans, or more than 10 percent of the existing population. [61]

Eleven million would be only the beginning. Laughlin readily admitted that his first aim was at "ten percent of the total population, but even this is arbitrary." Eugenics would then turn its attention to the extended families deemed perfectly normal but still socially unfit. [62] Those numbers would add many million more.

Indeed, the eugenicists would push further, attempting a constantly upward genetic spiral in their insatiable quest for the super race. The movement intended to constantly identify the lowest levels of even the acceptable population and then terminate those families as well. "It will always be desirable," wrote Laughlin on behalf of the committee, "in the interests of still further advancement to cut off the lowest levels, and encourage high fecundity among the more gifted." [63]

The committee was always keenly aware that their efforts could be deemed unconstitutional. Legal fine points were argued to ensure that any eugenical countermeasure not "be considered as a second punishment ... or as a cruel or unusual punishment." The eugenic committee hoped to circumvent the courts and due process, arguing that "sterilization of degenerates, or especially of criminals, [could] be legitimately effected through the exercise of police functions." In an ideal world, a eugenics board or commission would unilaterally decide which families would be the targets of eugenic procedures. The police would simply enforce their decisions. [64]

Human rights attorney Louis Marshall, the committee's main legal advisor, opined that eugenic sterilization might be legal if ordered by the original sentencing judge for criminals. But to venture beyond criminals, he wrote, targeting the weak, the diseased and their relatives, would probably be unconstitutional. "I understand that the operation of vasectomy is painless," wrote Marshall, "... other than to render it impossible for him to have progeny .... The danger, however, is that it might be inflicted upon one who is not a habitual criminal, who might have been the victim of circumstances and who could be reformed. To deprive such an individual of all hope of progeny would approach closely to the line of cruel and unusual punishment. There are many cases where juvenile offenders have been rendered habitual criminals who subsequently became exemplary citizens ... the very fact that they exist would require the exercise of extreme caution in determining whether such a punishment is constitutional." [65]

Marshall added with vagueness, "Unless justified by a conviction for crime, it [eugenical sterilization] would be a wanton and unauthorized act and an unwarranted deprivation of the liberty of the citizen. In order to justify it, the person upon whom the operation is to be performed has, therefore, the right to insist upon his right to due process of law. That right is withheld if the vasectomy is directed ... by a board or commission, which acts upon its own initiative .... I fear that the public is not as yet prepared to deal with this problem." [66]

But Laughlin and his fellow breeders envisioned eugenical measures beyond mere sterilization. To multiply the genetically desired bloodlines, they suggested polygamy and systematic mating. Additional draconian remedies that were proposed to cut off defective germ-plasm included restrictive marriage laws, compulsory birth control and forced segregation for life -- or at least until the reproductive years had passed. Davenport believed mass segregation or incarceration of the feebleminded during their entire reproductive years, if "carried out thoroughly" would wipe out most defectives within fifteen to thirty years. All the extra property acquired to incarcerate the inmates could be sold off for cash. As part of any long-term incarceration program, the patient could be released if he or she willingly submitted to sterilization "just prior to release." This was viewed as a central means of bypassing the need for a court order or even a commission decision. These sterilizations could then be called "voluntary." [67]

One option went further than any other. It was too early to implement. However, point eight of the American Breeders Association plan called for euthanasia. [68]

Despite the diversity of proposals, the group understood that of the various debated remedies, the American public was only ready for one: sterilization. The committee's tactic would be to convince America at large that "eugenics is a long-time investment" appealing to "far-sighted patriots." The agenda to terminate defective bloodlines was advocated and its underlying science was trumpeted as genuine, even as the committee confessed in their own summary report, "our knowledge is, as yet, so limited." Laughlin and his colleagues pursued their mission even as the original Galtonian eugenicists in London publicly declared they were "fully conscious of the slenderness of their data." American eugenicists pressed on even as Pearson of the Eugenics Laboratory openly quoted criticism by a fellow of the Royal Statistical Society, "The educated man and the scientist is as prone as any other to become the victim ... of his prejudices .... He will in defence thereof make shipwreck of both the facts of science and the methods of science ... by perpetrating every form of fallacy, inaccuracy and distortion." [69] America's eugenicists continued even as their elite leaders acknowledged, "public sentiment demanding action was absent." [70]

Laughlin and the American eugenics movement were undeterred by their own lack of knowledge, lack of scientific evidence, and even the profound lack of public support. The crusade would continue. In their eyes, the future of humanity -- or their version of it -- was at stake.

Moreover, America's eugenicists were not satisfied with merely cleansing the United States of its defectives. The movement's view was global. The last of eighteen points circulated by Laughlin's committee was entitled "International Cooperation." Its intent was unmistakable. The ERO would undertake studies "looking toward the possible application of the sterilization of defectives in foreign countries, together with records of any such operations." Point eighteen made clear that Laughlin's ERO and the American eugenics movement intended to turn their sights on "the extent and nature of the problem of the socially inadequate in foreign countries." [71]

Re: War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to

PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 11:27 pm
by admin


Legitimizing Raceology

When Galton's eugenic principles migrated across the ocean to America, Kansas physician F. Hoyt Pilcher became the first in modern times to castrate to prevent procreation. In the mid-1890s, Dr. Pilcher, superintendent of the Kansas Home for the Feebleminded, surgically asexualized fifty-eight children. Pilcher's procedure was undertaken without legal sanction. Once discovered, Kansas citizens broadly condemned his actions, demanding he stop. The Kansas Home's embattled board of trustees suspended Pilcher's operations, but staunchly defended his work. The board defiantly proclaimed, "Those who are now criticizing Dr. Pilcher will, in a few years, be talking of erecting a monument to his memory." Later, Pilcher's national association of institution directors praised him as "courageous" and as a "pioneer, strong [enough] to face ignorance and prejudice." [1]

Enter Dr. Harry Clay Sharp, physician at the Indiana Reformatory at Jeffersonville. Sharp earned his medical degree in 1893. Two years later, he was hired by the Indiana Reformatory as its doctor. The Indiana Reformatory, the state's first prison, was proud of its progressive sanitation and medical policies. Sharp was already performing extralegal medical castrations to cure convicts of masturbation. In early 1899, he read an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) by distinguished Chicago physician Albert John Ochsner, who later cofounded the American College of Surgeons. Dr. Ochsner advocated compulsory vasectomy of prisoners "to eliminate all habitual criminals from the possibility of having children." In this way, Ochsner hoped to reduce not only the number of "born criminals" but also "chronic inebriates, imbeciles, perverts and paupers." [2]

Sharp combined Ochsner's idea with a second suggestion by another Chicago doctor, Daniel R. Brower. Brower read a paper before the American Medical Society, reprinted in JAMA, similarly urging that someone employ vasectomy on convicts to prevent the propagation of a criminal class. [3]

Sharp was willing to be that someone. In October of 1899, he became the first in the world to impose vasectomy on a person in custody. A nineteen- year-old Indiana Reformatory prisoner complained of excessive masturbation, and Sharp used the opportunity. After disinfecting the prisoner's scrotum, the doctor made a one-inch incision, severed the ducts, and then buried a stitch. Sharp was pleased with his work. During the next several years, he performed the same operation on scores of additional inmates, becoming the world expert in human sterilization. Each operation took about three minutes. Anesthetic was not used for subsequent operations. [4]

The Indiana prison doctor proudly lectured his colleagues about the procedure's advantages in a 1902 article in the New York Medical Journal. He presented the surgery strictly as a tool for human breeding. Quoting an old essay, Sharp railed: "We make choice of the best rams for our sheep ... and keep the best dogs ... how careful then should we be in begetting of children!" [5]

Sharp's article described his method in instructive, clinical detail. Yet involuntary sterilization was still not legal, and was thought by many to be unconstitutional. So he urged his fellow institutional doctors to lobby for both restrictive marriage laws and legal authority for every institutional director in every state to "render every male sterile who passes its portals, whether it be an almshouse, insane asylum, institute for the feeble minded, reformatory or prison." Sharp declared that widespread sterilization was the only "rational means of eradicating from our midst a most dangerous and hurtful class .... Radical methods are necessary." [6]

It is no wonder that the world was first prompted to embrace forced sterilization by Indiana. Within the state's mainly rural turn-of-the-century population existed a small but potent epicenter of radical eugenic agitation. For decades, Indiana law provided for the compulsory servitude of its paupers. They could be farmed out to the highest bidder. Unwashed homeless bands wandering through Indiana were reviled by many within charitable circles as genetically defective, and beyond help. [7]

Reverend Oscar McCulloch, pastor of Indianapolis's Plymouth Congregational Church, was known as a leading reformer and advocate of public charity. Ironically, McCulloch actually harbored an intense hatred of paupers and the displaced. He was greatly influenced by the publication of Dugdale's The Jukes, which traced a Hudson Valley family of paupers and criminals as a living example of the need to improve social conditions. But McCulloch was foremost among those who twisted Dugdale's work from a cry for social action into a vicious hereditary indictment. [8]

McCulloch went even farther, adding his own genealogical investigation of Indiana's thieving vagabonds, the so-called Tribe of Ishmael. He proffered their stories as further scientific proof of degeneration among the impoverished. McCulloch preached to his fellow reformers at the 1888 National Conference of Charities and Corrections that paupers were nothing more than biologically preordained "parasites" suffering from an irreversible hereditary condition. By 1891, McCulloch had become president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections, further ingraining his degeneracy theories upon the nation's charity and prison officials, who were only too quick to accept. [9]

Reverend McCulloch's outspoken sermons and investigations of the Ishmael tribe drew the attention of another leading Indianian, biologist David Starr Jordan, president of the University of Indiana. Convinced that paupers were indeed parasites, as McCulloch so fervently claimed, Jordan lectured his students and faculty to accept that some men were "dwarfs in body and mind." Quickly, Jordan became America's first eminent eugenic theorist. His 1902 book, Blood of a Nation, first articulated the concept of "blood" as the immutable basis for race. He readily proclaimed, "The pauper is the victim of heredity, but neither Nature nor Society recognizes that as an excuse for his existence." Jordan left Indiana in 1891 to become the first president of the newly created Stanford University, founded by the estate of wealthy railroad entrepreneur Leland Stanford. While at Stanford, Jordan used his position to further champion the eugenic cause, damning paupers in his writings and leading the like-minded elite in national eugenic organizations. [10]

Among the staunchest of Indiana's radical eugenicists was Dr. J. N. Hurty, who quickly rose from his insignificant station as the proprietor of an Indianapolis drug store to become the secretary of Indiana's State Board of Health. A close colleague of Hurty's once recalled for a eugenic audience: "It was not until Hurty had become the State Health Officer and had observed the stupidity of mankind, the worthlessness and the filthiness of certain classes of people, that he became really greatly interested in the subject [eugenics]." Once, when a prominent minister argued that all human beings were God's children, subject not to the laws of Mendel, but to the laws of grace, Hurty retorted, "Bosh and nonsense! Men and woman are what they are largely because of the stock from which they sprang." Hurty was eventually elected president of the American Public Health Association. [11]

By 1904, Sharp had performed 176 vasectomies as a eugenic solution designed to halt bloodlines. But the procedure was still not legal. So for three years, Drs. Sharp and Hurty lobbied the Indiana legislature to pass a bill for mandatory sterilization of all convicts. No distinction was made between lesser or graver crimes. There was no groundswell of public support for the measure, just the private efforts of Sharp, aided by Hurty and a few colleagues. The men stressed the social cost to the state of caring for its existing degenerates, and promised the new procedure would save Indiana from caring for future degenerates. [12] Drs. Sharp and Hurty were not immediately successful. But they did not give up.

It was an uphill battle. Indiana was not the first state to consider reproductive intervention, but until now, the idea had been rebuffed. In 1897, in the wake of Dr. Pilcher's first castrations, Michigan's legislature rejected a proposed law to make such actions legal. From 1901 through 1905, a key Pilcher supporter, Dr. Martin Barr, director of the Pennsylvania Training School for the Feebleminded, pushed for compulsory sterilization of mental defectives and other degenerates. Barr was undoubtedly among those responding to Sharp's early call to seek legislation. In 1905, both houses of Pennsylvania's legislature finally passed an "Act for the Prevention of Idiocy." The bill mandated that if the trustees and surgeons of the state's several institutions caring for feebleminded children determined "procreation is inadvisable," then the surgeon could "perform such operation for the prevention of procreation as shall be decided safest and most effective." [13]

Pennsylvania Governor Samuel Pennypacker's veto message denounced the very idea: "It is plain that the safest and most effective method of preventing procreation would be to cut the heads off the inmates," wrote Pennypacker, adding, "and such authority is given by the bill to this staff of scientific experts .... Scientists, like all other men whose experiences have been limited to one pursuit ... sometimes need to be restrained. Men of high scientific attainments are prone ... to lose sight of broad principles outside their domain .... To permit such an operation would be to inflict cruelty upon a helpless class ... which the state has undertaken to protect." Governor Pennypacker ended his incisive veto with five words: "The bill is not approved." No effort was made to override. [14]

What failed in Michigan and Pennsylvania found greater success in Indiana. Throughout 1906, Sharp ramped up his campaign. But the Indiana legislature was still resistant. So Sharp reminded Indiana's governor, J. Frank Hanley, that he was constantly performing vasectomies anyway, and his total had by now surged to 206. "I therefore wish to urge you," Sharp wrote the governor, "to insist upon the General Assembly [that] passing such a law or laws ... will provide this as a means of preventing procreation in the defective and degenerate classes." [15]

On January 29, 1907, Indiana Representative Horace Reed introduced Sharp's bill. The measure's phrasing was an almost verbatim rendering of the previously vetoed Pennsylvania bill. Three weeks later, with little debate, Indiana's House approved the eugenic proposal, 59 in favor and 22 opposed. About two weeks later, again with virtually no debate, Indiana's Senate ratified the bill, 28 voting aye and 16 nay. This time, there was no governor's veto. [16] Indiana thereby made its mark in medical history, and became the first jurisdiction in the world to legislate forced sterilization of its mentally impaired patients, poorhouse residents and prisoners. Sharp's knife would now be one of a multitude, and the practice would crisscross the United States.


In 1907, most Americans were unaware that sterilization had become legal in Indiana. Nor did they comprehend that a group of biological activists were trying to replicate that legislation throughout the country. Frequently, the dogged state lobbying efforts were mounted by just one or two individuals, generally local physicians who carried the eugenic flame. [17]

In February of 1909, Oregon's first woman doctor, Bethenia Owens- Adair, promoted Bill 68, sporting provisions virtually identical to Indiana's law, but vesting the sterilization decision in a committee of two medical experts. Both Oregon houses ratified and Governor George Chamberlain had promised to sign the bill into law. But when Chamberlain finally comprehended the final text, he vetoed the bill. In a letter to Dr. Owens-Adair, the governor explained, "When I first talked to you about the matter, without knowing the terms of the Bill in detail, I was disposed to favor it." But, he added, there were too few safeguards to prevent abuse. [18]

In early 1909, several additional attempts in other states also failed. Illinois's Senate Bill 249 authorized either castration or sterilization of confirmed criminals and imbeciles when a facility doctor felt procreation was "inadvisable"; it failed to pass. Wisconsin's Bill 744 to sterilize the feebleminded, criminals, epileptics and the insane on the recommendation of two experts was also rejected despite an amendment. [19]

But three states did ratify eugenic sterilization in 1909. Washington targeted "habitual criminals" and rapists, mandating sterilization as additional punishment for the "prevention of procreation." Connecticut enacted a law permitting the medical staff at two asylums, Middletown and Norwich, to examine patients and their family trees to determine if feebleminded and insane patients should be sterilized; the physicians were permitted to perform either vasectomies on males or ovariectomies on women. [20]

California was the third state to adopt forced sterilization in 1909; Chapter 720 of the state's statutory code permitted castration or sterilization of state convicts and the residents of the California Home for the Care and Training of Feebleminded Children in Sonoma County. Two institutional bureaucrats could recommend the procedure if they deemed it beneficial to a subject's "physical, mental or moral condition." [21]

During the next two years, more states attempted to enact eugenic sterilization laws. Efforts in Virginia to pass House Bill 96, calling for the sterilization of all criminals, imbeciles and idiots in custody when approved by a committee of experts, died in the legislature. But efforts in other states were successful. Nevada targeted habitual criminals. Iowa authorized the operation for "criminals, idiots, feebleminded, imbeciles, drunkards, drug fiends, epileptics," plus "moral or sexual perverts" in its custody. The Iowa act was tacked onto a prostitution law. [22]

New Jersey's legislation was passed in 1911. Chapter 190 of its statutory code created a special three-man "Board of Examiners of Feebleminded, Epileptics and Other Defectives." The board would systematically identify when "procreation is inadvisable" for prisoners and children residing in poor houses and other charitable institutions. The law included not only the "feebleminded, epileptic [and] certain criminals" but also a class ambiguously referred to as "other defectives." New Jersey's measure added a veneer of due process by requiring a hearing where evidence could be taken, and a formal notice served upon a so-called "patient attorney." No provision permitted a family-hired or personally selected attorney, but only one appointed by the court. The administrative hearing was held within the institution itself, not in a courtroom under a judge's gavel. Moreover, the court-designated counsel for the patient was given only five days before the sterilization decision was sealed. Thus the process would be swift, and certainly beyond the grasp of the confused children dwelling within state shelters. New Jersey's governor, Woodrow Wilson, signed the bill into law on April 21, 1911. The next year, he was elected president of the United States for his personal rights campaign known as the "New Freedoms." Stressing individual freedoms, Wilson helped create the League of Nations. President Wilson crusaded for human rights for all, including the defenseless, proclaiming to the world the immortal words: "What we seek is the reign of law, based upon the consent of the governed, and sustained by the organized opinion of mankind." [23]

New York was next. In April of 1912, New York amended its Public Health Law with Chapter 445, which virtually duplicated New Jersey's eugenic legislation. New York law created its own "Board of Examiners for feebleminded, epileptics and other defectives," comprised of a neurologist, a surgeon and a general physician. Any two of the three examiners could rule whether family history, feeblemindedness, "inherited tendency" or other factors proved that procreation was inadvisable for the patients or prisoners they reviewed. Once again, a so-called "patient attorney" was to be appointed by the court. Vasectomies, salpingectomies (tubal ligations), and full castrations were authorized, at the discretion of the board. [24]

Despite the spreading patchwork of state eugenic sterilization laws, by late 1911 and early 1912, the Cold Spring Harbor stalwarts of the American Breeders Association, its Eugenic Record Office and the Carnegie Institution's Experimental Station remained frustrated. Their joint Committee to Study and Report the Best Practical Means of Cutting off the Defective Germ-plasm of the American Population knew that few Americans had actually undergone involuntary sterilization. True, in the years since 1907, when Indiana legalized such operations, Sharp had vasectomized scores of additional prisoners and even published open appeals to his professional colleagues to join his eugenic crusade. More than two hundred had been forcibly sterilized in California. Connecticut's Norwich Hospital had performed the operation on fewer than ten, mostly women. But only two eugenic sterilizations had been ordered in Washington state, and both were held in abeyance. An extralegal vasectomy had been performed on one Irish patient in a Boston hospital constituting a juridical test. However, none were authorized in Nevada, Iowa, New Jersey, or New York. [25]

Many state officials were clearly reluctant to enforce the laws precisely because the results were radical and irreversible. The legality of the operations and the question of due process had never been satisfactorily answered. The Eugenics Section of the American Breeders Association admitted in a report that the prior legislation had been pushed by "some very small energetic groups of enthusiasts, who have had influence in the legislatures ... [but] it was a new and untried proposition. Public sentiment demanding action was absent. Law officers of the state were not anxious to undertake defense of a law the constitutionality of which was questioned." [26]

Moreover, the whole concept of eugenic solutions, such as marriage restriction, forced segregation and involuntary sterilization was still disdained by most Americans. Catholics by and large considered the termination of reproductive capability to be an act against God. "It is evident," the report continued, "that active hostility and opposition will arise as soon as there is any attempt to carry out the laws in a through-going manner." The report concluded, "So we must frankly confess that ... this movement for race betterment is as yet little more than a hobby of a few groups of people." [27]

The Eugenics Section declared, "It is, therefore, easy to see why little has been actually done. The machinery of administration has to be created .... Much more extensive education of the public will be necessary before the practice of sterilization can be carried out to the extent which will make it a factor of importance." [28]

Clearly, the eugenics movement needed scientific validation, standards to identify exactly who was feebleminded and unfit, and most importantly, society's acceptance of the need to cut off defective families. Eugenicists in other countries, who had been corresponding together for some years, also felt the need to broaden acceptance of their beliefs. All of them wanted eugenic solutions to be applied on a global basis. Their mission, after all, was to completely reshape humanity, not just one corner of it. Toward this end, the Americans, working closely with their counterparts in Germany and England, scheduled an international conference in London. July of 1912 was selected because it coincided with a visit to London by Stanford University's Jordan and other eugenic leaders. [29]

Galton had died in January of 1911. By that time, his original theories of positive marriage, as well as his ideas on biometric study, had been circumvented by a more radical London group, the Eugenics Education Society. The Eugenics Education Society had adopted American attitudes on negative eugenics. By now, America's negative eugenics had also been purveyed to like-minded social engineers throughout Europe, especially in Germany and the Scandinavian nations, where theories about Nordic superiority were well received. Hence, this first conference was aptly called the First International Congress on Eugenics, bringing together some several hundred delegates and speakers from across America, Belgium, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and Norway. [30]

Not a few of the conferees would attend simply to investigate the emerging field of eugenics. But many of the Europeans attended because they harbored their own racial or ethnic biases against their nations' indigenous, immigrant or defective populations. For example, Jon Alfred Mj0en of Norway was that country's leading raceologist and eugenicist. He believed that crossing blond-haired Norwegians with native dark-haired Lapps produced a defective mulatto-like breed. Another major delegate was Alfred Ploetz, the spiritual father of Germany's race hygiene and eugenics movement. [31]

Organizers draped the conference with some of the most prestigious names in the world. Major Leonard Darwin, son of Charles Darwin, was appointed president. Britain's First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, would represent the king. Churchill was alarmed at Britain's growing population of "persons ... of mental defect" and advocated a eugenic solution. The vice presidents would include David Starr Jordan, Davenport, Ploetz and Alexander Graham Bell. To impress American governors and scientific organizations, the Eugenics Congress leadership wanted the U.S. State Department to send an official American delegate. Missouri's representative on the all-powerful House Appropriations Committee proffered the request. However, the State Department could not comply because the meeting was nongovernmental; therefore the U.S. government could not participate. [32]

Instead, Secretary of State P. C. Knox agreed to write the invitations on official letterhead and mail them to distinguished Americans in the realms of science, higher learning and state government all across the country. The U.S. State Department invitations would be officially extended on behalf of Alfred Mitchell Innes, the British Embassy's charge d'affaires in Washington, who in turn was submitting them on behalf of the Eugenics Education Society in London. Hence the invitations bore the clear imprimatur of the U.S. Secretary of State, yet technically Secretary Knox was merely conveying the invitation. The Knox letter also promised "to be the medium of communication to the Embassy" for any reply. [33]

Knox's official-looking invitations were each virtually alike. "At the request of the British Embassy at this capital, I have the honor to send you herewith an invitation extended to you by the Organizing Committee of the First International Eugenics Congress." Kansas Governor Walter Stubbs received one. Kentucky Governor James McCreary received one. Maryland Governor Phillip L. Goldsborough received one. Every governor of every state received one. Invitations were also sent to the presidents of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, the American Economic Association at Yale University, the American Philosophical Society, and many other esteemed organizations of science and academic study. Knox also mailed an invitation to every president of every leading medical society, including the American Gynecological Society, the American Neurological Association, the American Pediatric Society and, of course, the American Medical Association. Hundreds of such letters were posted on a single day -- June 20, 1912. [34]

Because the invitations were distributed just a few weeks before the London congress, few if any of the invitees could actually attend. This fact must have been understood in advance. After all, many received the invitation quite late, often only after their summer travels were complete. Nonetheless, nearly every recipient issued a gracious decline, and a personal note of thanks expressing their regret at missing an important event. All but one, that is. Secretary of War Henry Stimson dashed off a stern rebuff reminding Secretary of State Knox that such official involvement in a private conference was precluded by law. Stimson quoted the law in his reply: "No money ... shall be expended ... for expenses of attendance of any person at any meeting or convention of members of any society or association" unless authorized by statutory appropriation. [35]

The message was clear. Knox had, for all intents and purposes, turned the State Department into a eugenics post office and invitation bureau. From Knox's point of view, however, he was undoubtedly only too happy to help the eugenics program of the Carnegie Institution. Prior to his service as secretary of state, Knox had been an attorney for the Carnegie Steel Company, and was once called by Carnegie "the best lawyer I have ever had." [36]

Proper or not, eugenics had overnight been packaged into an officially recognized and prestigious science in the eyes of those who counted.


Some four hundred delegates from America and Europe gathered at the University of London in late July of 1912, where for five days a diverse assemblage of research papers were presented exploring the social science and heredity of man. Two French doctors reviewed Parisian insanity records for the previous half-century. Alcoholism as an inheritable trait was debated. But the proceedings were dominated by the U.S. contingent and their theories of racial eugenics. Galton's hope of finding the measurable physical qualities of man, an endeavor named biometrics, had become passe. One leading eugenicist reported, "'Biometry' ... might have never existed so far as the congress was concerned." Indeed, Galton's chief disciple, Karl Pearson, declined to even attend the congress. [37]

Instead, the racial biology of America's ERO, and its clarions for sterilization, dominated. The preliminary ABA report from what was dubbed "the American Committee on Sterilization" was heralded as a highlight of the meeting. One prominent British eugenicist, writing in a London newspaper, identified Davenport as an American "to whom all of us in this country are immensely indebted, for the work of his office has far outstripped anything of ours." [38]

One key British eugenicist added that if Galton were still alive and could "read the recent reports of the American Eugenics Record Office, which have added more to our knowledge of human heredity in the last three years than all former work on that subject put together, [he] would quickly seek to set our own work in this country upon the same sure basis." [39]

The medical establishment began to take notice as well, presenting eugenics as a legitimate medical concept. The Journal of the American Medical Association's coverage glowed. JAMA's headline rang out: "The International Eugenics Congress, An Event of Great Importance to the History of Evolution, Has Taken Place." Its correspondent enthusiastically portrayed the eugenicists' theory of social Darwinism, spotlighting the destructive quality of charity and stressing the value of disease to the natural order. "The unfit among men," the JAMA correspondent reported from a key congress speech, "were no longer killed by hunger and disease, but were cherished and enabled to reproduce their kind. It was true, they [society] could not but glory in this saving of suffering; but they must not blind themselves to the danger of interfering with Nature's ways. Cattle breeders bred from the best stocks .... Conscious selection must replace the blind forces of natural selection." [40]

Legitimacy, recognition and proliferation were only the beginning. In 1911, Davenport had authored a textbook entitled Heredity in Relation to Eugenics. It had been published by the prestigious Henry Holt & Co. The volume blended genuine biological observation with bizarre pseudoscientific postulations on personal habits and even simple preferences commanded by one's heredity. "Each 'family' will be seen to be stamped with a peculiar set of traits depending upon the nature of its germ plasm," wrote Davenport. "One family will be characterized by political activity, another by scholarship, another by financial success, another by professional success, another by insanity in some members with or without brilliancy in others, another by imbecility and epilepsy, another by larceny and sexual immorality, another by suicide, another by mechanical ability, or vocal talent, or ability in literary expression." [41]

Davenport's book promulgated a law of heredity that condemned the marriage of cousins as prohibited consanguinity, or marriage of close relatives. "[Should] a person that belongs to a strain in which defect is present ... marry a cousin or other near relative ... such consanguineous marriages are fraught with grave danger." Nonetheless, Davenport and his colleagues extolled the marriage of cousins among the elite as eugenically desired; for example, they commonly pointed to great men, such as Darwin, who married his first cousin. [42]

In the same textbook, Davenport insisted that if immigration from southeastern Europe continued, America would "rapidly become darker in pigmentation, smaller in stature, more mercurial, more attached to music and art, more given to crimes of larceny, kidnapping, assault, murder, rape and sex-immorality." He added a scholarly note about Jews: "There is no question that, taken as a whole, the horde of Jews that are now coming to us from Russia and the extreme southeast of Europe, with their intense individualism and ideals of gain at the cost of any interest, represent the opposite extreme from the early English and the more recent Scandinavian immigration with their ideals of community life in the open country, advancement by the sweat of the brow, and the uprearing of families in the fear of God and the love of country." [43]

Davenport's textbook concluded, "In other words, immigrants are desirable who are of 'good blood'; undesirable who are of 'bad blood.''' [44]

The volume declared that, without question, Mendel's laws governed all human character: "Man is an organism -- an animal; and the laws of improvement of corn and of race horses hold true for him also." In Davenport's mind, this axiom spawned far-reaching social consequences. Applying Mendelian formulas to pauperism, for example, Davenport cited "shiftlessness" as a genuine genetic trait, which could be rated for severity. On page 80 of his textbook, Davenport explained with mathematical authority, "Classifying all persons in these two families as very shiftless, somewhat shiftless, and industrious, the following conclusions are reached. When both parents are very shiftless, practically all children are very shiftless or somewhat shiftless .... When both parents are shiftless in some degree, about 15 percent of the known offspring are recorded as industrious." Not even the sudden onset of a prolonged disease incapacitating or killing the family breadwinner, and thereby creating financial woes for widows and orphans, was an excuse for poverty. "The man of strong stock," Davenport's textbook explained, "will not suffer from prolonged disease." [45]

As a solution to society's eugenic problem, Davenport's textbook strongly advocated for mass compulsory sterilization and incarceration of the unfit, a proliferation of marriage restriction laws, and plenty of government money to study whether intelligence testing would justify such measures against a mere 8 percent of America's children or as many as 38 percent. [46]

Re: War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to

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But could Davenport's eugenic textbook, and two or three others like it, become accepted doctrine at the nation's universities? American eugenicists were firmly entrenched in the biology, zoology, social science, psychology and anthropology departments of the nation's leading institutions of higher learning. Methodically, eugenic texts, especially Davenport's, were integrated into college coursework and, in some cases, actually spurred a standalone eugenics curriculum. The roster was long and prestigious, encompassing scores of America's finest schools. Harvard University's two courses were taught by Drs. East and Castle. Princeton University's course was taught by Dr. Schull and Laughlin himself. Yale's by Dr. Painter. Purdue's by Dr. Smith. The University of Chicago's by Dr. Bisch. Northwestern University, a hotbed of radical eugenic thought, offered a course by Dr. Kornhauser, who had interned at Cold Spring Harbor. [47]

Each school wove eugenics into its own academics. At the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Holmes's semester-long sociology course was simply named "Eugenics." At New York University, Dr. Binder's fifteen-week sociology course was named "Family and Eugenics," and was attended by some twenty-five male and female students. At Stanford University, Dr. v: L. Kellogg taught a course covering zoology and eugenics. Even tiny schools inaugurated eugenics courses. At Alma College in Michigan, the biology department offered Dr. MacCurdy's "Heredity and Eugenics" as an eighteen-week course. At tiny Bates College in Maine, Dr. Pomeroy's eighteen-week biology course was called "Genetics." [48]

Eugenics rocketed through academia, becoming an institution virtually overnight. By 1914, some forty-four major institutions offered eugenic instruction. Within a decade, that number would swell to hundreds, reaching some 20,000 students annually. [49]

High schools quickly adopted eugenic textbooks as well. Typical was George William Hunter's high school biology book, published by the nation's largest secondary school book publisher, the American Book Company. Hunter's 1914 textbook, A Civic Biology: Presented in Problems, echoed many of Davenport's principles. For example, in one passage Hunter railed against unfit families "spreading disease, immorality, and crime to all parts of this country." His text added, "Largely for them, the poorhouse and the asylum exist. They take from society but they give nothing in return. They are true parasites." Before long, the overwhelming majority of high schools employed eugenic textbooks that emphasized clear distinctions between "superior families" and "inferior families." [50]

But impeding Davenport and Laughlin's campaign for eugenic programs of sterilization, segregation and social restriction was the lack of easy-to-apply standards to earmark the inferior. Measuring man's intelligence had always been a eugenic pursuit. In 1883, Galton established what amounted to an intelligence test center in London, charging applicants three pence each to be evaluated. He measured physical response time to auditory, tactile and visual cues. In 1890, Galton's idea was refined by his associate, the psychologist James Cattell, who devised a series of fifty tests he called "Mental Tests and Measurements." Like Galton's intelligence examinations, these "mental tests" logged physical reaction time to sounds and pressures. [51]

French psychologist Alfred Binet was not a eugenicist; he believed that one's environment shaped one's mind. In 1905, at the request of the French education ministry, Binet and physician Theodor Simon published the first so-called "intelligence test" to help classify the levels of retarded children, allowing them to be placed in proper classes. The Binet-Simon Test offered students thirty questions of increasing difficulty from which the test grader could calculate a "mental level." But Binet insisted that his test did not yield fixed numbers. With assistance, special educational methods and sheer practice a child could improve his score, "helping him literally to become more intelligent than he was before." To this end, Binet developed mental and physical exercises designed to raise his students' intelligence levels. These exercises actually yielded improved scores. [52] Heredity was in no way a pre determiner of intelligence, he insisted.

But Binet's intent was turned upside down by American eugenicists. The key instrument of that distortion was psychologist Henry Goddard, an ardent eugenic crusader who became the movement's leading warrior against the feebleminded. In 1906, the year after Binet published his intelligence test, Goddard was hired to direct the research laboratory at the Vineland Training School for Feebleminded Girls and Boys in Vineland, New Jersey. When the ERO was created a few years later, Goddard routinely made his patients available for assessment and family tracing. [53]

In 1913, Goddard published an influential book in the eugenics world, The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeblemindedness. In the tradition of The Jukes and The Tribe of Ishmael, Goddard traced the ancestry, immorality and social menace of a large family he named the Kallikaks. He created the surname by combining the Greek words for "beauty" and "bad." The story of the Kallikaks presented more than just another defective genealogy. The book spun a powerful eugenic lesson and moral warning. [54]

Family patriarch Martin Kallikak, from the Revolutionary War era, was actually a splendid eugenic specimen who fathered an illustrious line of American descendants by his legitimate and eugenically sound Quaker wife. But Goddard claimed that the same Martin Kallikak had also engaged in an illicit affair with a feebleminded girl, which spawned "a race of defective degenerates." [55]

Foreshadowing a philosophy that low intelligence was a hereditary curse, Goddard wrote that the bad Kallikaks were "feebleminded, and no amount of education or good environment can change a feebleminded individual into a normal one, any more than it can change a red-haired stock into a black-haired stock." To drive his point home, Goddard included a series of photographs of nefarious-looking and supposedly defective Kallikak family members. These photos had been doctored, darkening and distorting the eyes, mouths, eyebrows, nose and other facial features to make the adults and children appear stupid. Although retouching published photos was common during this era, the consistent addition of sinister features allowed Goddard to effectively portray the Kallikaks as mental and social defectives. [56]

Added to the ominous photos were highly detailed descriptions of the Kallikak family tree. Goddard had anticipated that some might question how such meticulous biographical information about Kallikak ancestors -- often hailing back nearly a century and a half -- could be reliably extracted from feebleminded descendants. His answer: "After some experience, the field worker becomes expert in inferring the condition of those persons who are not seen, from the similarity of the language used in describing them to that used in describing persons whom she has seen." [57]

For example, Goddard's assistant asked one farmer, "Do you remember an old man, Martin Kallikak, who lived on the mountain edge yonder?" The book's text quotes the exchange: "'Do I?' he answered. 'Well, I guess! Nobody'd forget him. Simple,' he went on; 'not quite right here,' tapping his head, 'but inoffensive and kind. All the family was that.'" Goddard recited this documentation in a chapter entitled "Further Facts." [58]

Mass sterilization, in Goddard's view, was merely the first step in corralling the feebleminded. Sterilization did not diminish sexual function, just reproductive capability. Therefore, Goddard asked, "What will be the effect upon the community in the spread of debauchery and disease through having within it a group of people who are thus free to gratify their instincts without fear of consequences in the form of children? ... The feebleminded seldom exercise restraint in any case." [59]

His answer: mass incarceration in special colonies. "Segregation through colonization seems in the present state of our knowledge to be the ideal and perfectly satisfactory method." [60]

Davenport and Goddard both craved a more scientific measurement to identify the feebleminded they targeted. To that end, Goddard translated Binet's intelligence test into English to create a new American tool for intelligence testing. Binet had originally labeled the highest class of retarded child debile, French for "weak." Goddard changed that, coining a new word: moron. It was derived from moros, Greek for "stupid and foolish." [61]

Financing would be needed to prove Goddard's new test reliable in the field. "It would be very valuable for the general problem of Eugenics," Goddard outlined to Davenport in a July 25, 1912 letter, " ... in connection with the heredity of feeble-mindedness because ... we could judge the probable development of the child from the mental condition of the parents." The problem? "Our finances have failed us," wrote Goddard. "I trust you will be able to provide for some such work as this." [62]

Goddard was provided for. By 1913, he had taken his new intelligence test and a team of testers to Ellis Island to conduct experiments. American eugenicists long believed that the majority of immigrants, especially brown-haired Irish, Eastern European Jews and southeastern Italians, were genetically defective. As such, they could be expected to contribute a disproportionate number of feebleminded to American shores. At Ellis Island's massive intake centers, Goddard's staff initially selected just twenty Italians and nineteen Russians for assessment because they "appeared to be feebleminded." He believed in the "unmistakable look of the feebleminded," bragging that to spot the feebleminded, just "a glance sufficed." Ultimately, 148 Jews, Hungarians, Italians and Russians were chosen for examination. [63]

Predictably, Goddard's version of the Binet test showed that 40 percent of immigrants tested as feebleminded. Moreover, he wrote, "60 percent of the [Jewish immigrants] classify as morons." In reporting his results in the Journal of Delinquency, Goddard further argued that an improved test would reveal even greater numbers of feebleminded immigrants. "We cannot escape feeling," wrote Goddard, "that this method is too lenient ... too low for prospective American citizens." He explained, "It should be noted that the immigration of recent years is of a decidedly different character from the earlier immigration. It is no longer representative of the respective races. It is admitted on all sides that we are now getting the poorest of each race." [64]

Goddard's version of Binet's test, and the new term moron, began to proliferate throughout eugenic, educational, custodial, psychological and other scientific circles as a valid -- if still developing -- form of intelligence testing. Mental testing, under different names and on different scales, quickly emerged as a fixture of social science, frequently linked to eugenic investigation and sterilization efforts. Such tests were invariably exploited by the ERO for its eugenic agenda. In 1915, for example, Detroit's superintendent of schools tested 100 teenagers who had attended special classes. The Eugenics Record Office circulated a note in connection with the test: "It would be very interesting to secure the family history of those children who improve and did not markedly improve." Mental examinations as a condition of a marriage licenses were advocated by the president of New York's Association of County Superintendents of Poor and Poor Law Officers; moreover, the association president also urged the sterilization of any children who could be shown as feebleminded or epileptic by age twelve. [65]

Chicago's central jail, the House of Correction, studied the "practicality of the Binet Scale and the question of the border line case." By including the so-called "borderline," who tested near but not within the moron range, more persons could be classed as feebleminded or "nearly feebleminded." Chicago Municipal Chief Judge Harry Olson, responsible for sentencing prisoners to the House of Correction, was a revered leader of the eugenics movement. At the time of the House of Correction study, he reminded colleagues, "We have laid too great importance on the environmental factors and paid too little attention to the problem of heredity." [66]

Mental tests applied to Blacks led to an article in the Archives of Psychology reporting that when 486 whites and 907 Blacks were examined, Blacks scored only three-fourths as well as their white counterparts. The article noted that pure Blacks tested the lowest, about 60 percent lower than whites. But as the amount of white blood increased in their ancestry, so did the test scores. The authors concluded, "In view of all the evidence it does not seem possible to raise the scholastic attainments of the negro .... It is probable that no expenditure of time or of money would accomplish this end, since education cannot create mental power." [67]

In 1916, a conference on feeblemindedness and insanity assembled in Indiana to an overflowing attendance, where, as eugenicists reported, "The keynote of the whole conference was prevention rather then cure." The group heard many papers on "mental tests and their value." Even though many conferees claimed these mental tests were still in their infancy, eugenicists insisted the examinations did not need to be judged because they were merely "short-cuts" to "the final test of the person's mentality." [68]

Nonetheless, many openly disputed the validity of Goddard's intelligence test. In one case, the Magdalen Home for the Feebleminded commenced an involuntary commitment of a slow-learning twenty-one-year- old New York woman, based on her low Binet scores. The woman's fervent protest against incarceration was vindicated by a New York judge, who ruled in her favor, declaring: "All criteria of mental incapacity are artificial and the deductions therefrom must necessarily lack verity and be, to a great extent, founded on conjecture." [69]

More sophisticated tests than Goddard's began to appear. The Yerkes- Bridge Point Scale for Intelligence, for instance, was employed by ERO field workers "measuring the intelligence of members of pedigrees that are being investigated." The ERO printed special rating forms for the test. The test's creator, Harvard psychologist Robert Yerkes, was a leading eugenic theorist and a former student of Davenport's. Yerkes was a member of many elite eugenic committees, including the Committee on the Inheritance of Mental Traits and the Committee on the Genetic Basis of Human Behavior. Two years after helping invent the Point Scale, Yerkes became president of the American Psychological Association. [70]

Europe exploded into war in 1914. America did not join the fray until 1917, but when it did, Washington struggled to classify more than three million drafted and enlisted soldiers. American Psychological Association president Yerkes pleaded for intelligence testing. He gathered Goddard and Stanford University eugenic activist Lewis Terman and others to help develop standardized examinations. Working from May to July of 1917 at Goddard's laboratory at the Vineland Training School for Feebleminded Girls and Boys in New Jersey, these eugenic psychologists and others jointly developed what they portrayed as scientifically designed army intelligence tests. These were submitted to the army, and the surgeon general soon authorized mass testing. [71]

Two main tests were devised: the written Army Alpha test for English-speaking literate men, and the pictoral Army Beta test for those who could not read or speak English. The Alpha test's multiple-choice questions could certainly be answered by sophisticated urbanites familiar with the country's latest consumer products, popular art and entertainment. Yet most of America's draftees hailed from an unsophisticated, rural society. Large numbers of them had "never been off the farm." [72] Many came from insular religious families, which disdained theater, slick magazines and smoking. No matter, the mental capacity of everyone who could read and write was measured by the same pop culture yardstick.

Question: "Five hundred is played with ... " Possible answers: rackets, pins, cards, dice. Correct response: cards.

Question: "Becky Sharp appears in ... " Possible answers: Vanity Fair, Romola, The Christmas Carol, Henry IV Correct response: Vanity Fair.

Question: "The Pierce Arrow car is made in ... " Possible answers: Buffalo, Detroit, Toledo, Flint. Correct response: Buffalo.

Question: "Marguerite Clark is known as a ... " Possible answers: suffragist, singer, movie actress, writer. Correct response: movie actress.

Question: ''Velvet Joe appears in advertisements for ... " Possible answers: tooth powder, dry goods, tobacco, soap. Correct response: tobacco.

Question: '''Hasn't scratched yet' is used in advertising a ... " Possible answers: drink, revolver, flour, cleanser. Correct response: cleanser. [73]

Americans and naturalized immigrants who could neither read nor write English were administered the Beta picture exam. For example, Beta Test 6 offered twenty simple sketches with something missing. "Fix it," the subject was instructed. He was then expected to pencil in the missing element. Bowling balls were missing from a bowling lane. The center net was subtracted from a tennis court. The incandescent filament was erased from a lightbulb. A stamp was missing from a postcard. The upper left diamond was missing from a sketch of the jack of diamonds on a playing card. [74]

A third test was administered to those who could not score appreciably on either the Alpha or Beta tests. Dr. Terman of Stanford had created a so-called Stanford revision of the Binet test, later named the Stanford-Binet Test. This test was only an update of Goddard's work. [75]

Predictably, Yerkes's results from all three tests identified vast numbers of morons among the eugenically inferior groups -- so many that Yerkes asserted the army could not afford to reject all of them and still go to war. "It would be totally impossible to exclude all morons," reported Yerkes, because "47 percent of whites and 89 percent of Negroes" were shown to have a mental capacity below that of a thirteen-year-old. By contrast, the tests verified that feeblemindedness among eugenically cherished groups was indeed miniscule: Dutch people, a tenth of a single percent; Germans, just two-tenths of one percent; English, three-tenths; Swedes, less than half of one percent. [76]

In 1912, the German psychologist William Stern had begun referring to Binet's original "intelligence level" as an "intelligence age." Stern went further, dividing the intelligence age by the chronological age to create a ratio. In doing so, he coined the term intelligence quotient. Four years later, after Terman created the Stanford version of Goddard's Binet test, Terman and Yerkes wanted a more identifiable number, one that could be popularized. In 1916, using the Stanford-Binet test, Terman divided mental age by chronological age, and then multiplied by 100. This became the American version of the intelligence quotient. Terman nicknamed it IQ. The moniker became an instant icon of intelligence. Scales and rankings were devised. Those classified below a certain level, 70 scale points, were graded as either "morons," "imbeciles," or "idiots." [77]

Feeblemindedness now had a number. Soon everyone would receive one. Terman knew how such a number could be used. While studying California public school children, he argued, "If we would preserve our state for a class of people worthy to possess it, we must prevent, as far as possible, the propagation of mental degenerates." [78]

Yerkes's work was advanced by another eugenic activist, Princeton psychologist Carl Brigham. A radical raceologist, Brigham analyzed Yerkes's findings for the world at large, casting them as eugenic evidence of Nordic supremacy and the racial inferiority of virtually everyone else. Brigham's 1922 book, A Study of American Intelligence, published by no less than Princeton University Press, openly conceded that the volume was based on two earlier raceological books, Madison Grant's virulently racist Passing of the Great Race, and William Ripley's equally biased Races of Europe. Before Brigham's book was published, a team of prestigious colleagues from the surgeon general's office, Harvard, Syracuse University and Princeton pored over his manuscript, verifying his conclusions, as did Yerkes himself, who also wrote the foreword. [79]

"We still find tremendous differences between the non-English speaking Nordic group and the Alpine and Mediterranean groups," wrote Brigham. "The underlying cause of the nativity differences we have shown is race and not language." Moreover, "The decline in intelligence is due to two factors: the change in the races migrating to this country, and to the additional factor of the sending of lower and lower representatives of each race .... The conclusion [is] that our test results indicate a genuine intellectual superiority of the Nordic group over the Alpine and Mediterranean groups." [80]

According to Brigham, Negro intelligence was predestined by racial heredity, but could be improved by "the greater amount of admixture of white blood." [81]

Brigham concluded, "According to all evidence available, then, American intelligence is declining, and will proceed with an accelerating rate as the racial admixture becomes more and more extensive. The decline of American intelligence will be more rapid than the decline of the intelligence of European national groups," he warned, "owing to the presence here of the negro." He added, "The results which we obtain by interpreting the Army data support Mr. Madison Grant's thesis of the superiority of the Nordic type " [82]

Quickly, A Study of American Intelligence became a scientific standard. Shortly after its publication, Brigham adapted the Army Alpha test for use as a college entrance exam. It was first administered to Princeton freshman and applicants to Cooper Union. Later the College Board asked Brigham to head a committee to create a qualifying test for other private colleges in the Northeast and eventually across the country. Brigham's effort produced the Scholastic Aptitude Test, administered mainly to upper middle-class white students. The test quickly became known as the SAT and was eventually employed at colleges across the country. Over time, more and more colleges required high school students to take the test and score high enough to qualify for application. [83]

The deeply flawed roots of the IQ test, the SAT and most other American intelligence tests were more than apparent to many thinking people of the period. It became glaringly obvious that the tests were vehicles for cultural exclusion. Poor-scoring southern Italian immigrants would not have known who the latest Broadway stars were or which brands of flour were popular. They were, however, steeped in the arias of operatic masters, the arts in general, and had discovered the secrets of fine cooking centuries before. Jews -- who overwhelmingly scored as moronic -- were often only literate in Yiddish. But they enjoyed a rich tradition of Talmudic scholarship that debated to abstraction the very essence of life and God's will. Farm boys may not have been aware that Velvet Joe was a cigarette advertising character, but they grasped the intricate agrarian tenets of growing and curing tobacco leaves to produce the perfect smoke.

Blacks might not have been able to decipher the reading, writing and arithmetic denied to them by a discriminatory educational system intent on keeping them illiterate. They may not have been able to comprehend the first thing about tennis nets, bowling lanes or incandescent bulbs. But the descendants of men and women ripped from Africa had cultivated a rich oral storytelling tradition, an intense, almost enraptured scripture-quoting religion, and as a group they would originate the revolutionary music that would dominate the twentieth century. Perhaps most remarkably, they were smart enough to stay alive in a world where an uppity black man with too much on the ball, or too much spring in his step, could be lynched for looking in the wrong direction or asking too many questions. [84]

Brigham's book would be circulated to all the state legislatures, congressional committees and throughout the marble halls of Washington as proof positive that the inferior were not just poor or uneducated, but genetically defective. This notion was welcome news to many. Now the pages of polished scholarship could be held up as justification for the draconian measures the movement advocated.

But dissident schools of psychologists and social works emerged. Common sense rejected the numbers. Resistance grew.

The U.S. Army never acted on Yerkes's voluminous findings, declining to classify its inductees according to his data. Indeed, three independent investigations of the project were launched, one by the army's general staff, one by the surgeon general and one by the secretary of war. The general staff's investigation derisively concluded, "No theorist may ... ride it [the test scores] as a hobby [horse] for the purpose of obtaining data for research work and the future benefit of the human race." Nor would military planners utilize the information in the next war. [85]

Vituperative attacks upon the objectivity and credibility of the Alpha and Beta tests were widespread and highly publicized. Typical were the public denunciations of syndicated journalist Walter Lippmann in the New Republic. "The danger of the intelligence tests," warned Lippmann, "is that in a wholesale system of education, the less sophisticated or the more prejudiced will stop when they have classified and forget that their duty is to educate. They will grade the retarded child instead of fighting the causes of his backwardness. For the whole drift of the propaganda based on intelligence testing is to treat people with low intelligence quotients as congenitally and hopelessly inferior." Terman's answer to Lippmann was simply, "Some members of the species are much stupider than others." But Lippmann summed it up for many when he declared that the Stanford-Binet and other IQ tests were "a new chance for quackery in a field where quacks breed like rabbits, and ... doped evidence to the exponents of the New Snobbery." [86]

Eventually, even some of the architects of the IQ, SAT and kindred intelligence tests could no longer defend their creations from the growing rejection in their own professions. In 1928, Goddard grudgingly retreated from his hereditarian stance. "This may surprise you, but frankly when I see what has been made out of the moron by a system of education, which as a rule is only half right, I have no difficulty in concluding that when we get an education that is entirely right there will be no morons who cannot manage themselves and their affairs and compete in the struggle for existence. If we could hope to add to this a social order that would literally give every man a chance, I should be perfectly sure of the result." [87]

As for the compulsion to sterilize, Goddard eventually abandoned the eugenic creed entirely, at least publicly. "It may still be objected that moron parents are likely to have imbecile or idiot children. [But] there is not much evidence that this is the case. The danger is probably negligible." Aware he had recanted his whole life's work, Goddard confessed in exasperation, "As for myself, I think I have gone over to the enemy." [88]

In 1929, Brigham finally rejected those scholarly publications that asserted a racial basis for intelligence -- including his own. Whether out of shame or embarrassment, the Princeton scholar submitted, "Comparative studies of various national and racial groups may not be made with existing tests ... one the most pretentious of these comparative racial studies -- the writer's own -- was without foundation." [89]

Meaningful as they were to the history of science, the several quiet recantations were published in obscure medical and scholarly journals. Academia could relish the debate and savor the progress. But the system hewed in stone by the eugenics movement's intelligence warriors has stubbornly remained in place to this day. By the time some scientists saw the folly of their fiction, the politicians, legislators, educators and social workers who had adopted eugenic intelligence notions as firm science had enacted laws, procedures, systems and policies to enforce their tenets. Quiet apologies came too late for thousands of Americans who would be chased down by the quotients, scales and derisive labels eugenics had branded upon them.

No longer constrained by newness or lack of scientific proof, the eugenic crusade blitzed across America. The weak, the socially maligned, the defenseless and the scientifically indefensible of America's lowest biological caste would now be sterilized by the thousands, and in some cases euthanized.

Re: War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to

PostPosted: Thu Jul 31, 2014 1:01 am
by admin


The United States of Sterilization

It didn't matter that the majority of the American people opposed sterilization and the eugenics movement's other draconian solutions. It didn't matter that the underlying science was a fiction, that the intelligence measurements were fallacious, that the Constitutionality was tenuous, or that the whole idea was roundly condemned by so many. None of that mattered because Davenport, Laughlin and their eugenic constellation were not interested in furthering a democracy -- they were creating a supremacy.

Of course, American eugenicists did not seek the approbation of the masses whose defective germ plasm they sought to wipe away. Instead, they relied upon the powerful, the wealthy and the influential to make their war against the weak a conflict fought not in public, but in the administrative and bureaucratic foxholes of America. A phalanx of shock troops sallied forth from obscure state agencies and special committees -- everyone from the elite of the academic world to sympathetic legislators who sought to shroud their racist beliefs under the protective canopy of science. In tandem, they would hunt, identify, label and take control of those deemed unfit to populate the earth.

During the years bracketing World War I, a potent, if unsound, intelligence classification system was taking root. A patchwork of largely inert state sterilization laws awaited greater validation. The elite thinkers of American medicine, science and higher education were busy expanding the body of eugenic knowledge and evangelizing its tenets. However, the moment had still not arrived for eugenic rhetoric to massively impact the country. During these percolating years, Davenport and Laughlin continued to prepare the groundwork. They knew humanity could not be recreated overnight. They were patient men.

During the war years, eugenic organizations proliferated in America. Like-minded citizens found ethnic solace and even self-vindication in the idea of biological superiority. The Race Betterment Foundation was among the leading eugenic organizations that sprouted around the country to augment the work at Cold Spring Harbor. The society was founded by yet another wealthy American, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg of Battle Creek, Michigan. Dr. Kellogg was a member of the state board of health and operated a health sanitarium renowned for its alternative and fanciful food regimens. He had developed for his patients a natural product, a cereal made of wheat flakes. In 1898, Dr. Kellogg's brother, Will, created the corn flake, and in 1906 he began selling it commercially through a company that would ultimately become the cereal giant known as Kellogg Company. In that same year, Dr. Kellogg founded the Race Betterment Foundation to help stop the propagation of defectives. [1]

The Race Betterment Foundation attracted some of the most radical elements of the eugenics community. The organization wanted to compile its own eugenic registry, listing the backgrounds of as many Americans as possible, this to augment the one being developed by the Eugenics Record Office. In 1914, Dr. Kellogg organized the First Race Betterment Conference in Battle Creek, Michigan. The conference's purpose was to lay the foundations for the creation of a super race, amid an atmosphere of lavish banquets, stirring calls to biological action, and scientific grandiloquence. "We have wonderful new races of horses, cows, and pigs," argued Dr. Kellogg. "Why should we not have a new and improved race of men?" He wanted the "white races of Europe ... to establish a Race of Human Thoroughbreds." [2]

Davenport told the Battle Creek conferees that this could be accomplished by working quietly with the heads of state institutions. "The superintendents of state institutions," he explained, "were very desirous of assistance. We were able to give it to them, and they to us." Davenport relied upon institutional figures to authenticate his findings. "We have found that a large proportion of the feeble-minded, the great majority of them, are such because they belong to defective stock." [3]

Whatever restraint Laughlin used in his formal writings was absent from his speeches to the eugenic vanguard. Laughlin boldly put the Battle Creek gathering on notice: "To purify the breeding stock of the race at all costs is the slogan of eugenics." His three-pronged program was based on sterilization, mass incarceration, and sweeping immigration restrictions. "The compulsory sterilization of certain degenerates," affirmed Laughlin, "is therefore designed as a eugenical agency complementary to the segregation of the socially unfit classes, and to the control of the immigration of those who carry defective germ-plasm." [4]

The mothers of unfit children should be relegated to "a place comparable to that of the females of mongrel strains of domestic animals," said Laughlin. He complained that although twelve states had enacted laws, only a thousand people had been sterilized. "A halfway measure will never strike deeply at the roots of evil," he railed. [5]

At the Second Race Betterment Conference held the next year, ERO Scientific Director Irving Fisher, a Yale University economist, was equally blunt. "Gentlemen and ladies," Fisher sermonized, "you have not any idea unless you have studied this subject mathematically, how rapidly we could exterminate this contamination if we really got at it, or how rapidly the contamination goes on if we do not get at it." [6]

Eugenic extremism enjoyed layer upon layer of scientific veneer not only because eminent scholars enunciated its doctrine and advocated its solutions, but also by virtue of its numerous respected "research bodies." The Eugenics Record Office had inaugurated a Board of Scientific Directors in December of 1912. The board was initially comprised of Davenport, plus eminent Harvard neuropathologist E. E. Southard, Alexander Graham Bell and renowned Johns Hopkins University pathologist William Welch. Welch enjoyed impeccable qualifications; he had served as both the first scientific director of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research and as a trustee of the Carnegie Institution. Moreover, before and during his term on the ERO's scientific board, Welch was also elected president of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, the American Medical Association and the National Academy of Science. Understandably, Laughlin and Davenport felt it only fitting that he should serve as chairman of the ERO's Board of Scientific Directors. [7]

Among the biological issues the board identified as vital were "the consequences of marriages between distinct races-miscegenation," "the study of America's most effective bloodlines," as well as "restricting the strains that require state care." The board also sought to examine the ancestral caliber of immigrants being allowed into the country. As usual, feeblemindedness took the spotlight. Several key regions of the East Coast were targeted for investigation. [8]

Among the directors, only Bell became uncomfortable with the ERO's direction. He immediately voiced consternation over eugenics' constant focus on inferior traits. "Why not vary a little from this program and investigate the inheritance of some desirable characteristics," Bell wrote Davenport on December 27, 1912, just days after the board's first meeting. For emphasis, Bell reiterated over and over in his letter that the ERO's substantial funding might be better" devoted to the study of ... desirable characteristics rather than undesirable. The whole subject of eugenics has been too much associated in the public mind with fantastical and impractical schemes for restricting marriage and preventing the propagation of undesirable characteristics, so that the very name 'Eugenics' suggests, to the average mind ... an attempt to interfere with the liberty of the individual in his pursuit of happiness in marriage." [9]

Perhaps the most militant of the eugenic research bodies was the Eugenics Research Association, created in June of 1913 at Cold Spring Harbor. Like many other eugenic groups, this association was also dominated by Davenport and Laughlin. But unlike the other eugenic bodies, the Eugenics Research Association was determined to go far beyond family investigations and position papers. The body was determined to escalate its "research" into legislative and administrative action, and public propaganda for the causes of eugenics, raceology and Nordic race supremacy. As such, the Eugenics Research Association brought together America's most esteemed eugenic medical practitioners, the field's most respected university professors, the movement's most intellectual theorists and the nation's most rabid eugenic racists. [10]

Only fifty-one charter members created the ERA, and its ranks did not exceed five hundred in later years. Those fifty-one charter members included men and women from the senior echelons of psychology, such as Yerkes and Adolf Meyer; later, Goddard, Brigham, Terman and other intelligence measurement authorities would join up. Professors from the medical schools and life science departments of Harvard, Columbia, Yale, Emory, Brown and Johns Hopkins were counted among the ranks. [11]

Two race hatred fanatics, Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard, achieved leadership roles within the organization. Grant was internationally known for his bestseller, The Passing of the Great Race, which promoted Nordic whites as the superior race. Grant's book, revered by eugenicists, lamented that America had been infested by "a large and increasing number of the weak, the broken and the mentally crippled of all races drawn from the lowest stratum of the Mediterranean basin and the Balkans, together with hordes of the wretched, submerged populations of the Polish Ghetto." Grant called these "human flotsam." Among America's genetic enemies, Grant singled out Irishmen, whom he insisted "were of no social importance." As a eugenic remedy, he preached: "A rigid system of selection through the elimination of those who are weak or unfit -- in other words, social failures-would solve the whole question in a century .... " Grant held numerous leadership roles in the Eugenics Research Association, including its presidency, and ultimately sat with Davenport on the three-man executive committee. [12]

Stoddard would write an equally belligerent bestseller, published by Scribner's, entitled The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy. Harvard-educated Stoddard defiantly summarized his science in these words: "You cannot make bad stock into good ... any more than you can turn a cart-horse into a hunter by putting it into a fine stable, or make a mongrel into a fine dog by teaching it tricks." He urged widespread segregation and immigration restrictions to combat the unfit races, which Stoddard compared to infectious bacteria. "Just as we isolate bacterial invasions and starve out the bacteria by limiting the area and amount of their food-supply, so we can compel an inferior race to remain in its native habitat ... [which will] as with all organisms, eventually limit ... its influence." Stoddard was one of the early members of the Eugenics Research Association, joining in response to the association's official invitation. [13]

The ranks of the ERA included eugenic activists of all sorts, but of the fifty-one original members, none was more enigmatic than charter member #14. His name was Dr. Edwin Katzen-Ellenbogen. [14]

Dr. Katzen-Ellenbogen had distinguished himself in the field of psychology, mostly though his work with epileptics. In the years just prior to his charter membership, Katzen-Ellenbogen served as the director of the Psychopathological Laboratory at New Jersey's State Village for Epileptics at Skillman. Before that he had been an assistant physician at Danvers Hospital in Massachusetts, as well as a clinical assistant at a medical school in New York and a lecturer in abnormal psychology at Harvard. Just a year before joining the ERA, he had presented a paper on the mental capacity of epileptics before the National Association for the Study of Epilepsy at Goddard's Vineland Training School for Feebleminded Girls and Boys in New Jersey. He was considered an up-and-coming talent. Although just twenty-seven years of age, Katzen- Ellenbogen was listed as a leading psychologist in the distinguished biographical volume, American Men of Science. [15]

Who was Katzen-Ellenbogen, really? He spelled his last name numerous ways, hyphenated and unhyphenated. He was an American citizen, but he was actually born in Stanislawow, in Austrian-occupied Poland; he immigrated to the United States in 1905. He settled in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Shortly after arriving in Fitchburg, the twenty-four-year-old Katzen-Ellenbogen married Marie A. Pierce, an American woman six years his junior. Two months later, he traveled to Paris for further studies, but returned to the U.S. in 1907 when he was naturalized. He boasted credentials from Harvard and was a member of that university's postgraduate teaching staff, but he had actually received his primary education in Poland and his secondary schooling in Germany. He assumed the middle name "Maria," perhaps after his wife's name, but his real middle name was Wladyslaw. He claimed to be Roman Catholic, but was actually Jewish. [16]

Long-skulled, with bushy eyebrows, a thin mustache and a semicircular receding hairline topped by a very high brow, Katzen-Ellenbogen's head seemed almost too large for his body. As one who had worked with epileptics, disturbed children and the insane, Katzen-Ellenbogen had become accustomed to tinkering with the extremes of human frailty and the limits of will. He was attracted to the mysteries of the mind, but was convinced that the field of psychology was still in its infancy as it probed those mysteries. "Psychology is a discipline of undue hopes and uncritical skepticism," he wrote, adding, "It has been a hard battle, which in forty years time has elevated psychology from a cinderella science domiciled in one room at the Leipzig University to palace-like institutions, such as for instance the Harvard Psychological Institute .... " [17]

In 1915, two years after he joined the Eugenics Research Association, Katzen-Ellenbogen sailed again to Europe. He would never return to America. He traveled first to Russia, but ended up in Germany. By then, Europe was embroiled in a bloody World War. But Katzen-Ellenbogen remained an "active member" of the organization even while abroad. Then America entered the war against Germany, and on March 21, 1918, the association's executive committee dropped Katzen-Ellenbogen from its rolls. [18]

Katzen-Ellenbogen studied troubled minds but was also familiar with intense personal pain and the fire of his own considerable mental anguish. In 1920, his only son, still in America, fell from a roof garden and was killed. The boy's death destroyed Katzen-Ellenbogen's sense of personal existence. There would be no male heir to carry on his bloodline, which contradicted the central aspiration of eugenics. But beyond any tenet of science, the untimely death would haunt Katzen-Ellenbogen for the rest of his life. He was in Europe when it occurred, yet he did not return for the funeral. The doctor's wife slid into profound depression. Katzen- Ellenbogen never forgave himself for staying away. Suicidal impulses would grip him for years. [19]

Bitter but also philosophical, purely scientific yet overwhelmingly ambitious, Katzen-Ellenbogen wandered from mental place to mental place. He emerged with the disconnected sense of a man with nothing to lose. Abortionist, drug peddler, informer, medical theorist, murderer -- Katzen-Ellenbogen eventually drifted into all of these realms. [20] This American eugenicist would disappear from America, but his biological vision of humanity would eventually shock the world. or would he be alone in his crimes.


Eugenics found allies not just among the nation's learned men, but also among the affluent and influential. In 1912, shortly before the Eugenics Record Office installed its board of scientific directors, the New York State legislature had created the Rockefeller Foundation, which boasted fabulous assets. John D. Rockefeller donated $35 million the first year, and $65 million more the next year. [21] Davenport was keen to funnel Rockefeller's money into eugenics. As he had done with Mrs. Harriman, Davenport cultivated a personal connection with Rockefeller's son, John D. Rockefeller Jr. The younger Rockefeller controlled the foundation's millions. [22]

Shy and intensely private, the oil heir seemed to enjoy corresponding with Davenport about sundry eugenic topics. On January 27, 1912, using his personal 26 Broadway stationery, the young Rockefeller wrote Davenport a letter about a plan to incarcerate feebleminded criminal women for an extra length of time, so they "would ... be kept from perpetuating [their] kind ... until after the period of child bearing had been passed." Two months later, Rockefeller Jr. sent Davenport a copy of a Good Housekeeping article referencing Pearson and British eugenicists. Rockefeller asked, "Will you be good enough to return the article with your reply, which I shall greatly appreciate." On April 2, Rockefeller sent Davenport a formal thank you for answering a letter just received. About a month later, Rockefeller sent another note of personal thanks, this time for answering questions about the Good Housekeeping article. [23]

At its first meeting, the ERO's board of scientific directors "voted to recommend to Mr. John D. Rockefeller the support of the following investigations." The ERO's board, chaired by William Welch (who doubled as Rockefeller's own scientific director), compiled a short list: first, "an analysis of feeblemindedness"; second, "a study of a center of heavy incidence of insanity in Worcester County, Massachusetts"; third, a well-financed "preliminary study of the sources of the better and the poorer strains of immigrants" to be conducted overseas. They also petitioned Rockefeller to fund a statistician who would compile the data. [24]

Welch found his work with the ERO satisfying, and did not mind becoming vice-chairman when Alexander Graham Bell was appointed to the top post. Two years after Welch joined the board of scientific directors, Davenport used the connection to secure additional Rockefeller financial support. On March 1, 1915, Davenport told Welch, "It seems to me a favorable time to approach the Rockefeller Foundation on the subject of giving a fund for investment to the Eugenics Record Office." Davenport skillfully played Mrs. Harriman's wealth against Rockefeller's vastly superior fortune. To date, Rockefeller's foundation had "given us $6,000 a year, whereas Mrs. Harriman has given us $25,000" as well as funds for construction and other general expenses. Davenport's new plan called for an annual investment fund, as well as money to establish a better indexing operation to link surnames, traits and geographic locales. After adding up the columns, itemizing the projects and totaling the results, Davenport wrote Welch, "1 would suggest that we should ask for $600,000 [$10.1 million in modern money] from the Rockefeller Foundation." [25]

If Rockefeller agreed to the $600,000 subvention, Davenport planned to go back to Mrs. Harriman and ask her to go one better. "We should then ask Mrs. Harriman to consider an endowment of $800,000 to $1 million." That would almost double her annual tithe. [26]

As expected, Davenport lunched with Mrs. Harriman just days later. Their discussion was fruitful. "She is, I understand, ready to turn over some property to [the Eugenics Record Office]''' Davenport happily reported to Bell. Mrs. Harriman's financial support would ultimately grow to hundreds of thousands of dollars. [27]

Big money made all the difference for eugenics. Indeed, biological supremacy, raceology and coercive eugenic battle plans were all just talk until those ideas married into American affluence. With that affluence came the means and the connections to make eugenic theory an administrative reality.

Providing her opulent 1 East Sixty-ninth Street home as a meeting place, Mrs. Harriman bestowed her prestige as well as her wealth on the eugenic crusade. At one meeting in her home on April 8, 1914, more than a dozen experts gathered to plan action against those considered feebleminded. Most offered short presentations. Goddard, fresh from his intelligence-testing accomplishments, began the meeting with a proposed definition of "feebleminded." Another outlined ideas on "segregation of the feebleminded." A third offered "new and needed legislation in re: the feebleminded." Laughlin presented a fifteen-minute talk on "sterilization of the feebleminded." Davenport spoke on county surveys of the feebleminded. [28]

Mrs. Harriman wielded great power. When she made a request of New York State officials, it was difficult for them to say no. Davenport's proposed county surveys in search of the unfit, for example, were implemented by state officials. Eugenic agencies were established, often bearing innocuous names. Robert Hebberd, secretary of the New York State Board of Charities, reported to Mrs. Harriman that "our Eugenics Bureau is known officially as the Bureau of Analysis and Investigation." In describing the agency's work, Hebberd's letter reflected the usual eugenic parlance, "The study of groups of defective individuals is so closely related to the welfare of future generations that the lessons drawn from the histories of abnormal families ... [can] prevent the continuance of conditions which foster social evils." He added that to this end, the records of some 300,000 people had already been tabulated in twenty-four of New York State's counties. Hebberd promised to coordinate his agency's work with privately financed eugenic field surveys "in Rockland County, under your direction." He deferentially added, "Permit me to say that it is gratifying to know of your deep interest in this branch of the work of the State Board of Charities." [29]

Rockefeller also financed private county surveys. His foundation would cover the $10,000 cost of a hunt for the unfit in New York's Nassau County. Davenport and several Nassau County appointees formed an impromptu "Committee on the Enumeration of Mental Defectives," which worked closely with local school authorities in search of inferior students. Eight field workers would assist the search. [30]

Some ordinary New York State agencies changed their focuses from benign to eugenic. One such agency operated under the innocuous-sounding name of the Bureau of Industries and Immigration. Originally established to protect disadvantaged immigrants, the bureau began employing investigators to identify "defectives," the feebleminded and the insane. One typical report on fifteen feebleminded newcomers began with Case #258, which focused on Teresa Owen, a forty-year-old woman from Ireland who was classified as insane. The case note on Owen read, "Has been released to her husband and is cohabiting with him, with what disastrous results to posterity ... no one can foretell. She is a menace ... [and] should be removed and segregated pending removal." Case #430 treated Eva Stypanovitz, an eighteen-year-old Russian Jew who was classified as feebleminded. The file on Stypanovitz noted, "Case diagnosed by relatives. Is of marriageable age, and a menace to the community." Case #918 dealt with Vittorio Castellino, a thirty-five-year-old from Italy, and recorded, "Such a case cannot be too extravagantly condemned from a eugenic and economic point of view." [31]

Another such agency was the organization that became known as the National Committee on Prison and Prison Labor, first organized in 1910 by the New York State Department of Labor to investigate the exploitation of convict-manufactured goods. Four years later, the body changed its name amid a "widening of its activities." Judge Olson, the stalwart eugenic activist who also directed the Municipal Court of Chicago Psychopathic Laboratory, steered his colleagues on the prison committee to create similar municipal psychopathic labs to document hereditary criminality in their cities. The New York City Police Department did indeed establish a psychopathic laboratory for eugenic investigations, utilizing Eugenics Record Office field workers supplied by Mrs. Harriman. Davenport himself headed up the prison group's special committee on eugenics, which was established "to get at the ... heredity factors in anti-social behavior ... with the aid of a careful family history." Prisoners at Sing Sing were the first to be examined by Davenport's researchers under a year-long joint project with the Eugenics Record Office. [32]

In 1916, New York's Senate Commission to Investigate Provision for the Mentally Deficient held hearings and published a 628-page special report, including a 109-page bibliography of eugenic books and articles. The commission's purview included imposed sterilization. Among its cited resources were eugenic county surveys in Westchester County supervised by Dr. Gertrude Hall, one of the eugenic experts in Mrs. Harriman's circle and the director of the Bureau of Analysis and Investigation. [33]

Many officials were easily swayed by the stacks of scientific documentation eugenicists could amass. New York's State Hospital Commission -- comprised of a coterie of leading physicians -- emerged from meetings with Davenport at the Eugenics Record Office in July of 1917 expressing a new determination to concentrate on the feebleminded -- even though there was not yet a definition for feeblemindedness. After the meeting, the commission announced it would recommend that the state legislature allocate $10 to $20 million during the next decade to eugenically address the insane and feebleminded. The ERO pledged its assistance in the effort. [34]

New York State was hardly alone. Indiana's legislature appropriated $10,000 for a Committee on Mental Defectives in 1917. Initial research was completed by ERO field workers Clara Pond (in Jasper, Wabash and Elkhart counties) and Edith Atwood (in Shelby, Vanderburgh and Warrick counties). A commission to investigate the feebleminded was empanelled in Utah. Arkansas did the same. One ERO field worker, Ethel Thayer, traveled some 10,000 miles during six months in 1917, interviewing 472 individuals to produce what the ERO termed "more or less complete histories of 84 [families]." [35]

There was no way for the public to know if a seemingly unrelated government agency was actively pursuing a eugenic agenda. The United States Department of Agriculture maintained an active role in America's eugenics movement by virtue of its quasi-official domination of the American Breeders Association. Various Department of Agriculture officials either sponsored or officially encouraged eugenic research. Agricultural department meetings went beyond the bounds of simple agronomy; they often encompassed human breeding as well. On November 14, 1912, Professor C.L. Goodrich, at the Washington office of the Department of Agriculture, was asked by a colleague in the USDA's Columbia, South Carolina, office whether two Tegro siblings, both with six fingers on each hand, should be brought to an ABA meeting at the National Corn Exposition for eugenic evaluation. Professor Goodrich, who controlled the presentations of the ABA's Eugenic Section, replied a few days later, "Have the children brought I will put you on the program for a paper before the Eugenics section...." [36]

On November 26, 1912, the USDA's Office of Farm Management wrote to Davenport on official government letterhead suggesting that the ERO assign "a eugenic worker on the case and develop the facts in relation to the negro's family by the time of the meeting of the Breeder's Association in Columbia [South Carolina] in February." Receptive to the idea, Davenport replied three days later, "Perhaps he can present one or more of the polydactyls to the eugenics section." [37]

On January 3, 1913, Davenport wrote to George W. Knorr at the USDA in Washington asking, "If not too late, please add two titles to the eugenics program." One of these would be Davenport's own last-minute entry, "A Biologist's View of the Southern Negro Problem." Knorr wrote back asking for a lecturer on eugenic immigration issues. On January 8, Davenport referred Knorr to a Harvard eugenicist specializing in immigration, and reminded the department to make sure "the meeting of the eugenics section [was all arranged] at the Insane Asylum." That same day, Davenport wrote his colleague at Harvard, asking him to contact the USDA to get on the program. On January 10, Davenport asked Knorr to approve yet another eugenics paper entitled "Heredity of Left-handedness." [38]

Secretary of Agriculture James Wilson doubled as president of the ABA. At the group's 1913 convention, he rallied the forces. In his presidential address, Wilson declared, "You have developed in your eugenics section a great experiment station and institution of research, with a splendid building called the Eugenics Record Office .... Your laboratory material is the heredity that runs through the veins of the good, bad, and indifferent families of our great country ... assembling the genetic data of thousands of families ... making records of the very souls of our people, of the very life essence of our racial blood .... Those families which have in them degenerate blood will have new reason for more slowly increasing their kind. Those families in whose veins runs the blood of royal efficiency, will have added reason for that pride which will induce them to multiply their kind." Wilson also encouraged the ERO to seek even greater funding. "I observe that you are publicly asking for a foundation of half a million dollars," he said. "Twenty times that sum, or ten millions, would come nearer the mark." [39]

The speeches presented at obscure agricultural meetings in South Carolina, the eugenic surveys in small Indiana counties or by major New York State agencies, the eugenics courses taught in small colleges or in prestigious universities -- none of this eugenic activity remained a local phenomenon. It quickly accumulated and became national news for a movement hungry for the smallest advance in its crusade. Therefore in January of 1916, the ERO launched a new publication, Eugenical News, which was edited by Laughlin and reported endless details of the movement's vicissitudes. Approximately 1,000 copies of each issue were distributed to activists. From the most important research to the most obscure minutia, an eager audience of committed eugenic devotees would read about it in Eugenical News. Almost every administrative proposal, every legislative measure, every academic course, every speech and organizational development was reported in this publication. [40]

When field worker Clara Pond began her eugenic duties at the New York Police Department on January 15, 1917, it was reported in the February issue. When the ERO received records of 128 family charts from Morgan County, Indiana, it was reported. When the Village for Epileptics at Skillman, New Jersey, contributed 798 pages of data on its patients, it was reported. When Laughlin spoke before the Illinois Corn Growers Convention at the University of Illinois, it was reported. When Dr. Walter Swift of the Speech Disorder Clinic wrote on inherited speech problems in the Review of Neurology and Psychiatry, his article was reviewed in depth. When Yerkes paid a courtesy visit to the Eugenics Record Office in Cold Spring Harbor, it was reported. When Congress overrode President Wilson's veto of an immigration bill, the vote tallies were reported. When the state of Delaware appropriated $10,000 for an institution for the feebleminded, it was reported. When eugenic field worker Elizabeth Moore took up gardening at her home in North Anson, Maine, this too was reported. [41]

No legislative development was too small, nor was any locale too obscure for coverage. Indeed, the more obscure the eugenic development, the more enthusiastic the reportage seemed. The more significant the research or legislative effort, the more readers looked to Eugenical News for information and guidance. In effect, Eugenical News offered the movement organizational, scientific, legislative and theoretical cohesion.

Eventually, the eugenics movement and its supporters began to speak a common language that crept into the general mindset of many of America's most influential thinkers. On January 3, 1913, former President Theodore Roosevelt wrote Davenport, "I agree with you ... that society has no business to permit degenerates to reproduce their kind .... 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; and that we have no business to permit the perpetuation of citizens of the wrong type." Episcopalian Bishop John T. Dallas of Concord, New Hampshire, issued a public statement: "Eugenics is one of the very most important subjects that the present generation has to consider." Episcopalian Bishop Thomas F. Gailor of Memphis, Tennessee, issued a similar statement: "The science of eugenics ... by devising methods for the prevention of the propagation of the feebleminded, criminal and unfit members of the community, is ... one of the most important and valuable contributions to civilization." Dr. Ada Comstock, president of Radcliffe College, declared publicly, "Eugenics is 'the greatest concern of the human race.' The development of civilization depends upon it." Dr. Albert Wiggam, an author and a leading member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, pronounced his belief: "Had Jesus been among us, he would have been president of the First Eugenic Congress." [42]

While many of America's elite exalted eugenics, the original Galtonian eugenicists in Britain were horrified by the sham science they saw thriving in the United States and taking root in their own country. In a merciless 1913 scientific paper written on behalf of the Galton Laboratory, British scientist David Heron publicly excoriated the American eugenics of Davenport, Laughlin, and the Eugenics Record Office. Using the harshest possible language, Heron warned against "certain recent American work which has been welcomed in this country as of first-class importance, but the teaching of which we hold to be fallacious and indeed actually dangerous to social welfare." His accusations: "Careless presentation of data, inaccurate methods of analysis, irresponsible expression of conclusions, and rapid change of opinion." [43]

Heron lamented further, "Those of us who have the highest hopes for the new science of Eugenics in the future are not a little alarmed by many of the recent contributions to the subject which threaten to place Eugenics ... entirely outside the pale of true science .... When we find such teaching -- based on the flimsiest of theories and on the most superficial of inquiries -- proclaimed in the name of Eugenics, and spoken of as 'entirely splendid work,' we feel that it is not possible to use criticism too harsh, nor words too strong in repudiation of advice which, if accepted, must mean the death of Eugenics as a science." [44]

Heron emphasized "that the material has been collected in a most unsatisfactory manner, that the data have been tabled in a most slipshod fashion, and that the Mendelian conclusions drawn have no justification whatever. ... " He went so far as to say the data had been deliberately skewed. As an example, he observed that "a family containing a large number of defectives is more likely to be recorded than a family containing a small number of defectives." [45] In sum, he called American eugenics rubbish.

Davenport exploded.

He marshaled all his academic and rhetorical resources and the propagandists of the ERO. Davenport and A. ]. Rosanoff combined two defensive essays and a journal article denouncing Dr. Heron's criticism into a lengthy ERO Bulletin. The bulletin, entitled Reply to the Criticism of Recent American Work by Dr. Heron of the Galton Laboratory, was circulated to hundreds of public administrators, eugenic theorists and others whose minds needed to be swayed, assuaged or buttressed. [46]

As keeper of the eugenic flame and defender of its faithful, Davenport correctly portrayed Dr. Heron's assault to be against "my reputation [which] I regard as of infinitely less importance than the acquisition of truth; and if! resent these evil innuendoes it is not for myself at all, but only for the protection of the scientific interests which I am, for the time, custodian." In a rambling, point-by-point confutation, Davenport belittled Heron's attack as a vendetta by his Galtonian enemies in England. He explained away his faulty data as typographical. His rebuttal was rich with abstruse formulas in support of his subverted theses. [47]

In Davenport's mind, Mendel's laws hovered as the sacred oracle of American eugenics, the rigid determiner of everything tall and short, bright and dim, right and wrong, strong and weak. All that existed in the chaotic pool of life was subservient to Mendel's tenets as res pun by Davenport. Indeed, Davenport cherished those tenets as if chiseled by the finger of God. Come what may, Davenport declared he would never "deny the truth of Mendelism." He defiantly proclaimed, "The principles of heredity are the same in man and hogs and sun-flowers." [48]

But the attacks did not stop. True, eugenics had ascended to a scientific standard throughout the nation's academic and intellectual circles, becoming almost enshrined in the leading medical journals and among the most progressive bureaucrats. The word itself had become a catchphrase of the intelligentsia. But soon the sweeping reality of the eugenics movement's agenda started filtering down to the masses. Average people slowly began to understand that the ruling classes were planning a future America, indeed a future world, that would leave many of them behind. Sensational articles began to appear in the press.

"14 million to be sterilized" was the warning from the Hearst syndicate of newspapers in late September of 1915. Alexander Graham Bell, long queasy about Davenport's obsession with defectives, reacted at once, contacting Cold Spring Harbor for some reassurance. Davenport wrote back on September 25: "I am very sorry that ripples of a very sensational fake article about the plans of the Eugenics Record Office to sterilize 14 million Americans has rippled" -- he crossed out "has rippled" -- " ... have disturbed the placid waters about [Bell's vacation home in] Beinn Bhreagh [Nova Scotia]." Davenport assured Bell he would warn others "against believing things ... in the Hearst papers." Bell, only briefly comforted, wrote back, "Your note ... is a great relief to me, as I was naturally disturbed over the newspaper notices-even though I didn't believe them." [49]

The articles did not stop, however. Crusading journalists and commentators began to expose American eugenics as a war of the wealthy against the poor. On October 14, 1915, the Hearst newspapers syndicated a series of powerful editorials pulling no punches. Typical was an editorial in the San Francisco Daily News:


The millions of Mrs. Harriman, relict of the great railroad "promoter," assisted by other millions of Rockefeller and Carnegie, are to be devoted to sterilization of several hundred thousands of American "defectives" annually, as a matter of eugenics.

It is true that we don't yet know all that the millions of our plutocracy can do to the common folks. We see that our moneyed plutocrats can own the governments of whole states, override constitutions, maintain private armies to shoot down men, women and children, and railroad innocent men to life imprisonment for murder, or lesser crimes. And IF WE SUBMIT TO SUCH THINGS, we ought not to be surprised if they undertake to sterilize all those who are obnoxious to them.

Of course, the proposition depends much on who are to be declared "defective. "

The old Spartans, with war always in view, used to destroy, at birth, boys born with decided physical weakness. Some of our present-day eugenists go farther and damn children before their birth because of parents criminally inclined. Then we have eugenic "defectives" in the insane and the incurably diseased. The proposition is not wholly without justification. But isn't there another sort of "defective," who is quite as dangerous as any but whom discussion generally overlooks, especially discussion by the senile long-haired pathologists, and long-eared college professors involved in the Harriman-Rockefeller scheme to sterilize?

A boy is born to millions. He either doesn't work, isn't useful, doesn't contribute to human happiness, is altogether a parasite, or else he works to add to his millions, with the brutal, insane greed for more and more that caused the accumulation of the inherited millions. Why isn't such THE MOST DANGEROUS "DEFECTIVE" OF ALL? Why isn't the prevention of more such progeny THE FIRST DUTY OF EUGENICS? Such "defectives" directly attack the rights, liberties, happiness, and lives of millions.

Talk about inheriting criminal tendencies. Is there a ranker case of such than the inheritance of Standard Oil criminality as evidenced in the slaughter of mothers and their babes at Ludlow?

Sterilization of hundreds of thousands of the masses, by the Harrimans and Rockefellers? LET'S FIRST TRY OUT THE "DEFECTIVENESS" OF THE SONS OF BILLIONAIRES!

Let's first sterilize where sterilization will mean something immediate, far-reaching and thorough in the way of genuine eugenics! [50]

More letters flew across the country as leading scholars began assessing the movement's image. Davenport worked on damage control. He began writing letters. Among the first was to Thomas D. Eliot, a major eugenic activist then living in San Francisco. "The article upon which the editorial in the San Francisco Daily News was based was entirely without any foundation in fact," Davenport assured Eliot. "The writer for the Hearst syndicate supplied them with an absolutely baseless and basely false article about imaginary plans of the Eugenics Record Office. As a matter of fact, the Eugenics Record Office exists only for the purpose of making studies primarily in human heredity and has nothing whatsoever to do with propaganda for sterilization. After the printing of this false article in scores of papers in this country my attention was called to it, and I wrote a letter to the New York American and requested them to publish the letter. This they refused to do .... " [51]

Davenport scoffed, "We know the name of the unfortunate who wrote the article for the Hearst syndicate. To my protestation, he replies only that he proposes to publish a series of articles, intimating that he has worse ones in store [than] that already published. I tell you this so that you may be prepared for the future. It is quite within the range of possibility that he may state that the Rockefeller, Carnegie and Harriman millions are to be devoted to forcing the whites of the South to have children by the blacks in order to grade up the blacks. I can imagine even worse things." He dismissed Hearst readers as "paranoiacs and imbeciles," and urged his colleagues to stand fast. [52] But the press continued.

On February 17, 1916, a New York American reporter named Miss Hoffmann insisted on traveling up to New Haven, Connecticut, to interview the prominent Yale economist Irving Fisher about eugenics. Fisher, a leading raceologist, occupied a central role in the eugenics movement. The reporter had latched onto a sentence in a leading eugenic publication, which asserted, "Many women of the borderline type of feeblemindedness, where mental incapacity often passes for innocence, possess the qualities of charm felt in children, and are consequently quickly selected in marriage." Fisher did not know where the correct documentation was to support such a statement. "I should have turned her loose on you," he wrote to Davenport, "had I not known your sentiment on reporters especially of the Hearst journals! ... Much as I dislike the tone of their articles ... if we do not help them, they will do us positive injury ... [and yet] in spite of their sensationalism, we can utilize them to create respect for the eugenics idea in the mind of the public." [53]

Fisher appended a typical progress report to his letter. "You will be glad to know," he wrote, "that I have interested the Dean here in trying to secure something in eugenics. You will doubtless hear from him .... I am delighted to see how other colleges have taken the matter up. Yale seems to be a little behind in this matter." [54]

Davenport was relieved that Fisher had steered the New York American reporter elsewhere, admitting, "I might have reacted in a way which I should subsequently have regretted." [55] Such scandals in the press prompted Alexander Graham Bell to distance himself from the eugenics movement.

Davenport surely sensed Bell's apprehension. When it came time to call the Spring 1916 scientific board meeting, Davenport struggled with the phrasing of his letter to Bell. "Do you authorize call for meeting here April Eighth." Vigorously scratched out. Slight variation: "Do you authorize me to call meeting here on April Eighth." Vigorously scratched out. Start again: "Do you .... " Scratched out, starting once more: "Shall I issue call Director's meeting here on April Eighth." [56]

On the afternoon of April 8, 1916, too impatient for a letter to arrive, Bell telephoned a message to Cold Spring Harbor.

Dr. Davenport: Greatly regret inability to attend meeting of Eugenics Board as I had intended. Detained at last moment by important matters, demanding my immediate attention. I believe I have now served for three years as chairman. I would be much obliged if you would kindly present my resignation on the Board and say that it would gratify me very much to have some member now appointed to the position.

With best wishes for a successful meeting,

Alexander Graham Bell [57]

Davenport was surely shaken. He sent off a note asking if Bell would at least stay on until the end of the year as chairman of the board of scientific directors; at the same time, he assured Bell that in the future more emphasis would be placed on positive human qualities. Bell reluctantly agreed, but his connection to the movement was now permanently frayed.

On April 20, 1916, Bell agreed to chair just one more meeting, the December 15 session, but with "the understanding that I will then resign as Chairman of the Board." He added, "I am very much pleased to know from your letter that more attention is now to be paid to the Eugenic positive side than heretofore." [58]

Just before the meeting, Bell once again reminded Davenport that he would participate in the year-end meeting, but "I hope that you do not forget that I am to be allowed to resign from the chairmanship at this meeting." After that December meeting, Bell severed his relations with the movement altogether. In a polite but curt letter, Bell informed Davenport, "I will no longer be associated with yourself and the other directors. With best wishes for the continuance of the work, and kind regards." [59]

By the end of 1917, Mrs. Harriman's privately funded Eugenics Record Office had merged with the Carnegie Institution's Experimental Station. Both entities were headed by Davenport. They existed virtually side-by-side at Cold Spring Harbor, and to a large extent functioned as extensions of one another. This created a consolidated eugenic enterprise at Cold Spring Harbor. To facilitate the legal merger of what everyone knew was an operational fact, Mrs. Harriman deeded the ERO's existing assets plus a new gift of $300,000 to the Carnegie Institution, thus providing for the ERO's continued operation. As part of the merger, the ERO transferred its collection of 51,851 pages of family documentation and index cards on 534,625 individuals. Each card offered lines for forty personal traits. [60]

The science of eugenics was now consolidated under the sterling international name of the Carnegie Institution. Eugenics was stronger than ever.


Eugenics did not reform despite its public pillorying. The movement continued to amass volumes of data on families and individuals by combining equal portions of gossip, race prejudice, sloppy methods and leaps of logic, all caulked together by elements of actual genetic knowledge to create the glitter of a genuine science.

A statistical study found that fewer than 12 percent of Negro songs were in a minor key. "It tends to justify the general impression that the negro is temperamentally sunny, cheerful, optimistic," reported Eugenical News. As such, the study purveyed as scientific evidence that while "slave songs ... refer to 'hard trials and tribulations,'" the genetic constitution of Negroes under American apartheid nonetheless displayed a "dominant mood ... of jubilation .... " [61]

Eugenicists began compiling long lists of ship captains and their progeny to identify an invented genetic trait called "thalassophilia," that is, an inherited love of the sea. Eugenical News listed several captains who died or were injured in shipwrecks. "Such hardy mariners do not call for our sympathy," declared Eugenical News, "they were following their instinct." [62]

Re: War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to

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Behaviors, mannerisms, and personal attributes that we now understand to be shaped by environment were all deemed eugenic qualities. "When we look among our acquaintances," Davenport wrote, "we are struck by their diversity in physical, mental, and moral traits ... they may be selfish or altruistic, conscientious or liable to shirk ... for these characteristics are inheritable .... " [63]

In painstakingly compiled family trait booklets, each numbered at the top right for tracking, the most personal and subjective measurements were recorded as scientific data. Family trait booklet #40688, of the Bohemian farmer Joseph Chloupek and his Irish wife Mary Sullivan, was typical. Question 12 asked for "special tastes, gifts or peculiarities of mind or body." For Chloupek, his traits were noted as "reading, affectionate, firm." His wife was noted as "very religious ... broad minded in her religious attitude toward others." The rest of the family was similarly assessed, including Chloupek's mother, Eugenia, who was marked as a "good mother." [64]

Approximations were frequently entered as authentic scientific measurements. Question 13 called for the height either in inches, or, if preferred, with any of four notations: "very short, short, medium tall, very tall." Question 15 recorded hair color as "albino, flaxen, yellow-brown, light brown, medium brown, dark hair, black." Question 17 asked for the individual's skin to be described as "blond, intermediate, brunette, dark brown, black Negro, yellow, yellow-brown or reddish-brown." Question 26 asked for visual acuity, and the choices were "blind, imperfect, strong, or color blind"; in the case of the Chloupek family, the most common response was "good." [65]

A second genealogical tool, the family folder, recorded such eugenic "facts" as "participation in church activities" and "early moral environment." Special areas were set aside for notations as to whether the individual was known for "interest in world events or neighborhood gossip," or "modesty," or whether the person "holds a grudge." Question fifty-six asked for an evaluation of the individual's "optimism, patriotism, care for the good opinion of others." [66]

In ERG Bulletin #13, How to Make a Eugenical Family Study, coauthored by Davenport and Laughlin, field workers and information recorders were informed that eugenic authorities would explain the "eugenical meaning of the facts recorded." [67]

Even within the accepted parameters, the data was often only approximated. Heights for several dozen Jewish children were charted in one report with a special entry, "These weights recorded by nurses ... are considered by Dr. Cohen as more accurate than those recorded on March 20." Physician Brett Ratner submitted extensive physical measurements of newborns, with a caveat. "The sheet ... [includes] the length," he explained, "which is taken by the attending doctor by suspending the child by its legs, which is of course very inaccurate, and the chest was also done by the attending physician. Therefore, I cannot vouch for the chest and length measurement. The weights, however, are all absolutely accurate." [68]

Often, the science was filtered through personal animus, colored language and even name-calling. Character flaws were frequently accentuated in clinical eugenic descriptions, almost as if to pass the reader a cue. "James Dack was commonly known as 'Rotten Jimmy,'" read one typical description. "The epithet was given because of the diseased condition of his legs ... although the term is said to have been equally applicable to his moral nature." No wonder Goddard admitted that in writing his revered eugenic text on the Kallikak family, "We have made rather dogmatic statements and have drawn conclusions that do not seem scientifically warranted by the data. We have done this because it seems necessary to make these statements and conclusions for the benefit of the lay reader .... " In Vermont, a careful and methodical statewide survey condemned one man as eugenically unfit based on the genetic datum that he was "a big hopeless good for nothing." [69]

Davenport and Laughlin brashly predicted, "The day will yet come when among the first questions, asked by an employer of the applicant for a position, will be those relating to the occupations of his kin and the success they have had in such occupations."

Correcting the American ethic with a eugenic voice, they promulgated the stunning admonishment, "There are those who adhere to the obviously false doctrine that men are born equal and therefore it really doesn't matter who marries whom." [70]

The men and women of eugenics wielded the science. They were supported by the best universities in America, endorsed by the brightest thinkers, financed by the richest capitalists. They envisioned millions of America's unfit being rounded up and incarcerated in vast colonies, farms or camps. They would be prohibited from marrying and forcibly sterilized. Eventually -- perhaps within several generation -- only the white Nordics would remain. When their work was done at home, American eugenicists hoped to do the same for Europe, and indeed for every other continent, until the superior race of their Nordic dreams became a global reality.

Yet the very first sentence of the United States Constitution protected future generations. "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice ... secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution." [71] Posterity would be the monumental issue over which the forces of eugenics struggled. To eugenicists, the future of America and humanity itself was at stake.

In 1924, they would wage a pitched battle against a lone adversary. This adversary would not be a crusading journalist or an outspoken politician, but rather a helpless Virginia teenager named Carrie Buck. Declared feebleminded, she was actually a good student in a family of good students. Called a menace to society and to the future of mankind, she was actually just poor white trash from the back streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. This simple yet often eloquent girl would make the perfect test case. She was selected for exactly this reason.


Carrie Buck's mother, Emma, was one of Charlottesville's least respected citizens. Widowed and worthless, living on the margins of society, Emma was deemed a perfect candidate for feeblemindedness. After World War I, Virginia had a well-established policy of sweeping its social outcasts into homes for the feebleminded and epileptic. In Virginia, the two conditions, feeblemindedness and epilepsy, were virtually synonymous. They were also synonymous with another diagnosis, shiftlessness, that is, the genetic defect of being worthless and unattached in life. [72]

On April 1, 1920, Emma was hauled before a so-called Commission on Feeblemindedness. Justice of the Peace C. D. Shackleford convened the very brief hearing required. Physician J. S. Davis conducted the examination, referred to on the form as "an inquisition." The state's form enumerated sixty pointed questions. Question two, under Social History and Reaction, asked if Emma had ever been convicted of a crime. Emma's response: "Prostitution." In those days any woman might be charged with prostitution, whether for actually selling her body or simply for conducting herself in a fashion morally repugnant to the local authorities or even to the cop on the beat. Question eighteen, under Personal and Developmental History, asked if Emma had any diseases. She responded that she had syphilis. Question eight, under Physical Condition, asked specifically if Emma had ever had syphilis, to which her response was yes. Question nine, also under Physical Condition, asked if any venereal disease was present, and for the third time Emma confirmed that she had had syphilis. As to her moral character, the hearing officials wrote "notoriously untruthful." Indeed, question five, under Social History and Reaction, asked whether she had "conducted ... herself in a proper conjugal manner." The examiners wrote "No." [73]

A few minutes later, Emma was officially deemed feebleminded. Shackleford signed the order of commitment, declaring she was "suspected of being feebleminded or epileptic." Five days later, Emma was driven to the Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded. There she was consigned to Ward Five. She would remain at the colony for the rest of her life. [74]

Years before, in 1906, when Emma was still married, she had given birth to a daughter, Carrie. When Emma's husband died, the widow drifted into the social fringes of Charlottesville. At age three, Carrie was removed from Emma's custody and placed with another family. There were no formal adoption proceedings. Charlottesville peace officer J.T. Dobbs and his wife simply took the child into their Grove Street house. The Dobbses had a child of their own, approximately Carrie's age. Mrs. Dobbs needed extra help with the chores. Carrie was good at her chores, and also did well in school. School records show her performance was "very good -- deportment and lessons." But when Carrie was in sixth grade, the Dobbses withdrew the girl from school so she could concentrate on the increasing load of housework -- not only for their home on Grove Street, but for others in the neighborhood that Carrie was "loaned" to. Although Carrie never felt like she was a part of the Dobbs family, she was happy to be there. She recalled being obedient, and always considered herself "a good girl." [75]

One day in the summer of 1923, seventeen-year-old Carrie was discovered to be pregnant. She explained that she had been raped. "He forced himself on me," Carrie later recollected, "he was a boyfriend of mine and he promised to marry me." Years later, she would accuse a Dobbs nephew of being the rapist. [76]

The Dobbses would not listen to her explanations. They wanted Carrie -- and her shame -- out of the house at once. As Dobbs was the local peace officer, and familiar with the legal workings of the county, he knew just what to do. He filed commitment papers with Justice Shackleford. Dobbs claimed the girl was feebleminded, epileptic or both, and anyway, the family could no longer afford to board her. Shackleford scheduled a commitment proceeding. [77]

On January 23, 1924, Shackleford convened a brief hearing. Two doctors attended to render their expert opinions. The Dobbses testified that Carrie had experienced "hallucinations and ... outbreaks of temper" and had engaged in "peculiar actions." Carrie was quickly declared "feebleminded" and transferred to the custody of the Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded. For Shackleford, it was the second generation of Bucks he had sent to the colony -- first the mother, Emma, and now her daughter, Carrie. [78]

It was not unusual for Virginia to use its Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded as a dumping ground for those deemed morally unsuitable. Classifying promiscuous women as morons was commonplace. The colony's superintendent, Dr. Albert Priddy, admitted as much in a report: "The admission of female morons to this institution has consisted for the most part of those who would formerly have found their way into the red-light district and become dangerous to society .... " [79]

But the numbers of morally condemned women were becoming economically daunting. "If the present tendency to place and keep under custodial care in State institutions all females who have become incorrigibly immoral [continues]," he argued, "it will soon become a burden much greater than the State can carry. These women are never reformed in heart and mind because they are defectives from the standpoint of intellect and moral conception and should always have the supervision by officers of the law and properly appointed custodians." Priddy's solution was the common eugenic remedy, sterilization. [80]

When Carrie was condemned, eugenical sterilizations were not yet legal in Virginia. Priddy's institution had certainly sterilized many women, but always as part of "therapeutic" treatment for unspecified types of "pelvic disease." [81] These therapeutic sterilizations on young, unsuspecting women were recorded as "voluntary," with informed consent transcripts to prove it. One such transcript read:

Doctor: Do you like movies?

Patient: Yes, sir.

Doctor: Do you like cartoons?

Patient: Yes, sir.

Doctor: You don't mind being operated on, do you?

Patient: No, sir.

Doctor: Then you can go ahead. [82]

Priddy well understood how far outside the law such sterilizations were. In 1916, he had been taken to court for sterilizing several members of another Virginia family. On September 23, 1916, while the hardworking George Mallory was on shift at a nearby sawmill, his wife Willie and nine of their dozen children were at home in Richmond. Two family friends were visiting. Suddenly, two Richmond policemen burst in and declared the Mallory home "a disorderly house," that is, a brothel. It was later alleged that one of the policemen actually "made an indecent proposal" to one of the daughters. [83]

No matter, the younger children were turned over to the juvenile court, which, citing "vicious and immoral influences," transferred them to the Children's Home Society. Willie and her two eldest daughters, Jessie and Nannie, were confined at the City Detention Home, and then on October 14 referred to the Commission for the Feebleminded. [84]

Willie later recalled her experience. "A doctor examined my mind," she recounted, "and asked if I could tell whether salt was in the bread or not, and did I know how to tie my shoes. There was a picture hanging on the wall of a dog. He asked me if it was a dog or a lady. He asked me all sorts of foolish questions, which would take too long for me to tell you .... Then the doctor took his pencil and scratched his head and said, 'I can't get that woman in.'" But the attending juvenile probation officer, Mrs. Roller, was determined to have the family institutionalized. She told the doctor to write "unable to control her nerves," and added, "We can get her in for that." [85] He did so.

Mrs. Mallory, Jessie and Nannie were committed for lack of nervous control. Priddy had them now. Willie and Jessie were sterilized first. In late 1917, Priddy was getting ready to operate on the other daughter, Nannie, when he received another in a series of letters from George Mallory. Proud and strong-willed, Mallory expressed himself in powerful, if simple, terms. His English was lousy and his spelling atrocious. But his outrage was palpable. Grammar and form did not matter for Mallory. His family had been ripped from his home, and he wanted them back. On November 5, 1917, after several earlier letters were ignored, Mallory wrote an angry final demand. [86]

Dr. Priddy

Dear sir one more time I am go write to you to ask you about my child I cannot here from her bye no means I have wrote three orfour times cant get hereing from her at all. We have sent her a box and I dont no wheather she recevied them or not. I want to know when can I get my child home again My family have been broked up on fake pertents same as white slavery. Dr what busneiss did you have opreatedeing on my wife and daughter with out my consent. I am a hard working man can take care of my family and can prove it and before I am finish you will find out that I am. I heard that some one told you lots of bad news but I have been living with her for twenty three years and cant no body prove nothing againts my wife they cant talk anything but cant prove nothing ... just to think my wife is 43 years old and to be treated in that way, you ought to be a shamed of your selft of opreateding on her at that age just stop and think of how she have been treated what cause did you have opreateding her please let me no for there is no law for such treatment I have found that out I am a poor man but was smart anuf to find that out I had a good home as any man wanted nine sweet little children now to think it is all broke up for nothing I want to no what you are go do I earn 75$ a month I dont want my child on the state I did not put her on there. if you don't let me have her bye easy term I will get her by bad she is not feeble minded over there working for the state for nothing now let me no at once I am a human been as well as you are I am tired of being treated this way for nothing I want my child that is good understanded let me know before farther notise. Now I want to know on return mail what are you go do wheather are go let my child come home Jet me here from her

Verly Truiley

Mr George Mallory

My last letter to you for my child with out trouble don't keep my child there I have told you not to opreated on my child if you do it will be more trouble .... [87]

Priddy was livid, and wrote Mallory back, threatening his own action. "Now, don't you dare write me another such letter or I will have you arrested in a few hours." Implying a threat of surgical consequences, he added, "If you dare to write me another such communication I will have you arrested and brought here too." Mallory's spelling was bad, but he retained an attorney who could spell quite correctly. He sued Priddy for sterilizing his wife and daughter Jessie. Mallory also filed a writ of habeas corpus, and by early 1918 his family was returned to him. Although Priddy's conduct was upheld on appeal, the judge warned Priddy not to sterilize any other patients until the law was changed. [88]

Enter Carrie Buck. She would be the test case.

Virginia's legislators had been reluctant to pass a eugenic sterilization law. "[We] were laughed at by the lawmakers who suggested they might fall victim to their own legislation," recalled Joseph Dejarnette, superintendent of the Western State Hospital in Staunton, Virginia. He added, "I really thought they ought to have been sterilized as unfit." [89]

In 1922, after numerous state laws had been vetoed or overturned by the courts on Constitutional grounds, Laughlin completed a massive 502- page compilation of state eugenical legislation. It was entitled Eugenical Sterilization in the United States. The dense volume, bristling with state-by-state legal analysis and precedent, included what lawyers and eugenicists unanimously declared to be a new "model sterilization law," updated since previous iterations of Laughlin's model legislation. It was indeed the complete legislator's guide. Laughlin was certain that a law that followed a rigid course of due process, proper notification to the patient, adversarial protection of the patient's rights, and a narrow, nonpunitive, health-based eugenical sterilization regimen could withstand a U.S. Supreme Court challenge. Burnishing the report's legal soundness was the fact that it was not issued by any of the Cold Spring Harbor entities, but was distributed as an official document of the Municipal Court of Chicago. Judge Olson, who headed Chicago's Municipal Court, concomitantly served as president of the Eugenics Research Association. Olson even wrote the introduction, saluting Laughlin, who "rendered the nation a signal service in the preparation of this work. ... " [90]

Laughlin personally sent a copy to Priddy. Now Priddy and his fellow Virginia eugenicists would carefully follow Laughlin's advice. In the fall of 1923, with a mandate from Virginia's State Hospital Board, Priddy and colony attorney Aubrey Strode authored comprehensive new legislation closely resembling the text and format of Laughlin's model statute. By March 30, 1924, Virginia's eugenics law, which now included numerous due process safeguards, was finally passed by both state houses and signed by the governor. It was to take effect on June 17, 1924. [91]

Although Carrie was condemned as feebleminded on January 23, 1924, she was not immediately admitted to the colony. Pregnant girls were not permitted in the facility. On March 28, Carrie gave birth to a daughter, Vivian. Since Carrie had been declared mentally incompetent, she could not keep the child. Ironically, the Dobbses took Vivian in. [92] Three generations of Bucks had intersected with J.T. Dobbs.

Carrie's arrival at the colony was delayed until June 4, just days before the new sterilization law took effect. A legal guardian, Robert Shelton, was properly appointed for her and properly paid $5 per day, just as the statute and due process required. On September 10, 1924, a colony review board properly met and ruled that Carrie "is feebleminded and by the laws of heredity is the probable potential parent of socially inadequate offspring, likewise afflicted ... , " and as such "she may be sexually sterilized ... and that her welfare and that of society will be promoted by her sterilization .... " [93]

Upon completion of the hearing, the board properly inquired if they could proceed. Colony attorney Strode properly advised that the Virginia act "had yet to stand the test of the Courts." Strode later recounted, "Whereupon, I was instructed to take to court a test case." [94]

Carrie's guardian, Shelton, was then asked by Strode to appeal the case "in order that we may test the constitutionality through our state courts, even to the Supreme Court of the United States." Shelton then secured ostensibly independent counsel to represent the eighteen-year-old in a legal challenge scheduled for November 18, 1924. Attorney Irving Whitehead was selected to represent Carrie. Whitehead was no stranger to the colony, however, and to many the arrangement seemed little more than a collusive defense. He was, after all, one of the original three directors appointed by the governor to manage the colony when it was established in 1910. Whitehead and his fellow trustees appointed Priddy as their first superintendent. Later, Whitehead had represented the institution on the State Board of Hospitals. In his official capacity, Whitehead had personally endorsed the sterilizations of some two dozen women, including the two Mallory women, and had even lobbied the Virginia legislature for broader legal authority. A building in the colony complex erected the year before was actually named after him. The Wednesday before the trial, Priddy recommended Whitehead for a government position. [95]

Yet it was Whitehead, a staunch eugenicist, founding father of the colony and an advocate of sterilization, who was to champion Carrie Buck's defense.

To bolster the argument that Carrie represented a biological menace, attention next fell on little Vivian. If the infant could somehow be deemed mentally defective, the Bucks would represent three generations of imbeciles -- a clear threat to the state. Priddy asked a Red Cross social worker to send evidence certifying the infant as feebleminded, and was almost certainly startled to hear back from the social worker: "I do not recall and am unable to find any mention in our files of having said that Carrie Buck's baby was mentally defected." [96]

Priddy dispatched a note to eugenic activist Dr. Joseph DeJarnette, superintendent of the State Hospital at Staunton. DeJarnette would be called as a state expert witness. "A special term of the Court of Amherst will be held ... November 18, 1924 to hear. .. the case of Carrie Buck's child, on which the constitutionality of the sterilization law depends. It is absolutely necessary that you be present and I would suggest you read up all you car, on heredity like [the] jukes, callikaks [sic] and other noted families of that stripe." Priddy added, "I want you to help me in this matter by going over to Charlottesville ... to get a mental test of Carrie Buck's baby.... The test you will make will be the usual one in line with the inclosed [sic] test sheet. We are leaving nothing undone in evidence to this case .... I am enclosing you a letter from Dr. Laughlin and think you will need it. Please return the inclosures [sic] as Col. Strode may want them for his files, he having had the correspondence with Dr. Laughlin." [97]

Priddy also assured DeJarnette that even though Vivian was only a few months old, she could still be deemed unfit. "We have an advantage," wrote Priddy, "in having both Carrie Buck and her mother, Emma, as inmates of this institution." Once more, the emphasis was on three generations. [98]

Shortly thereafter, Carrie's seven-month-old daughter Vivian was examined by a social worker. In a subsequent hearing the social worker was asked, "Have you any impression about the child?" Emphasizing the word probabilities, the social worker replied, "It is difficult to judge probabilities of a child as young as that, but it seems to me not quite a normal baby." In reply, she was led, "You don't regard her child as a normal baby?" The social worker cautiously responded, "In its appearance -- I should say that perhaps my knowledge of the mother may prejudice me in that regard, but I saw the child at the same time as Mrs. Dobbs' daughter's baby, which is only three days older than this one, and there is a very decided difference in the development of the babies." [99]

Once more, the social worker was prompted, "You would not judge the child as a normal baby?" The social worker answered, "There is a look about it that is not quite normal, but just what it is, I can't tell." That was enough for the judge. Vivian was deemed defective, like her mother and grandmother before her. [100]

Priddy also requested expert eugenical testimony from Laughlin, who would not be able to travel to Virginia for the trial but agreed to file a deposition. He asked Priddy for Carrie's genealogy to help him prepare a proper eugenical verdict. Priddy had nothing. "As to our test case," Priddy wrote Laughlin, "I am very sorry I cannot make you out a genealogical tree such as you would like to have, but this girl comes from a shiftless, ignorant and moving class of people, and it is impossible to get intelligent and satisfactory data .... " [101]

Laughlin's deposition simply echoed Priddy's offhand words. "These people belong to the shiftless, ignorant and moving class of anti-social whites of the South," wrote Laughlin. His expert opinion went on: "Carrie Buck: Mental defectiveness evidenced by failure of mental development, having a chronological age of 18 years with a mental age of 9 years, according to Stanford Revision of Binet-Simon Test; and of social and economic inadequacy; has record during life of immorality, prostitution and untruthfulness; has never been self-sustaining; has had one illegitimate child, now about six months old and supposed to be mental defective." [102]

Laughlin's deposition then dispatched the mother, Emma Buck. "Mental defectiveness evidenced by failure of mental development," Laughlin averred, "having a chronological age of 52 years, with a mental age, according to Stanford Revision of Binet-Simon Test, of seven years and eleven months (7 yrs. 11 mos.); and of social and economic inadequacy. Has record during life of immorality, prostitution and untruthfulness; has never been self-sustaining, was maritally unworthy; having been divorced from her husband on account of infidelity; has had record of prostitution and syphilis .... " [103]

Ultimately, Laughlin connected the dots, declaring that Carrie's "one illegitimate child, [was also] considered feeble-minded." [104] Three generations. The judge took the case under advisement. While awaiting a decision, Priddy died of Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system. Priddy's assistant, J. H. Bell, replaced him as defendant. Thereafter the case became known as Buck v. Bell. [105]

On April 13, 1925, the Amherst County Circuit Court upheld the original decision of the colony's special board. Carrie's attorney, Whitehead, immediately appealed the decision to the Virginia Court of Appeals. He petitioned on three Constitutional points: first, deprivation, without due process, of a citizen's rights to procreate; second, violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, providing for due process; and third, a violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, proscribing cruel and unusual punishment. Whitehead's brief was brief indeed, just five pages long. On the other hand, colony attorney Strode filed a forty-page brief carefully documenting the state's police powers and its need to protect public health and safety. [106]

Virginia's Court of Appeals upheld the colony's decision to sterilize Carrie, denying all claims of cruel and unusual punishment or lack of due process. [107] For Carrie, and the future of sterilization, there was nowhere to go but up. The circle of friends staging a collusive Constitutional challenge, papered wall to wall with documented safeguards and procedural rectitude, were now ready for their final step. Carrie's case was appealed to the highest court in America, the United States Supreme Court. The colony was confident. The board minutes for December 7, 1925, record: "Colonel Aubrey E. Strode and Mr. I.P. Whitehead appeared before the Board and outlined the present status of the sterilization test case and presented conclusive argument for its prosecution though the Supreme Court of the United States, their advice being that this particular case was in admirable shape to go to the court of last resort, and that we could not hope to have a more favorable situation than this one." [108]

If the Supreme Court would uphold Carrie Buck's sterilization, the floodgates of eugenic cleansing would be opened across the United States for thousands. Carrie's destiny, and indeed the destiny of eugenics, rested upon nine men -- and most heavily on the one man who would ultimately write the court's opinion. That man was Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., considered by many to be America's clearest thinker and most important judicial authority. [109]


Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. lived a life innervated by the great men of literature, propelled by his personal acts of courage, and eventually gilded by the judicial preeminence thrust upon him. He was the best America had to offer. Born in Massachusetts in 1841, his father was a famous physician, poet, and essayist. He had achieved literary esteem from his satirical columns in the Atlantic Monthly, later collected for the anthology Autocrat of the Breakfast Table. Young Oliver grew up in the company of his father's circle of literati, including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Herman Melville was a neighbor at the Holmes' summerhouse. [110]

It was the law, however, that would capture the imagination of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Judges and attorneys had peopled the Holmes family tree for three centuries. A maternal grandfather had sat on the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. [111]

Holmes was a Harvard scholar, but he had been brave enough to join the rush to war in 1861, even before taking the final exams needed for graduation. He joined the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteers, known as the Harvard Regiment. He fought valiantly and was wounded three times, once in the chest at Ball's Bluff, once in the leg at Chancellorsville and once through the neck at Antietam during the single bloodiest day of the war. Some thought the scholar-turned-soldier fought to test his own manliness; others suggested it was for "duty and honor." [112] It was probably both.

Certainly, Holmes achieved hero status. One legend claims that when President Lincoln visited Fort Stevens, near Washington, D.C., Holmes had served as his escort. At some point the president stood up to get a better view of something, and a Confederate soldier promptly shot at his stovepipe hat. Holmes dragged the president down, admonishing, "Get down, you damn fool!" Far from insulted, a grateful Lincoln replied, "Goodbye, Captain Holmes. I'm glad to see you know how to talk to civilians." [113]

Even amid the wounds of war, Holmes never lost his fascination with the great thinkers. While recovering from injuries sustained at Chancellorsville, Holmes read the latest philosophical treatises. After the war, he returned to his beloved Harvard to earn a law degree and write legal theory. [114]

Soon, Holmes' rapier-like pronouncements on the purpose of American law as a champion of the people's will began to shape legal thought in the nation. He saw the law as a living, organic expression of the people, not just a sterile codex. "The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience," Holmes lectured. "The felt necessities of the time, the prevalent moral and political theories, intuitions of public policy, avowed or unconscious, even the prejudices which judges share with their fellow men, have had a good deal more to do than the syllogism in determining the rules by which men should be governed. The law embodies the story of a nation's development through many centuries, and it cannot be dealt with as if it contained only the axioms and corollaries of a book of mathematics." [115]

His rise was rapid. In March of 1881, Holmes' provocative lectures on the nature of law were compiled into an anthology, The Common Law. It was an immediate success. Within ten months of the book's publication, in January of 1882, Holmes was elected a Harvard law professor by the university faculty. His reputation as an authority on jurisprudence widened. On December 8 of that same year, before serving his first full year as a professor, the governor of Massachusetts sent an urgent request for Holmes to leave Harvard and assume a seat as associate justice on the Massachusetts Supreme Court. So pressed was the governor that he implored Holmes to reply by 3:00 P.M. of the same day. Holmes replied on time and accepted the position. In 1899, Holmes was appointed chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court. [116]

In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt, impressed with Holmes' growing juridical prestige, appointed Holmes to the U.S. Supreme Court. There, Holmes assumed a legendary status as a defender of the Constitution and proud expositor of unpopular opinions that nonetheless upheld the rule of law. For more than a quarter century, his name was virtually synonymous with the finest principles of the legal system. During his tenure on the highest bench, he wrote nearly one thousand valued opinions. [117]

Holmes also became famous for powerful dissents, 173 in all. Many championed and clarified the most precious elements of free speech. In one such dissent, he argued "the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas-that the best of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market .... " In 1928, he enunciated the lasting precept: "If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought-not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought we hate." Yet Holmes was wise enough to assert that "the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic." [118]

Indeed, in 1931, his ninetieth birthday celebration would be an event for the nation, broadcast over the Columbia Radio System. Speeches lauded him as "America's most respected man of law." [119]

Into the hands of Oliver Wendell Holmes, defender of the noblest ideal of American jurisprudence, was Carrie Buck commended.

Buck v. Bell would be decided in May of 1927. But the eighty-six-year-old Holmes was in many ways defined by the Civil War and ethically shaped by the nineteenth century. While recovering from the wounds of Chancellorsville, his reading included Spencer's Social Statics, the turning-point tract that advocated social Darwinism and so significantly influenced Galtonian thought. Spencer argued the strong over the weak, and believed that human entitlements and charity itself were false and against nature. Indeed, Holmes' 1881 lecture series in The Common Law also asserted that the idea of inherent rights was "intrinsically absurd." [120]

Moreover, the warrior-scholar seemed to believe that "might makes right." In his essay entitled "Natural Law," Holmes defined truth. "Truth," he declared, "was the majority vote of that nation that could lick all others." [121]In a graduation speech to Harvard's class of 1895, Holmes declared the sanctity of blindly following orders. "I do not know what is true," he told the audience. "I do not know the meaning of the universe. But in the midst of doubt, in the collapse of creeds, there is one thing I do not doubt ... that the faith is true and adorable which leads a soldier to throw away his life in obedience to a blindly accepted duty, in a cause he little understands, in a plan of a campaign of which he has no notion, under tactics of which he does not see the use." [122]

While Holmes' influential Supreme Court opinions and dissents exemplified and eloquently immortalized the highest virtues of American jurisprudence, his private exchanges reveal a different man. Holmes reviled "do-gooders" and in 1909 he quipped to a friend, "I doubt if a shudder would go through the spheres if the whole ant-heap were kerosened." In 1915, writing to John Wigmore, dean of Harvard Law School, Holmes sneered at "the squashy sentimentalism of a big minority" of people, who made him "puke." He was similarly nauseated by those "who believe in the upward and onward -- who talk of uplift, who think ... that the universe is no longer predatory. Oh, bring me a basin." [123]

In the years just prior to receiving Buck v. Bell, Holmes expressed his most candid opinions of mankind. In 1920, writing to English jurist Sir Frederick Pollack, Holmes confessed, "Man at present is a predatory animal. I think that the sacredness of human life is a purely municipal idea of no validity outside the jurisdiction. I believe that force, mitigated so far as it may be by good manners, is the ultima Tatio, and between two groups that want to make inconsistent kinds of world I see no remedy except force." [124]

He was fond of a certain slogan, and in June of 1922 he repeated it to British scholar and future Labor Party Chairman Harold J. Laski. "As I have said, no doubt, often, it seems to me that all society rests on the death of men. If you don't kill 'em one way you kill 'em another -- or prevent their being born." He added, "Is not the present time an illustration of Malthus?" [125]

In 1926, Holmes again confided to Laski, "In cases of difference between oneself and another there is nothing to do except in unimportant matters to think ill of him and in important ones to kill him." [126] Shortly thereafter, Holmes wrote Laski, "We look at our fellow men with sympathy but nature looks at them as she looks at flies .... " [127]

The other men of the Supreme Court included Justice Louis Brandeis, the eminent Jewish human rights advocate. Another was the racist and anti- Semite James Clark McReynolds, who refused to even sit or stand next to Brandeis. The chief justice was former president William Howard Taft. [128]

On May 2, 1927, in the plain daylight of the Supreme Court, with only Justice Pierce Butler dissenting, Justice Holmes wrote the opinion for the majority.

Carrie Buck is a feeble minded white woman who was committed to the State Colony above mentioned in due form. She is the daughter of a feeble minded mother in the same institution, and the mother of an illegitimate feeble minded child. She was eighteen years old at the time of the trial of her case in the circuit court, in the latter part of 1924. An Act of Virginia, approved March 20, 1924, recites that the health of the patient and the welfare of society may be promoted in certain cases by the sterilization of mental defectives, under careful safeguard ... without serious pain or substantial danger to life; that 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 become self-supporting with benefit to themselves and to society; and that experience has shown that heredity plays an important part in the transmission of insanity, imbecility, &c. [129]

Holmes' opinion summarized the extensive procedural safeguards Virginia had applied, and concluded, "There is no doubt that in that respect the plaintiff in error has had due process of law." [130] He continued, and in many ways quoted Laughlin's model eugenical law verbatim.

The attack is not upon the procedure but upon the substantive law. It seems to be contended that in no circumstances could such an order be justified. It certainly is contended that the order cannot be justified upon the existing grounds. The judgment finds the facts that have been recited and that Carrie Buck "is the probable potential parent of socially inadequate offspring, likewise afflicted, that she may be sexually sterilized without detriment to her general health and that her welfare and that of society will be promoted by her sterilization," and thereupon makes the order .... We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the state for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. [131]

Then Holmes wrote the words that would reverberate forever.

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. [132]

It was over. Carrie Buck was sterilized before noon on October 19, 1927. Her file was noted simply: "Patient sterilized this morning under authority of Act of Assembly .... " Her mother Emma, residing elsewhere in the same institution, ultimately died some years later, and was ignominiously buried in a colony graveyard beneath tombstone marker #575. Little Vivian, the third generation to be declared an imbecile, was raised by the Dobbses, and enrolled in school, where she earned a place on the honor roll. In 1932, however, Vivian died of an infectious disease at the age of eight. [133]

Eugenical sterilization was now the law of the land. The floodgates opened wide.


In the two decades between Indiana's pioneering eugenical sterilization law and the Carrie Buck decision, state and local jurisdictions had steadily retreated from the irreversible path of human sterilization. Of the twenty-three states that had enacted legislation, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, South Dakota and Utah had recorded no sterilizations at all. Idaho and Washington had performed only one procedure each, and Delaware just five. Even states with strong eugenics movements had only performed a small number: Kansas, for instance, had sterilized or castrated 335 men and women; Nebraska had sterilized 262 men and women; Oregon had sterilized 313; and Wisconsin had sterilized 144. [134]

Although some 6,244 state-sanctioned operations were logged from 1907 to July of 192 5, three-fourths of these were in just one state: California. California, which boasted the country's most activist eugenic organizations and theorists, proudly performed 4,636 sterilizations and castrations in less than two decades. Under California's sweeping eugenics law, all feebleminded or other mental patients were sterilized before discharge, and any criminal found guilty of any crime three times could be asexualized upon the discretion of a consulting physician. But even California's record was considered by leading eugenicists to be "very limited when compared to the extent of the problem." [135]

Many state officials were simply waiting for the outcome of the Carrie Buck case. Once Holmes' ruling was handed down, it was cited everywhere as the law of the land. New laws were enacted, bringing the total number of states sanctioning sterilization to twenty-nine. Old laws were revised and replaced. Maine, which had not performed such operations before, was responsible for 190 in the next thirteen years. Utah, which had also abstained, performed 252 in the next thirteen years. South Dakota, which had performed none, recorded 577 in the next thirteen years. Minnesota, which had previously declined to act on its legislation, registered 1,880 in the next thirteen years. [136]

The totals from 1907 to 1940 now changed dramatically. North Carolina: 1,017. Michigan: 2,145. Virginia: 3,924. California's numbers soared to 14,568. Even New York State sterilized forty-one men and one woman. The grounds for sterilization fluctuated wildly. Most were adjudged feebleminded, insane, or criminal; many were guilty of the crime of being poor. Many were deemed "moral degenerates." Seven hundred were classed as "other." Some were adjudged medically unacceptable. All told, by the end of 1940, no fewer than 35,878 men and woman had been sterilized or castrated-almost 30,000 of them after Buck v. Bell. [137]

And the men and women of eugenics had more plans. They even had a song, created on the grounds of the Eugenics Record Office in the summer of 1910, which they chanted to the rambunctious popular melodies of the day. They sang their lyrics to the rollicking jubilation of ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay.

We are Eu-ge-nists so gay,
And we have no time for play,
Serious we have to be
Working for posterity.

We're so happy, we're so gay,
We've been working all the day,
That's the way Eu-gen-ists play

Trips we have in plenty too,
Where no merriment is due.
We inspect with might and main,
Habitats of the insane.

Statisticians too are we,
In the house of Carnegie.
If to future good you list,
You must be a Eu-ge-nist. [138]

Re: War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to

PostPosted: Thu Jul 31, 2014 1:23 am
by admin
CHAPTER 7: Birth Control

The American masses were not rising up demanding to sterilize, institutionalize and dehumanize their neighbors and kinfolk. Eugenics was a movement of the nation's elite thinkers and many of its most progressive reformers. As its ideology spread among the intelligentsia, eugenics cross-infected many completely separate social reform and health care movements, each worthwhile in its own right. The benevolent causes that became polluted by eugenics included the movements for child welfare, prison reform, better education, human hygiene, clinical psychology, medical treatment, world peace and immigrant rights, as well as charities and progressive undertakings of all kinds. The most striking of these movements was also one of the world's most overdue and needed campaigns: the birth control movement. The global effort to help women make independent choices about their own pregnancies was dominated by one woman: Margaret Sanger.

Sanger was a controversial rabble-rouser from the moment she sprang onto the world stage, fighting for a woman's most personal right in a completely male-dominated world order. In the early part of the twentieth century, when Sanger's birth control movement was in its formative stages, women were second-class citizens in much of America. Even the most powerful women in America, such as Mrs. Harriman, could not vote in a federal election, although the most uneducated coal miner or destitute pauper could. Many husbands treated their wives like baby machines, without regard for their health or the family's quality of life. Inevitably, in this state, many women could not expect any role in the world beyond a life of childbearing and child rearing. Sanger herself was the sixth of eleven children. [1]

Motherhood was to most civilizations a sacred role. Sanger, however, wanted women to have a choice in that sacred role, specifically if, when and how often to become pregnant. But under the strict morals laws of the day, even disseminating birth control information was deemed a pornographic endeavor. [2]

Sanger was not an armchair activist. She surrounded herself with the very misery she sought to alleviate. Working as a visiting nurse in New York City, Sanger encountered unwanted pregnancies and their consequences every day, especially in the teeming slums of lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. There, the oppressive reality of overpopulation and poverty cried out for relief. Without proper health care, poor women often died during pregnancy or in labor. Without proper prenatal care, children were often born malnourished, stunted or diseased, further straining family resources and subverting the quality of life for all. Infant mortality was high in the sooty slums of New York. [3]

In her autobiography, Sanger dramatized the moment that moved her to devote her life to the cause. It occurred one night in 1912 when she was called to the disheveled three-room flat of Jake and Sadie Sachs. The young couple already had three children and knew nothing about reproductive controls. Just months earlier, Sadie had lost consciousness after a self-induced abortion. Later, Sadie pleaded with Sanger for some information to help her avoid another pregnancy. Such information did exist, but it was not commonly available. One doctor advised that Sadie's husband "sleep on the roof." Now Sadie was pregnant again and in life-threatening physical distress. Sadie's frantic husband summoned nurse Sanger, who raced to the apartment and found the young woman comatose. Despite Sanger's efforts, Sadie died ten minutes later. Sanger pulled a sheet over the dead woman's face as her helpless, guilt-ridden husband shrieked, "My God! My God!" [4]

"I left him [Jake Sachs] pacing desperately back and forth," Sanger recounted in her autobiography, "and for hours I myself walked and walked and walked through the hushed streets. When I finally arrived home and let myself quietly in, all the household was sleeping. I looked out my window and down upon the dimly lighted city. Its pains and griefs crowded in upon me, a moving picture rolled before my eyes with photographic clearness: women writhing in travail to bring forth little babies; the babies themselves naked and hungry, wrapped in newspapers to keep them from the cold; six-year-old children with pinched, pale, wrinkled faces, old in concentrated wretchedness, pushed into gray and fetid cellars, crouching on stone floors, their small scrawny hands scuttling through rags, making lamp shades, artificial flowers; white coffins, black coffins, coffins, coffins interminably passing in never-ending succession. The scenes piled one upon another on another. I could bear it no longer." [5]

Sanger was never the same. A crusader at heart, she was thrust into a mission: to bring birth regulating information and options to all women. It was more than a health movement. It was women's liberation, intended to benefit all of society. Sanger and her circle of friends named the program "birth control." She traveled across the nation demanding the right to disseminate birth control information, which was still criminalized. She fought for access to contraception, and for the simple right of a woman to choose her own reproductive future. She herself became a worldwide cause celebre. Her various advocacy organizations evolved into the worldwide federation known as Planned Parenthood. Sanger eventually assumed legendary status as a champion of personal freedoms and women's rights. [6]

Because Sanger challenged the moral as well as the legal order, and antagonized many religious groups that understandably held the right to life an inviolable principle, Sanger made many enemies. They dogged her everywhere she went, and in every endeavor. [7]

Sanger-hatred never receded. Decades after her death, discrediting Sanger was still a permanent fixture in a broad movement opposed to birth control and abortion. Their tactics frequently included the sloppy or deliberate misquoting, misattributing or misconstruing of single out-of-context sentences to falsely depict Sanger as a racist or anti-Semite. [8] Sanger was no racist. Nor was she anti-Semitic.

But Sanger was an ardent, self-confessed eugenicist, and she would turn her otherwise noble birth control organizations into a tool for eugenics, which advocated for mass sterilization of so-called defectives, [9] mass incarceration of the unfit [10] and draconian immigration restrictions. [11] Like other staunch eugenicists, Sanger vigorously opposed charitable efforts to uplift the downtrodden and deprived, and argued extensively that it was better that the cold and hungry be left without help, so that the eugenically superior strains could multiply without competition from "the unfit." [12] She repeatedly referred to the lower classes and the unfit as "human waste" not worthy of assistance, and proudly quoted the extreme eugenic view that human "weeds" should be "exterminated." [13] Moreover, for both political and genuine ideological reasons, Sanger associated closely with some of America's most fanatical eugenic racists. [14] Both through her publication, Birth Control Review, and her public oratory, Sanger helped legitimize and widen the appeal of eugenic pseudoscience. [15] Indeed, to many, birth control was just another form of eugenics.

But why?

The feminist movement, of which Sanger was a major exponent, always identified with eugenics. The idea appealed to women desiring to exercise sensible control over their own bodies. Human breeding was advocated by American feminists long before Davenport respun Mendelian principles into twentieth century American eugenics. Feminist author Victoria Woodhull, for example, expressed the belief that encouraging positive and discouraging negative breeding were both indispensable for social improvement. In her 1891 pamphlet, The Rapid Multiplication of the Unfit, Woodhull insisted, "The best minds of to-day have accepted the fact that if superior people are desired, they must be bred; and if imbeciles, criminals, paupers and [the] otherwise unfit are undesirable citizens they must not be bred." [16]

Twenty years later, Sanger continued the feminist affinity for organized eugenics. Like many progressives, she applied eugenic principles to her pet passion, birth control, which she believed was required of any properly run eugenic society. Sanger saw the obstruction of birth control as a multitiered injustice. One of those tiers was the way it enlarged the overall menace of social defectives plaguing society. [17]

Sanger expressed her own sense of ancestral self-worth in the finest eugenic tradition. Her autobiography certified the quality of her mother's ancestors: "Her family had been Irish as far back as she could trace; the strain of the Norman conquerors had run true throughout the generations, and may have accounted for her unfaltering courage." [18] Sanger continued, "Mother's eleven children were all ten-pounders or more, and both she and father had a eugenic pride of race." [19]

Sanger always considered birth control a function of general population control and embraced the Malthusian notion that a world running out of food supplies should halt charitable works and allow the weak to die off. Malthus's ideals were predecessors to Galton's own pronouncements. Indeed, when Sanger first launched her movement she considered naming it "Neo-Malthusianism." She recounted the night the movement was named in these words: "A new movement was starting .... It did not belong to Socialism nor was it in the labor field, and it had much more to it than just the prevention of conception. As a few companions were sitting with me one evening, we debated in turn voluntary parenthood, voluntary motherhood, the new motherhood, constructive generation, and new generation. The terms already in use-Neo-Malthusianism, Family Limitation, and Conscious Generation seemed stuffy and lacked popular appeal. ... We tried population control, race control, and birth rate control. Then someone suggested 'Drop the [word] rate.' Birth control was the answer .... " [20]

Years later, Sanger still continued to see eugenics and birth control as adjuncts. In 1926, her organization sponsored the Sixth International Neo- Malthusian and Birth Control Conference. In a subsequent Birth Control Review article referencing the conference, Jewish crusader Rabbi Stephen Wise, president of the American Jewish Congress, declared, "I think of Birth Control as an item ... supremely important as an item in the eugenic program .... Birth control, I repeat, is the fundamental, primary element or item in the eugenic program." [21]

Indeed, Sanger saw birth control as the highest form of eugenics. "Birth control, which has been criticized as negative and destructive, is really the greatest and most truly eugenic method, and its adoption as part of the program of Eugenics would immediately give a concrete and realistic power to that science. As a matter of fact, Birth Control has been accepted by the most clear thinking and far seeing of the Eugenists themselves as the most constructive and necessary of the means to racial health." [22]

More than a Malthusian, Sanger became an outspoken social Darwinist, even looking beyond the ideas of Spencer. In her 1922 book, Pivot of Civilization, Sanger thoroughly condemned charitable action. She devoted a full chapter to a denigration of charity and a deprecation of the lower classes. Chapter 5, "The Cruelty of Charity," was prefaced by an epigraph from Spencer himself: "Fostering the good-for-nothing at the expense of the good is an extreme cruelty. It is a deliberate storing up of miseries for future generations. There is no greater curse to posterity than that of bequeathing them an increasing population of imbeciles." [23]

Not as an isolated comment, but on page after page, Sanger castigated charities and the people they hoped to assist. "Organized charity itself," she wrote, "is the symptom of a malignant social disease. Those vast, complex, interrelated organizations aiming to control and to diminish the spread of misery and destitution and all the menacing evils that spring out of this sinisterly fertile soil, are the surest sign that our civilization has bred, is breeding and is perpetuating constantly increasing numbers of defectives, delinquents and dependents. My criticism, therefore, is not directed at the 'failure' of philanthropy, but rather at its success." [24]

She condemned philanthropists and repeatedly referred to those needing help as little more than "human waste." "Such philanthropy ... unwittingly promotes precisely the results most deprecated. It encourages the healthier and more normal sections of the world to shoulder the burden of unthinking and indiscriminate fecundity of others; which brings with it, as I think the reader must agree, a dead weight of human waste. Instead of decreasing and aiming to eliminate the stocks that are most detrimental to the future of the race and the world, it tends to render them to a menacing degree dominant." [25]

Sanger added, "[As] British eugenists so conclusively show, and as the infant mortality reports so thoroughly substantiate, a high rate of fecundity is always associated with the direst poverty, irresponsibility, mental defect, feeble-mindedness, and other transmissible taints. The effect of maternity endowments and maternity centers supported by private philanthropy would have, perhaps already have had, exactly the most dysgenic tendency. The new government program would facilitate the function of maternity among the very classes in which the absolute necessity is to discourage it." [26]

She continued, "The most serious charge that can be brought against modern 'benevolence' is that it encourages the perpetuation of defectives, delinquents and dependents. These are the most dangerous elements in the world community, the most devastating curse on human progress and expression. Philanthropy is a gesture characteristic of modern business lavishing upon the unfit the profits extorted from the community at large. Looked at impartially, this compensatory generosity is in its final effect probably more dangerous, more dysgenic, more blighting than the initial practice of profiteering and the social injustice which makes some too rich and others too poor." [27]

Like most eugenicists, she appealed to the financial instincts of the wealthy and middle class whose taxes and donations funded social assistance. "Insanity," she wrote, "annually drains from the state treasury no less than $11,985,695.55, and from private sources and endowments another twenty millions. When we learn further that the total number of inmates in public and private institutions in the State of New York -- in alms-houses, reformatories, schools for the blind, deaf and mute, in insane asylums, in homes for the feeble-minded and epileptic -- amounts practically to less than sixty-five thousand, an insignificant number compared to the total population, our eyes should be opened to the terrific cost to the community of this dead weight of human waste." [28]

She repeated eugenic notions of generation-to-generation hereditary pauperism as a genetic defect too expensive for society to defray. "The offspring of one feebleminded man named Jukes," she reminded, "has cost the public in one way or another $1,300,000 in seventy-five years. Do we want more such families?" [29]

Sanger's book, Pivot of Civilization, included an introduction by famous British novelist and eugenicist H. G. Wells, who said, "We want fewer and better children ... and we cannot make the social life and the world-peace we are determined to make, with the ill-bred, ill-trained swarms of inferior citizens that you inflict upon US." [30]

Later, Sanger's magazine reprinted and lauded an editorial from the publication American Medicine, which tried to correct "the popular misapprehension that [birth control advocates] encourage small families. The truth is that they encourage small families where large ones would seem detrimental to society, but they advocate with just as great insistence large families where small ones are an injustice to society. They frown upon the ignorant poor whose numerous children, brought into the world often under the most unfavorable circumstances, are a burden to themselves, a menace to the health of the not infrequently unwilling mother, and an obstacle to social progress. But they frown with equal disapproval on the well-to-do, cultured parents who can offer their children all the advantages of the best care and education and who nevertheless selfishly withhold these benefits from society. More children from the fit, less from the unfit -- that is the chief issue in Birth Control." But on this last point, however, Sanger disagreed with mainstream eugenicists -- she encouraged intelligent birth control even for superior families. [31]

Sanger would return to the theme of more eugenically fit children (and fewer unfit) again and again. She preferred negative, coercive eugenics. "Eugenics seems to me to be valuable in its critical and diagnostic aspects, in emphasizing the danger of irresponsible and uncontrolled fertility of the 'unfit' and the feeble-minded establishing a progressive unbalance in human society and lowering the birth-rate among the 'fit.' But in its so-called 'constructive' aspect, in seeking to reestablish the dominance of [the] healthy strain over the unhealthy, by urging an increased birth-rate among the fit, the Eugenists really offer nothing more farsighted than a 'cradle competition' between the fit and the unfit." [32]

Sanger's solutions were mass sterilization and mass segregation of the defective classes, and these themes were repeated often in Pivot of Civilization. "The emergency problem of segregation and sterilization must be faced immediately. Every feeble-minded girl or woman of the hereditary type, especially of the moron class, should be segregated during the reproductive period. Otherwise, she is almost certain to bear imbecile children, who in turn are just as certain to breed other defectives. The male defectives are no less dangerous. Segregation carried out for one or two generations would give us only partial control of the problem. Moreover, when we realize that each feeble-minded person is a potential source of an endless progeny of defect, we prefer the policy of immediate sterilization, of making sure that parenthood is absolutely prohibited to the feeble-minded." [33]

Indeed, Sanger listed eight official aims for her new organization, the American Birth Control League. The fourth aim was "sterilization of the insane and feebleminded and the encouragement of this operation upon those afflicted with inherited or transmissible diseases .... " [34]

For her statistics and definitions regarding the feebleminded, Sanger subscribed to Goddard's approach. "Just how many feebleminded there are in the United States, no one knows," wrote Sanger in another book, U70man and the New Race, "because no attempt has ever been made to give public care to all of them, and families are more inclined to conceal than to reveal the mental defects of their members. Estimates vary from 350,000 at the present time to nearly 400,000 as early as 1890, Henry H. Goddard, Ph.D., of the Vineland, N.]., Training School, being authority for the latter statement." [35]

Similarly, she accepted the view that most feebleminded children descended from immigrants. For instance, she cited one study that concluded, "An overwhelming proportion of the classified feebleminded children in New York schools came from large families in overcrowded slum conditions, and ... only a small percentage were born of native parents." [36]

Steeped in eugenic science, Sanger frequently parroted the results of U.S. Army intelligence testing which asserted that as many as 70 percent of Americans were feebleminded. In January of 1932, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle sent Sanger a quote from a British publication asserting that one-tenth of England's population was feebleminded due to "random output of unrestricted breeding." In a letter, the Eagle editor asked Sanger, "Is that a fair estimate? What percentage of this country's population is deficient for the same reasons?" Sanger wrote her response on the letter: "70% below 15 year intellect." Her secretary then formally typed a response, "Mrs. Sanger believes that 70% of this country's population has an intellect of less than 15 years." [37] Her magazine, Birth Control Review, featured an article with a similar view. "The Purpose of Eugenics" stated, "Expert army investigators disclosed the startling fact that fully 70 per cent of the constituents of this huge army had a mental capacity below ... fourteen years." [38]

When lobbying against the growing demographics of the defective, Sanger commonly cited eugenic theory as unimpeachable fact. For example, she followed one fusillade of population reduction rhetoric by assuring, "The opinions which I summarize here are not so much my own, originally, as those of medical authorities who have made deep and careful investigations." [39]

Sanger was willing to employ striking language to argue against the inherent misery and defect of large families. In her book, Woman and the New Race, she bluntly declared, "Many, perhaps, will think it idle to go farther in demonstrating the immorality of large families, but since there is still an abundance of proof at hand, it may be offered for the sake of those who find difficulty in adjusting old-fashioned ideas to the facts. The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it." [40]

At times, she publicly advocated extermination of so-called human weeds to bolster her own views. For example, her August 15, 1925, Collier's magazine guest editorial entitled "Is Race Suicide Probable?" argued the case for birth control by quoting eminent botanist and radical eugenicist Luther Burbank, "to whom American civilization is deeply indebted." Quoting Burbank, Sanger's opinion piece continued, "America ... is like a garden in which the gardener pays no attention to the weeds. Our criminals are our weeds, and weeds breed fast and are intensely hardy. They must be eliminated. Stop permitting criminals and weaklings to reproduce. Allover the country to-day we have enormous insane asylums and similar institutions where we nourish the unfit and criminal instead of exterminating them. Nature eliminates the weeds, but we turn them into parasites and allow them to reproduce." [41]

Sanger surrounded herself with some of the eugenics movement's most outspoken racists and white supremacists. Chief among them was Lothrop Stoddard, author of The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy. Stoddard's book, devoted to the notion of a superior Nordic race, became a eugenic gospel. It warned: "'Finally perish!' That is the exact alternative which confronts the white race .... If white civilization goes down, the white race is irretrievably ruined. It will be swamped by the triumphant colored races, who will obliterate the white man by elimination or absorption .... Not to-day, nor yet to-morrow; perhaps not for generations; but surely in the end. If the present drift be not changed, we whites are all ultimately doomed." [42]

Stoddard added the eugenic maxim, "We now know that men are not, and never will be, equal. We know that environment and education can develop only what heredity brings." Stoddard's solution? "Just as we isolate bacterial invasions, and starve out the bacteria, by limiting the area and amount of their food supply, so we can compel an inferior race to remain in its native habitat ... [which will] as with all organisms, eventually limit ... its influence." [43]

Shortly after Stoddard's landmark book was published in 1920, Sanger invited him to join the board of directors of her American Birth Control League, a position he retained for years. Likewise, Stoddard retained a key position as a member of the conference committee of the First American Birth Control Conference. [44]

Another Sanger colleague was Yale economics professor Irving Fisher, a leader of the Eugenics Research Association. It was Fisher who had told the Second National Congress on Race Betterment, "Gentlemen and Ladies, you have not any idea unless you have studied this subject mathematically, how rapidly we could exterminate this contamination if we really got at it, or how rapidly the contamination goes on if we do not get at it." [45] Fisher also served on Sanger's Committee for the First American Birth Control Conference, and lectured at her birth control events. Some of these events were unofficial gatherings to discuss wider eugenic action. In a typical exchange before one such lecture in March of 1925, Laughlin wrote to Fisher, "I have received a letter from Mrs. Sanger verifying your date for the round-table discussion .... Dr. Davenport and I can meet you ... thirty minutes before Mrs. Sanger's conference opens ... so that we three can then confer on the business in hand in reference to our membership on the International Commission of Eugenics." [46]

Henry Pratt Fairchild served as one of Sanger's chief organizers and major correspondents. [47] Fairchild became renowned for his virulent anti-immigrant and anti-ethnic polemic, The Melting Pot Mistake. Fairchild argued, "Unrestricted immigration ... was slowly, insidiously, irresistibly eating away the very heart of the United States. What was being melted in the great Melting Pot, losing all form and symmetry, all beauty and character, all nobility and usefulness, was the American nationality itself." Like Stoddard, Fairchild compared ethnic minorities to a vile bacterium. "But in the case of a nationality," warned Fairchild, "the foreign particle does not become a part of the nationality until he has become assimilated to it. Previous to that time, he is an extraneous factor, like undigested, and possibly indigestible, matter in the body of a living organism. That being the case, the only way he can alter the nationality is by injuring it, by impeding its functions." [48] Like Fisher, Fairchild offered key speeches at Sanger's conferences, such as the 1925 Sixth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference and the 1927 World Population Conference. In 1929, he became vice president and board member of Sanger's central lobbying group, the National Committee for Federal Legislation on Birth Control; in 1931 he served on the advisory board of Sanger's Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau, and later he served as vice president of the Birth Control Federation of America. [49]

Stoddard, Fairchild and Fisher were just three of the many eugenicists working in close association with Sanger and her birth control movement. Therefore, even though Sanger was not a racist or an anti-Semite herself, she openly welcomed the worst elements of both into the birth control movement. This provided legitimacy and greater currency for a eugenics movement that thrived by subverting progressive platforms to achieve its goals of Nordic racial superiority and ethnic banishment for everyone else.


Because so many American eugenic leaders occupied key positions within the birth control movement, [50] and because so much of Sanger's rhetoric on suppressing defective immigration echoed standard eugenic vitriol on the topic, [51] and because the chief aims of both organizations included mass sterilization and sequestration, Sanger came to view eugenics and her movement as two sides of the same coin. She consistently courted leaders of the eugenics movement, seeking their acceptance, and periodically maneuvering for a merger of sorts.

The chief obstacle to this merger was Sanger's failure to embrace what was known as constructive eugenics. She argued for an aggressive program of negative eugenics, that is, the elimination of the unfit through mass sterilization and sequestration. [52] But she did not endorse constructive eugenics, that is, higher birth rates for those families the movement saw as superior. [53] Moreover, Sanger believed that until mass sterilization took hold, lower class women should practice intelligent birth control by planning families, employing contraception, and spacing their children. This notion split the eugenic leadership.

Some key eugenicists believed birth control was an admirable first step until more coercive measures could be imposed. However, other leaders felt Sanger's approach was a lamentable half-measure that sent the wrong message. A telling editorial in Eugenical News declared that the leaders of American eugenics would be willing to grant Sanger's crusade "hearty support" if only she would drop her opposition to larger families for the fit, and "advocate differential fecundity [reproductive rates] on the basis of natural worth." [54]

In other words, Sanger's insistence on birth control for all women, even women of so-called good families, made her movement unpalatable to the male-dominated eugenics establishment. But on this point she would not yield. In many ways this alienated her from eugenics' highest echelons. Even still, Sanger continued to drape herself in the flag of mainstream eugenics, keeping as many major eugenic leaders as close as possible, and pressing others to join her.

Typical was her attempt on October 6, 1921, to coax eugenicist Henry Osborn, president of the New York's Museum of Natural History, to join ranks with the First American Birth Control Conference. "We are most anxious to have you become affiliated with this group and to have your permission to add your name to the Conference Committee." When he did not reply, Sanger sent a duplicate letter five days later. Her answer came on October 21, not from Osborn, but from Davenport. Davenport, who vigorously opposed Sanger's efforts, replied that Osborn "believes that a certain amount of 'birth control' should properly be exercised by the white race, as it is by many of the so-called savage races. I imagine, however, that he is less interested in the statistical reduction in the size of the family than he is in bringing about a qualitative result by which the defective strains should have, on the average, very small families and the efficient strains, of different social levels, should have relatively larger families." Davenport declined on Osborn's behalf, adding, "Propaganda for birth control at this time may well do more harm than good and he is unwilling to associate himself with the forthcoming Birth Control Conference ... [since] there is grave doubt whether it will work out the advancement of the race." [55]

Sanger kept trying. On February 11, 1925, she wrote directly to Davenport, inviting him to become a vice president of the Sixth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference. Within forty-eight hours, America's cardinal eugenicist sharply declined. "As to any official connection on my part with the conference as vice president, or officially recognized participant or supporter, that is, for reasons which I have already expressed to you in early letters, not possible. For one thing, the confusion of eugenics (which in its application to humans is qualitative) with birth control (which as set forth by most of its propagandists, is quantitative) is, or was considerable and the association of the director of the Eugenics Record Office with the Birth Control Conference would only serve to confuse the distinction. I trust, therefore, you will appreciate my reasons for not wishing to appear as a supporter of the Birth Control League or of the conference." [56]

Not willing to take no for an answer, Sanger immediately wrote to Laughlin at Cold Spring Harbor, asking him to join a roundtable discussion at the conference. Among the conference topics devoted to eugenics was a daylong session entitled, "Sterilization, Crime, Eugenics, Biological Fertility and Sterility." Irving Fisher was considering participating, and by mentioning Fisher's name, Sanger hoped to entice Laughlin. When Laughlin did not reply immediately, Sanger sent him a second letter at the Carnegie Institution in Washington on March 23, and then a third to Cold Spring Harbor on March 24. Fisher finally accepted and then wired as much to Laughlin, who then also accepted for the afternoon portion of the eugenic program. [57]

Ironically, during one of the conference's sparsely attended administrative sessions, when Sanger was undoubtedly absent, conservative eugenic theorist Roswell Johnson took the floor to quickly usher through a special "eugenic" resolution advocating larger families for the fit. It was exactly what Sanger opposed. [58]

Johnson, coauthor of the widely used textbook Applied Eugenics, introduced the resolution and marshaled a majority from the slight attendance while Sanger's main organizers were presumably out of earshot. It read: "Resolved, that this Conference believes that persons whose progeny give promise of being of decided value to the community should be encouraged to bear as large families, properly spaced, as they feel they feasibly can." Newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic energetically pounced on the resolution. [59]

Outraged, Sanger immediately repudiated the resolution-unconcerned with whether or not she alienated her allies in the mainstream eugenics movement. "It is my belief," she declared in the next available volume of Birth Control Review, "that the so-called 'eugenic' resolution, passed at the final session of the Sixth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference, has created a lamentable confusion .... It was interpreted by the press as indicating that we believed we could actually increase the size of families among the 'superior' classes by passing resolutions recommending larger families." [60]

Despite the public row, Sanger continued to push for a merger with the Eugenics Research Association. The ERA had considered affiliation, but eventually declined. "For the time being ... [the organization] would not seek formal affiliation with the Birth Control Conference." [61] Yet the overlap between Sanger's organizations and the most extreme eugenic bodies continued. The American Eugenics Society, founded in 1922, was the key advocacy and propaganda wing of the movement. Its board of directors, which included Davenport and Laughlin, also included two men who served on Sanger's organizational and conference boards, University of Michigan president Clarence C. Little and racist author Henry Pratt Fairchild. Moreover, the American Eugenics Society's advisory council included a number of men who also served in official capacities with Sanger's various organizations, including Harvard sociologist Edward East, psychologist Adolf Meyer, and Rockefeller Foundation medical director William Welch. [62]

Therefore, it was only natural that the issue of merger continued to resurface, especially since Sanger's conferences and her publication, Birth Control Review, continued to trumpet the classic eugenic cause, often in the most caustic language. For example, a February 1924 birth control conference in Syracuse featured a paper entitled "Birth Control as Viewed by a Sociologist." The speech argued, "We need a eugenic program and by that I mean a program that seeks to improve the quality of our population, to make a stronger, brainier, and better race of men and women. This will require an effort to increase the number of superior and diminish that of the inferior and the weakling .... It is quite important that we cut down on the now large numbers of the unfit -- the physical, mental and moral subnormals." This speech was quickly reprinted in the May 1924 issue of Birth Control Review, with the eugenic remarks highlighted in a special subsection headlined "Eugenics and Birth Control." [63]

In the December 1924 Birth Control Review, another typical article, this one by eugenicist John C. Duvall, was simply titled "The Purpose of Eugenics." In a section subtitled "Dangerous Human Pests," Duvall explained, "We therefore actually subsidize the propagation of the Jukes and thousands of others of their kind through the promiscuous dispensation of charitable relief, thereby allowing these classes of degenerates to poison society with their unbridled prolific scum, so that at the present time there are about one-half million of this type receiving attention in publicly maintained institutions, while thousands of others are at large to the detriment of our finer elements." The article added thoughts about eradicating such a problem. "It is interesting to note that there is no hesitation to interfere with the course of nature when we desire to eliminate or prevent a superfluity of rodents, insects or other pests; but when it comes to the elimination of the immeasurably more dangerous human pest, we blindly adhere to the inconsistent dogmatic doctrine that man has a perfect right to control all nature with the exception of himself." [64] It was the second time that year that Sanger's magazine had published virtually the same phrases declaring lower classes to be more dangerous than rats and bugs. [65] Such denunciations were commonplace in Birth Control Review.

No wonder then that in 1928, leaders of the American Eugenics Society began to suggest that its own monthly publication of eugenic proselytism, Eugenics, merge with Sanger's Birth Control Review. Leon Whitney, executive secretary of the American Eugenics Society and a Sanger ally, wrote Davenport on April 3, 1928, "It would be an excellent thing if both the American Birth Control League and the American Eugenics Society used the same magazine as their official organ, especially since they were both interested so much in the same problems." Whitney took the liberty of meeting with Sanger on the question, and reported to colleagues, "She felt very strongly about eugenics and seemed to see the whole problem of birth control as a eugenical problem." As to combining their publications, he added, "Mrs. Sanger took very kindly to the idea and seemed to be as enthusiastic about it as I was." [66]

But most of the eugenics movement's senior personalities recoiled at the notion. Furious letters began to fly across the eugenics community. On April 13, Paul Popenoe, who headed up California's Human Betterment Society, reviewed the Whitney letter with racial theorist Madison Grant, who happened to be traveling in Los Angeles. The next day, his agitation obvious, Popenoe wrote Grant a letter marked "Confidential" at the top. "I have been considerably disquieted by the letter you showed me yesterday, suggesting a working alliance between the American Eugenics Society and the American Birth Control League. In my judgment we have everything to lose and nothing to gain by such an arrangement .... The latter society ... is controlled by a group that has been brought up on agitation and emotional appeal instead of on research and education. With this group, we would take on a large quantity of ready-made enemies which it has accumulated, and we would gain allies who, while believing that they are eugenists, really have no conception of what eugenics is.... " [67]

Popenoe reminded Grant that Sanger had personally repudiated the Johnson Resolution in favor of larger families. "If it is desirable for us to make a campaign in favor of contraception," stressed Popenoe in condescending terms, "we are abundantly able to do so on our own account, without enrolling a lot of sob sisters, grandstand players, and anarchists to help us. We had a lunatic fringe in the eugenics movement in the early days; we have been trying for 20 years to get rid of it and have finally done so. Let's not take on another fringe of any kind as an ornament. This letter is not for publication, but I have no objection to your showing it to Mr. Whitney or any other official of the American Eugenics Society .... " [68]

Grant dashed off an urgent missive to Whitney the next day, making clear, "I am definitely opposed to any connection with them .... When we organized the Eugenics Society, it was decided that we could keep clear of Birth Control, as it was a feminist movement and would bring a lot of unnecessary enemies .... I am pretty sure that Dr. Davenport and Prof. Osborn would agree with me that we had better go our own way indefinitely." Grant copied Davenport. [69]

Davenport was traveling when the letters started flying. On his return, he immediately began to rally the movement's leading figures against any "alliance with Mrs. Sanger." Davenport emphasized his feelings in a letter to Whitney. "Mrs. Sanger is a charming woman," he began, "and I have no doubt about the seriousness of her effort to do good. I have no doubt, also, that she may feel very strongly about eugenics. I have very grave doubts whether she has any clear idea of what eugenics is.... We have attached to the word, eugenics, the names of Mrs. E. H. Harriman and Andrew Carnegie-persons with an unsullied personal reputation, whose names connote good judgment and great means. Such valued associations have given to the word, eugenics, great social value and it is that which various organizations want to seize." [70]

He continued, "Now comes along Mrs. Sanger who feels that birth control does not taste in the mouth so well as eugenics and she thinks that birth control is the same as eugenics, and eugenics is birth control, and she would, naturally, seize with avidity a proposal that we should blend birth control and eugenics in some way, such as the proposed [joint] magazine .... The whole birth control movement seems to me a quagmire, out of which eugenics should keep." [71]

Davenport concluded with a clear threat to steer clear of any merger talk, or else. "I am interested in the work of the American Eugenics Society," he stated, "but I am more interested in preserving the connotation of eugenics unsullied and I should feel that if the Eugenics Society tied up with the birth control movement that it would be necessary for the Eugenics Record Office of the Carnegie Institution of Washington to withdraw its moral support." [72]

But the idea of a merger between eugenic and birth control groups never subsided. By the 1930s, both movements had fragmented into numerous competing and overlapping entities -- many with similar names. Sanger herself had resigned from the American Birth Control League to spearhead other national birth control organizations. In 1933, when the Depression financially crippled many eugenics organizations, a union was again suggested. This time the idea was to merge the American Birth Control League and the American Eugenics Society precisely because the concept of a birth control organization now free of Sanger's strong will -- but flush with funds -- was attractive. But as all learned, no organization associated with birth control, whether or not Sanger was still associated with it, could be free from the presence of the birth control movement's founder.

On February 9, 1933, Fairchild wrote to Harry Perkins, president of the American Eugenics Society. "For two or three days I have been meaning to write to you, to report on recent developments. Things are moving pretty fast. Miss Topping has been asked by the Board of the A.B.C.L. [American Birth Control League] to spend two weeks or so interviewing various people, especially those not connected with any of the organizations involved, about the desirability of a merger .... Last Sunday I had a chance to talk with Margaret Sanger, and found her enthusiastic and entirely ready to cooperate. So about the only thing that remains to make it unanimous is an assurance that a working majority of the Board of the League is favorably inclined. There is every evidence that that requirement can be met. When that point is reached the main remaining question at issue will be that of finances. The Eugenics Society has none anyway, so that is easily disposed of. The main question is whether the supporters of the League, particularly the Rockefeller interests, will continue, or enlarge their contributions in case a merger is carried out." [73]

Within a month, the idea was again dead. "It looks as if the merger, after all, will not materialize in the immediate future," Fairchild informed Perkins. "It is the same old difficulty. The majority of the Board of the League seems to be in favor of a merger ... a pet dream ... cherished for years. However, they absolutely balk at the mention of Margaret Sanger. They all profess to love her dearly, and admit that she is one of the biggest women in the world, but they say that it is utterly impossible to work with her, and that any association which had her on its Board would go to pieces in a very short time, etc., etc., etc." [74]

Refusals by eugenic stalwarts carried their own organizational dangers. Fairchild and others actually feared Sanger would try to absorb large parts of the eugenics movement into her own. "As you may know," Fairchild warned Perkins, "I think the League is going to try to get a large number of the members of our Board and Advisory Council on to their Board. I shall not assist them in this effort, as I do not think the League is now, or ever can be as an independent organization, competent to function effectively in the field of Eugenics, although that is now their great objective. If, however, they do succeed in getting several of our members on their Board, it may make it possible for us to over-ride the objections to Mrs. Sanger by force of ballots if this ever seems desirable." [75]

The Great Depression continued to nudge the causes together. Still pending was the question of which movement would absorb the other. Perkins received yet another frank letter in mid May of 1933 from Popenoe. "Regarding amalgamation with The American Birth Control League," Popenoe wrote, "all of us out here were opposed to such a move when Whitney took it up five or six years ago and got in some premature and unfavorable publicity. Since then, conditions have changed a good deal. Mrs. Sanger's withdrawal from the League, followed by that of many of her admirers and of her husband's financial support, has crippled the League very badly in a financial way and it has also lost prestige scientifically for these and other reasons and because other agencies are now actively in the field .... The Birth Control League now has much less bargaining power than it had five or six years ago and if a coalition were worked out it could not expect to get such favorable terms as it would have asked for at that time. The same unfortunately applies in still greater measure to The American Eugenics Society because of its present depressed finances." [76]

Popenoe added candidly, "In effect, I should be perfectly willing to see the Eugenics Society swallow the Birth Control League .... I should not like to see the reverse situation in which the Birth Control League would swallow the Eugenics Society and tie us all up with its slogans and campaign practices .... If it comes to definite negotiations, the Birth Control people will naturally hold out for all they can get, but I think that a good poker player could get some big concessions from them." [77]

But no amount of maneuvering or economic desperation or organizational necessity would allow the equally doctrinaire movements to find a middle ground. The old men of eugenics would not permit it so long as Sanger would not compromise. Each side believed they possessed the more genuine eugenic truth. Both movements roamed the biological landscape in perpetual parallel, following the same lines but never uniting. Moreover, the thin space between the groups was mined. Once, on May 22, 1936, the executive secretary of the American Eugenics Society, George Reid Andrews, circulated to the directors a list of prestigious names to consider adding to the board. Sanger's name appeared on page one. Two weeks later Perkins received a handwritten note from another society officer: "Mr. Andrews has been dismissed ... with no opportunity to present his case." [78]

Sanger went on to lead numerous reform and women's advocacy organizations around the world. Her crusades evolved from birth control and contraception into sex education and world population control. She championed the cause of women on all continents and became an inspiring figure to successive generations. Her very name became enshrined as a beacon of goodwill and human rights.

But she never lost her eugenic raison d'etre, nor her fiery determination to eliminate the unfit. For instance, years after Sanger launched birth control, she was honored at a luncheon in the Hotel Roosevelt in New York. Her acceptance speech harkened back to the original nature of her devotion to her cause. "Let us not forget," she urged, "that these billions, millions, thousands of people are increasing, expanding, exploding at a terrific rate every year. Africa, Asia, South America are made up of more than a billion human beings, miserable, poor, illiterate labor slaves, whether they are called that or not; a billion hungry men and women always in the famine zone yet reproducing themselves in the blind struggle for survival and perpetuation .... [79]

"The brains, initiative, thrift and progress of the self supporting, creative human being are called upon to support the ever increasing and numerous dependent, delinquent and unbalanced masses .... I wonder how many of you realize that the population of the British Isles in Shakespeare's time was scarcely more than six millions, yet out of these few millions came the explorers, the pioneers, the poets, the Pilgrims and the courageous founders of these United States of America. What is England producing today with her hungry fifty million human beings struggling for survival? She had then a race of quality, now it's merely quantity. One forgets that the Italy of the Renaissance, of the painters, the sculptors, the architects, was a loose collection of small towns -- a tiny population that was yet the nursery of geniuses. There again quality rises supreme above quantity. [80]

"This twentieth century of ours has seen the most rapid multiplication of human beings in our history, quantity without quality, however .... Stress quality as a prime essential in the birth and survival of our population .... [81]

"[The] suggestion I would offer as one worthy of national consideration is that of decreasing the progeny of those human beings afflicted with transmissible diseases and dysgenic qualities of body and mind. While our present Federal Governmental Santa Clauses have their hands in the taxpayer's pockets, why not in their generous giving mood be constructive and provide for sterilizing as well as giving a pension, dole -- call it what you may -- to the feebleminded and the victims of transmissible, congenital diseases? Such a program would be a sound future investment as well as a kindness to the couples themselves by preventing the birth of dozens of their progeny to become burdens, even criminals of another generation." [82]

Sanger did not deliver this speech in the heyday of Roaring Twenties eugenics, nor in the clutches of Depression-era desperation, nor even in a world torn apart by war. She was speaking at the Thirtieth Annual Meeting of the Planned Parenthood Federation on October 25, 1950. A transcript of her remarks was distributed to the worldwide press. A pamphlet was also distributed, entitled "Books on Planned Parenthood," which listed seven major topics, one of which was "Eugenics." The list of eugenic books and pamphlets included the familiar dogmatic publications from the 1930s covering such topics as "selective sterilization" and "the goal of eugenics." [83]

Almost three years later, on May 5, 1953, Sanger reviewed the goals of a new family planning organization -- with no change of heart. Writing on International Planned Parenthood Federation letterhead, Sanger asserted to a London eugenic colleague, "I appreciate that there is a difference of opinion as what a Planned Parenthood Federation should want or aim to do, but I do not see how we could leave out of its aims some of the eugenic principles that are basically sound in constructing a decent civilization." [84]

Margaret Sanger gave hope to multitudes. For many, she redefined hope. In the process, she split a nation. But when the smoke cleared on the great biological torment of the twentieth century, Margaret Sanger's movement stands as a powerful example of American eugenics' ability to pervade, infect and distort the most dedicated causes and the most visionary reformers. None was untouchable. If one who loved humanity as much as Sanger could only love a small fraction of it, her story stands as one of the saddest chapters in the history of eugenics.