Eugenics still close to home | Eugenics |

In 1883, Francis Galton published “Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development” and introduced to the world the term “eugenics.” His view was that for the betterment of the human race, society should improve itself by weeding out the “undesirables.” Galton pressed for the study of eugenics to become widespread. These ideas did take root — much closer to home than you might expect.


After the idea of eugenics began to take hold of the medical and social sciences, many people hoped to improve their community and future by disallowing certain peoples the ability to reproduce.


This culture quickly turned to practices involving sterilization and making those deemed unfit for society unable to reproduce. In 1897, the Michigan Legislature became the first in the U.S. to propose a law allowing the sterilization of those deemed inferior. The law passed in the legislature but later was vetoed by Gov. Hazen S. Pingree. It wasn’t long after, however, that other states began proposing, and passing, similar laws.


As these sterilization laws became widespread throughout the nation, a culture of superior vs. inferior began to develop. The eradication of the “weaker” people for the betterment of future generations began to take hold and become acceptable in America. In 1927, in the ruling of the case Buck v. Bell, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes stated in favor of forced sterilization:

“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.”

As the 20th century began to unfold, the ideas of eugenics and the methods to go about it began to take a turn. People began to use the “noble” cause of eugenics to single out groups and races.