Better for All the World: The Secret History of Forced Sterilization and America's Quest for Racial Purity
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A timely and gripping history of the controversial eugenics movement in America–and the scientists, social reformers and progressives who supported it.In Better for All the World, Harry Bruinius charts the little known history of eugenics in America–a movement that began in the early twentieth century and resulted in the forced sterilization of more than 65,000 people. Bruinius tells the stories of Emma and Carrie Buck, two women trapped in poverty who became the test case in the 1927 supreme court decision allowing forced sterilization for those deemed unfit to procreate. From the reformers who turned local charities into government-run welfare systems promoting social and moral purity, to the influence the American policies had on Nazi Germany’s development of “racial hygiene,” Bruinius masterfully exposes the players and legislation behind one of America’s darkest secrets.
Laughlin emphasized to the committee the particular danger of the fecund, feebleminded female. He described the discovery of the “moron”—which drew a number of questions from the congressmen— and explained how these “borderline cases” were very difficult to discern in the population, since they seemed “normal” to the untrained layman, as well as to immigration officers. “How do you spell that word?” asked Congressman William Vaile of Colorado. “M-O-R-O-N,” replied Laughlin. “It is a Greek word,
descended only from Negroes in their half and only from whites in their half? . . . The higher races everywhere tend to keep themselves pure on account of the relative chastity out of wedlock of the women of the higher caste, and the lower race tend to mix for exactly the opposite reason. Wherever two races come in contact, it is found that the women of the lower race are not, as a rule, adverse to intercourse with men of the higher. And that has been true throughout history. It is true now.”
build the most modern, technologically advanced military in history, the Allied nations did little but offer weak-willed condemnations. The numbing effects of the “World War” only two decades earlier had made another devastating global conflict seem inconceivable. Besides, the overwhelming consensus in established international relations was that a nation’s sovereignty was always sacrosanct. Other nations could protest, but what Germany did within its own borders was ultimately its own affair.
they accuse the Nazis? What laws, exactly, did they break? Were there any normative international standards by which to judge the operations of these dark, Satanic mills? On the one hand, the sovereignty of an individual state was sacrosanct, and each nation’s internal affairs and domestic policies could not be held, necessarily, to any international criminal code of conduct—which hardly existed anyway at the time. A sovereign state could, in theory, kill its citizens, or even those of conquered
(New York: The Macmillan Company, 1931), p. 2. 4. Letter, January 31, 1934, in the E. S. Gosney Papers, California Institute of Technology Archives. 5. Dock was quoting Arthur Gütt, et al., Gesetz zur Verhütung erbkranken Nachwuchses vom 14. Juli 1933, mit Auszug aus dem Gesetz gegen gefährliche Gewohnheitsverbrecher und über Massregeln der Sicherung und Besserung vom 24. Nov. 1933 . . . (Munich: J. F. Lehmann, 1934). The quote here, however, is taken from his letter to Gosney. 6. For a