JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 255
The arithmetical purity of the eugenic response to social excellence was hardly "advanced" when the pamphlets appearing here were printed. The flavor of its mathematics, particularly in the nineteen 'teens and 'twenties, was watery and milky, and concerned itself pretty much with "pluses" and "minuses", as in "as a social defective or prostitute" (um, yes, this is true, at least for California) "it is best for the societal gene pool if you just stayed out, on land". Vagrants, vagabonds, minor social criminals and "some poor", could very well be placed in this category and subjected to forcible castration or sterilization. Mainly though the big legal guns of "human sterilization" were generally aimed at the truly vulnerable parts of society, the "insane and the feebleminded". The pamphlet Sterilization for Human Betterment, published by the Human Betterment Foundation (Pasadena, California), states that 13,000 people in this category had been "asexualized" between 1909 and 1939 in California. (I should point out that California was the sterilization capital of the United States, with a third of all the national eugenics procedure performed in this state for this period of time) It defends this practice, saying emphatically that "eugenic sterilization is not an experiment", and that "sterilization in this form represents one of the greatest advances in modern civilization".
It continues: "(sterilization) has been continuously used by American institutions since 1899, when the first sterilizations were performed in Indians". What?
"Patients, relatives of patients, state officials, physicians,parole and probation officers, social workers, agree on the value of this practice" which was actually the "prevention of producing defective and handicapped children". I'm relieved that the probation officers were consulted.
The Betterment people shed more light on the role of sterilization and sex offenses by women. (My bold.) "Of 304 feebleminded girls sterilized and paroled, 9 out of every 12 had been sex offenders before commitment. After sterilization, only one out of every 12 became a sex delinquent on parole".
If this wasn't such an awful story, "sex delinquent on parole", a phrase I've never seen before, might make for a great 1950's trashlit title. (It could've been a series, too: all you need to do is take the title "Sex Delinquents on Parole" and add something to it, like "...on Parole from Outer Space" or "...on Parole: Queenie the Slip Crown Breaks Her Knuckles" and so on.)
The sorry story that I've interrupted with this bit of frivolity is that the "sex offenses" that are being discussed here is actually "prostitution". These young women weren't committing violent acts of sexual savagery, they were just prostitutes, which meant that in most state they were "depraved". The "feebleminded" girls I would guess were poor or working poor, without the best education, and didn't do well on whatever test was being administered to them to determine their test-taking intelligence. It seems to me that if the goal was to liquidate prostitution that perhaps the men "seeing" these women should've been the ones faced with the operation. But that isn't how the dominant culture viewed the situation, and that the best way to approach the problem was to remove the reproductive capacities from the weakest members of society.
Germany;This pamphlet was the co-authored
spawn of Paul Popenoe (1888-1979) and E.S. Gosney (1855-1942) while both were
on the board of the Human Betterment group. In addition to a strict diet of
superior morality and race, Gosney seems
to have been the money behind the organization. Popenoe had a background in
agricultural genetics with an overdrive taste for eugenics and race, somehow
intersecting them with social hygiene and marriage relations. The “dr.” that
Popenoe loved to insist attaching to his name was an honorary, unearned degree,
which he must have felt he needed in order to secure the proper amount of
intellectual identification necessary to write on intellectual identification.
The Nazis wasted little time in translating and publishing this work, adding it
to their official publications list in 1939. It was one of a significant number of intellectual
imports that came into poor, besotted Germany; the imports came nowhere
close to the amount of information banished, exported to the necessarily
beautiful non-Aryan non-Nazi inferno. It
was just the sort of thinly distributed stain that interested people like the
I wonder what "Dr." Popenoe thought of this Nazi honor?
The second pamphlet by the same people, Human Sterilization Today,. is in a swift eight pages in which the Betterment Foundation makes it case to use sterilization to check "the misery spread through the community by the unchecked reproduction of the human unit" (italics mine).. They are closing in on the Big Picture in this work, aiming at the 5,000,000 "who will be at some point committed to state hospital as insane" and the other 5,000,000 "who are so deficient intellectually (with less than 70% of average intelligence) as to be, in many cases, liabilities rather than assets to the race".
This is exhausting reading, but it is a story that shouldn't be forgotten, and could remind us that what we're doing or practicing today might look like the Human Betterment stuff 25 years down the road.
What is also deeply unsettling about Popenoe is that from this vast miasmaic idea set of misguided and forced statistics, philosophical racial extremism, "social hygiene", eugenic sterilization of the enfeebled and socially undesirable, he managed to create the very first marriage counseling service/practice in the United States. The American Institute of Family Relations opened its doors in 1930 (in L.A.!) with this dizzying philosophical semi-brew of sterilization and marriage talk-therapy, happily correlating the whole thing with exploding axis of divorce, love, social failure, racial impurity and castration. And somehow it all seemed to make sense to allot of people, back there in the past.