Bioethics News

The Forgotten Lessons of the American Eugenics Movement

April 28, 2016

(The New Yorker) – The Virginia Colony was one of many facilities for the disabled that were founded in the Progressive Era, partly to provide care for a vulnerable population and partly to remove it from the gene pool, by sequestering those individuals during their fertile years. (On the other side of the coin, Jill Lepore has written about how modern marriage therapy grew out of one man’s effort to promote “fit” unions.) Between 1904 and 1921, the rate of institutionalization for feeblemindedness nearly tripled. Carrie was just one of this crowd, except that she happened to arrive at the Virginia Colony right at the moment when its superintendent, Dr. Albert Priddy, was looking to transform his institution from a genetic quarantine center to a sort of eugenics factory, where the variously unfit could be committed for a short time, sterilized, and then released, like cats, back into the general population, with the happy assurance that they would never reproduce.

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