My latest story is a feature on the book, “Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court and Buck v. Bell,” about the 1927 U.S. Supreme Court decision that sanctioned sterilization of the so-called feebleminded. The article includes three short book excerpts, a Q&A with the author and a slideshow.
This first excerpt shows the flimsiness of the trial evidence that purported to prove the “feeblemindedness” of three generations of Bucks — grandmother Emma, daughter Carrie and infant granddaughter Vivian. It is what was used to justify sterilizing Carrie under Virginia’s eugenics law.
Red Cross nurse Caroline Wilhelm was new to Charlottesville, having moved to town the previous February to become county administrator of public welfare. She had little firsthand experience with Carrie apart from bringing her to Lynchburg on the train early in the summer. Her first comments clearly revealed the real reason that Carrie was sent to the Virginia Colony. Wilhelm explained that Mr. Dobbs [Carrie’s foster father] had reported to the welfare office that Carrie was pregnant and that “he wanted her committed somewhere — to have her sent to some institution.”
The whole shebang. Here is a 2007 story I wrote about the centennial of Indiana’s enactment of the world’s first eugenic sterilization law.