You may not have heard of a movement that started in the United States with seemingly good intentions. It later inspired and set the stage from one of the worlds greatest tragedies and plunged the world into war. This movement was able to get the support of some of histories most beloved dignitaries as well as the common man for many years.
Ideas for this movement were rooted in the biological determinist ideas of Sir Francis Galton. Galton studied the upper classes of Britain in the 1880's and concluded that social positions were due to a superior genetic makeup. Early proponents believed that through selective breeding the human species should direct it's own evolution. They tended to believe in the genetic superiority of the Nordic, Germanic, and Anglo-Saxon peoples.
(Wikipedia). It supported strict immigration and anti-miscegenation laws. It also supported forcible sterilization of the 'poor, disabled, and immoral'.
The American Eugenics movement received extensive support of the Carnegie Institution, Rockefeller Foundation, and the Harriman railroad fortunes. In 1906 J.H. Kellogg provided funding to found the Race Betterment Foundation in Battle Creek Michigan. The Eugenics Records Office was founded by the renowned biologist Charles B. Davenport. As late as the 1920's the ERO was the leading organization in the American Eugenics movement.
The ERO accumulated masses of family pedigrees and concluded that those who were unfit cam from economically and socially poor backgrounds. Eugenicists such as Davenport, psychologist Henry H. Goddard, Harry H. Laughlin, and conservationist Madison Grant, (all respected in their time), began to lobby for solutions to the problem of the "unfit". The primary methods supported in one form or another was Immigration restriction, sterilization, segregation, and some even supported extermination. The Eugenics Records Office later became the Cold Harbor Laboratory.
Eugenics was widely accepted by the academic community. By 1928 there were 376 separate university courses in some of the United States leading schools enrolling more than 20,000 students which included Eugenics in their curriculum.
One of the few scientific detractor was Thomas Hunt Morgan. Most of the detractors focused on some of the cruder methodology of Eugenics.
In 1906 The first organized Eugenics body was formed. The American Breeder's Association was established under the direction of Charles B Davenport. The ABA was formed to "investigate and report on heredity in the human race, and emphasize the value of superior blood and the menace to society of inferior blood."
Membership included Alexander Graham Bell, Stanford President David Starr Jordan, and Luther Burbank.
Feminist reformers advocated an agenda of Eugenic legal reform. The National Federation of Women's Clubs, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, and the National League of Women Voters were among the variety of state and local feminist organizations to lobby for Eugenic reforms.
One of the prominent women leaders was Margaret Sanger. Leader of the birth control movement. She advocated birth control to prevent unwanted births, those born into a disadvantaged life, who would pass on mental disease or serious physical defect. She advocated sterilization though she did reject euthanasia.
End part one. Part two will explore how popular Eugenics becomes.