The mainstream acceptance of Eugenics in the scholarly, scientific, social service, and governmental communities was a gradual introduction of theories that preyed on the popular prejudices of the day. With the rise of Jim Crow and the occurrence of economic recessions and depression created a fertile field for the rise of the basic beliefs of the eugenicist. The methods of the KKK were more drastic and though popular in some areas left the mainstream with an aversion to their methods. Pictures of black boys and men hanging in trees did not go over well.
But the same results could be made more palatable with the addition of scientific theory and the endorsement of leading figures of the time. Regardless of the the semantics it was still racism.
In 1972 in congressional testimony 2000 involuntary sterilizations were performed on poor black women without their knowledge or consent. All the surgeries were performed in the south and were performed on black welfare women with multiple children. Many had been threatened with the end of welfare benefits if they did not sign the waiver for surgical sterilization.
In the 1970's the WARN organization (Women of all Red Nations) publicised the fact that Native American women were threatened with the procedure. Refusal to deliver babies in labor was used to gain the signatures. Approximately 3,406 Indians were sterilized. The GEO reported that the proper forms or procedures were not used by the Indian Health Service and did not adhere to the HEW standards.
One of the methods that was put forth to control the "inferior populations" was euthanasia. A 1911 Carnegie Institute report mentioned euthanasia as one of it's recommended "solutions" to the problem of "cleansing society of unfit genetic attributes".
The most commonly suggested method for a solution to the problem of cleansing society was the setting up of local gas chambers. (Sounds familiar?) Many in the movement did not think that the public would be up to accepting such drastic measure yet. So many doctors and medical facilities started a eugenics euthanasia campaign on their own.
A mental facility in Lincoln Illinois fed it's patients milk infected with tuberculosis (reasoning that genetically fit people would be resistant), resulting in a 30 to 40% annual death rate.
In 1931 the Illinois Homeopathic Medicine Association began lobbying for the right to euthanize "imbeciles" and other defectives. The Euthanasia Society of America was founded in 1938.
There was a widespread promotion of Better Baby Contests to combine the ideas of health and intelligence standards with competitions at state fairs. The results were taken very serious by the scientific community. The contests and the collection of scientific information has be dismissed as fads or trends but it was a very serious movement. Do you see parallels to today's children beauty pageants?
First appearing at the Kansas Free Fair in 1920 was the Fitter Family competition. This was a continuation of the better baby contests. It was believed that many behavioral qualities were inherited from your parents. This led to the addition of several categories including: Generosity,self-sacrifice, and quality of familial bonds. Negative features were judged to be: Feeble mindedness, selfishness, jealousy, spaciousness, high temperateness, and cruelty. Alcoholism, paralysis were more traits to be looked for in family lineage.
By 1925 the Eugenics Records Office was distributing standardized forms for judging eugenically fit families and were used in several states.
After the movement was established in America it spread to Germany. California eugenicists began producing literature promoting eugenics and sterilization and sending it overseas to scientists and medical professionals. The forced sterilization program engineered by the Nazis was partly inspired by California's.
The Rockefeller Foundation helped develop and fund various German eugenics programs including the one that Joseph Mengele worked in before he went to Auschwitz.
In the next instalment: The origins of evil and the world acceptance of it.