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The Evolution And Development Of Eugenics

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Eugenics is the practice of upgrading the human species by selecting specific people to reproduce with a wanted hereditary trait. The term Eugenics means “good creation”. The main idea is that it will breed out disease and undesired traits from a human population. It is believed that eugenics could breed out illnesses like mental illness, criminal actives, and even things like poverty. Eugenics influenced people who agreed with the practice to reproduce with people who had good traits other than someone who fell short of the social norm.

Although eugenics seems to be a good idea, the name transformed from good to negative because of reasons like Adolf Hitler’s continuous attempts to create a powerful Aryan race. That would be a reason why people would disagree with Eugenics. Eugenics name in North Carolina is not the best. During the 20th century, eugenics took on a bad name for making people disabled. North Carolina sterilized more than 7,000 people, and many of them were forced. About 85% of the 7,000 were females and about 15% were men. Out of those sterilizations, 25% of people were made mentally ill and 70% had mentally deficient problems. In North Carolina, a county named Mecklenburg sterilized people 3 times more than any other county. In Mecklenburg, There were 485 people who lost their ability to reproduce made by the order of the North Carolina Eugenics Board. Mecklenburg sterilized more people because it was advertised more in the state. Since birth control was irrelevant in the time era, the head of Mecklenburg’s welfare program strongly believed that women should be referred to sterilization.

The Eugenics Board would send them to the doctor's office to be sterilized. But soon after there were eugenics campaigns. This made people wonder did women really desired to be sterilized. Victims who have been sterilized are not found, but the five bureaucrats who were on the board at the time did not go around choosing people to be sterilized. Instead, they had middlemen going and getting information from people and summarizing their lives into paragraphs with enough information to make a case from it. These middlemen were mostly social workers who were making North Carolina distinct in the history of eugenics laws. Some victims in North Carolina were forced to be sterilized.

The issue has been discussed for about 10 years before the government wanted to do anything about the wrongful victims. Out of more than 7,000 people who were sterilized, only 200 of them have come forward about the problem. The North Carolina legislature finally agreed to give $10 million to the victims. If this is signed by the governor, each victim would get $50,000 each. Also, if this is signed by the governor, North Carolina would be the first state to offer money to sterilized victims. This is North Carolina's effort to help come back for what was one of the most extended running eugenics programs. A victim named Holt was only 19 when he was sterilized without consent. He lived in an institution for boys in Butner in North Carolina. Holt said that “They sent me to a hospital and they just put me in a room and she gave me gas and I just went off to sleep,” Holt says. When Holt woke up from his sleep, the nurse explained to him that they just sterilized him. Holt's response was “I wasn’t happy,” he says. From 1907 through the 1970s more than 60,000 Americans were forced to be sterilized. Some of these people lived in institutions, as others were named “feeble-minded” or considered to have “unfit human traits. Children who had parents who were alcoholics and could not care for them also became victims of being sterilized.

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Laws under the eugenics in North Carolina agreed that anybody could request for someone to be sterilized. Fuller Cooper, a North Carolina Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation remembers reading about neighbors who suggested sterilization on younger women because they thought that she was often sexually active. After the recommendation from the neighbors about the young girl, a board would consider their request. Fuller Cooper remembers seeing and reading the case files from the state eugenics board. Fuller's emotions were filled with sadness as she says “I literally sat at my desk and cried for about 15 minutes,” fuller said. Even though Eugenics does not have a good name, people still agreed with it. Advocates agree that eugenics help gets a desirable trait. Eugenics goal is to use science to improve over Generations by changing the traits in the human population. In the past, Eugenics on the positive side has advertised the idea that a healthy and high achieving family should be the ones who have children. Even when eugenics was first created, Sir Francis Galton’s main focus was the reproduction of good traits and desirable traits. The Movement of Eugenics started in the U.S. during the 20th century. Eugenicists agreed and focused on efforts to stop negative traits and create desired traits. Trying to successfully achieve the ideas, US leaders, private citizens, and corporations started raising money to create eugenic studies. This started the 1911 establishment of the Eugenics Records Office in Cold Spring Harbor, New York. The Eugenics Records Office tracked down family history and came to the conclusion that people were deemed to be unfit came from poor families, low in social standing, immigrant, or a minority. ERO researchers also explained that the undesired traits from families were due to genetics and not the decreasing of recourse needed. Committees were persuaded to get solutions to the problem of undesirable traits. The most threatening solution was an idea to sterilize unfit individuals so they would not pass on their undesirable traits. Through the 20th century, about 33 states agreed to have sterilization programs running. Sterilization efforts began first to target mentally ill people only. Soon, the traits were getting serious enough to put a warrant on people who were blind, deaf, feeble-minded, and alcoholics. Also, it was common for African American women to be sterilized without asking for their permission. About all the people around that time had no choice if that wanted to be sterilized or not. The program was run by the government, so there was no way to get set away from the procedure. Eugenics positive look took a negative turn when Hitler used it to try to reproduce more Aryan Races. He believed that all Germans should do everything in their power so that their gene would stay pure. Hitler included genocide for his race. In 1933, the Nazis made a law to prevent Hereditary Diseased Offspring that caused thousands of people to be sterilized. Hitler’s plan to make the Germans superior ruined the whole outlook on eugenics. The victims of people being sterilized are traumatized. People died from being involuntarily sterilized. Some people were also unaware.

Elaine Reddick, a 14-year old was a scared young girl when she was sterilized. Elaine was poor and African American, and her parents were alcoholics. She was raped and got impregnated by a man who lives in her city. Elaine’s circumstances drew attention from social workers. The social workers referred her to the state’s Eugenics Board. Her grandmother who was illiterately known as “Miss Peaches,” marked an X on the consent form giving to hear about Elaine. After Elaine gave birth to her son, a doctor cut through her fallopian tubes and burned them. Elaine’s response was “They butchered me like a hog,” now at the age of 57. Almost 44 years later, North Carolina has said to pay $50,000 each to Elaine and other victims of the eugenic program. Elaine has absorbed a lifetime of regret and is upset with the state and their way of making it right. After getting pregnant, sterilized, and already poor, Elaine had to drop out of school in the eighth grade. When she turned 18 years old she married a man. When he found out that she was sterilized, Elaine says that he abused her and called her useless. Later on in life, they divorced. For years Elaine wanted to hide the label “feeble-minded” labeled to her health records. She became one of the state’s first sterilized victims to go public. Elaine says “Nobody knows the pain and humiliation I had to go through,” she cries. The state pushed her case on as if they were ignoring it. Eventually, a jury ruled in favor of the defendants, and the following year, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear Elaine’s appeal. Elaine did not give up as she began to travel every day to Raleigh to be apart of foundation meetings. Soon, hearings of the compensation task force the governor set in March. In June, Elaine testified in front of the task force and said “I am not feeble-minded, I have never been feeble-minded. They slandered me. They ridiculed me and they harass me.”. Elaine even mentioned that the state had agreed to take away her grandmother’s (Miss Peaches) state food portion if she was not going to sign the consent form to sterilize young Elaine. The board did not make any difference only saying “This will as least prevent additional children from being born to this child who cannot care for herself, and can never function in any way as a parent.”.

Another impact that sterilization had on was a victim named Janice Black. She was tricked into signing a consent form for her sterilization. Janice only knew how to write her name. She was 18 years old, the same age as Elaine. Janice’s family did not believe that she was smart enough to raise children. Her stepmother took Janice to the hospital and she was filled with confusion. Janice woke up in the hospital bed hurt and stuck. She eventually saw the incision from stomach going down, that is when Janice knew that she was sterilized. She is now at the age of 59 years old. Janice lives off The Plaza with her longtime friend and legal guardian. She says that the sterilization of her left a scar on her life. Janice does not know how the Mecklenburg County Welfare Department found her. The department looked for clients who did not have a lot of money and who’s IQ level was below 70. Janice’s IQ was 44 so she fell in the statistic of the government.

Eugenics is one of the most shameful events in American that happened. At first, it was seen as good and was popular, but it eventually turned into a disaster. Many people were unknown of the fact that they were about to get sterilized. The government tricked people or threatened them to sign the consent for the disaster to happen. Eugenics is associated with scientific racism, meaning that only one group of people were mainly the target. For the crime that the government committed, they are now trying to pay victims of sterilized patients for what they did to them. Many people just like Elaine and Janice dreamed of having plenty of children but can not because they were unknowingly sterilized. The victims feel embarrassed and want justice for them to get done wrongfully. Eugenics is still used today by choice and not being forced upon people. It leads to decreasing genetic diversity. Restricting the reproduction of others was thought of as of doing the right thing to the government, while the victim was wrongful. Eugenics specifically during the 20th century will never be forgotten, especially for the victims that have to experience that type of traumatizing moment during their life. Victims who experienced eugenic practices will never be the same.

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The Evolution And Development Of Eugenics. (2022, February 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 26, 2024, from
“The Evolution And Development Of Eugenics.” Edubirdie, 21 Feb. 2022,
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The Evolution And Development Of Eugenics [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 21 [cited 2024 Feb 26]. Available from:
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