Throughout that, “The object of eugenics is the raising

Throughout our research and our discussions
in this seminar we have gathered an understanding of the pseudoscientific
socio-political movements that came to prominence through the creation and
application of eugenic ideals.  Eugenics
movements around the world began with intensity and fervor, only to later be denounced
by the elite and cast as politically incorrect. 
What seems so obvious in hindsight was not even considered until measured
and calculated methods of brutality were exerted by a political regime to
eliminate groups of people that the state deemed as dysgenic.  Even then, eugenics was discredited by
academics and philanthropy, but aspects of its agenda were included and
continued in social programs all over the world.

During its rise in influence, a scholar
and social scientist, such as Franz Boas, would have held an opinion of the
time and believed that, “The object of eugenics is the raising of a better race
and to do away with increasing suffering by eliminating those who are by
heredity destined to suffer and to cause suffering.  The humanitarian idea of the conquest of suffering,
and the ideal of raising human efficiency to heights never before reached, make
eugenics particularly attractive.”1  It is particularly important to recognize
that eugenics movements were created with altruism as a core principle in responsible
eugenic application.  The sense of
selflessness that eugenicists and proponents of eugenics associated with the
eugenics movements effectively legitimized widespread support for the eugenics movements
from the liberal and the elite to actors within the bureaucracy and civilians.

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This manner of positive eugenic
application suggested a way for the best think-tanks in humanity to reach towards
improving the likelihoods of better health and quality of life for the
reproductive future of the human race. 
However, an awareness of how this endeavor was carried out should cause
historians to question the darker implications that exist when we consider what
powerful actors in history can be compelled to do for the greater good of
society and their own benefit.  There can
never be a true authority when it comes to determining whether or not another
human being is unfit to reproduce and live an otherwise law-abiding life with
their progenies within a continually modernizing society.

The reality of the aftermath of eugenic
application in law and policy tells of a veiled-history riddled with measured
and calculated methods of segregation, of plots for sterilization, and of
immigration and marriage restriction measures that were designed and sanctioned
by self-contained interests to promote selective breeding within the greater
populations and disable targeted demographics. 
These parties were numerous and influential, and they intended to
research and facilitate the selective breeding of ideal physiological and
psychological traits under a broadly defined goal to improve the human
race.  Philanthropists acquired resources
to fund the development of the natural sciences in support of the eugenics
movements agenda.  Social sciences like anthropology,
criminology, economics, public administration, psychology, and sociology
examined the conditions that troubled modernizing societies and ultimately gave
credibility to processes of eugenic observation and application.

The application of eugenic principles
within various functions of societies could be seen and measured through biases
that targeted socioeconomic class, race, gender, and disability.  Populations that fell underneath the umbrella
of prejudice were systemically targeted in an effort to improve the human race.  The undesirable populations consisted of
groups such as the mentally ill, the mentally disabled, the feebleminded, and
foreign immigrants amongst others.  People
were restricted, segregated, and sterilized in an effort to humanely eliminate
them from society because of their debility and because they belonged to
marginalized groups living on the fringe of modernized societies.  The first marginalized group tended to be the
mentally ill and the mentally disabled because the superiority-complexes of
eugenics proponents led them to want to lower or eliminate the burdens within
their own race.  Some mental illness and
mental disability is obvious, like Down Syndrome.  Other forms of mental illness and mental
disability can be subtler or otherwise more difficult to assess, such as
schizophrenia or alcohol and drug addiction. 
Sometimes, otherwise difficult to manage people were labeled as mentally
deficient in order to segregate them and modify their behavior under conditions
of restriction.  Although it is now known
that lower intelligence did not necessarily indicate mental illness or mental
disability, Binet-Simon intelligence testing was conducted in order to
determine if the institutionalization of an individual was necessary in order
to protect the interests of society.

Therefore, the following dialogue was
designed to briefly examine findings that indicate that sterilization programs
were carried out on the mentally ill and the mentally disabled within
psychiatric institutions and facilities. 
It was more so projected to reveal findings that explore whether
psychiatry, as a whole, was open to the influence of eugenics movements and
practices in an effort to augment the academic integrity of their work and enhance
the public’s perception of the field during the era of eugenics’ relevance.  An attempt at the contextualization and interpretation
of the information suggests that the endorsement of eugenics movements by
mental healthcare practitioners was an attempt for psychiatrists and psychologists
to collectively gain more mainstream credibility for the field before contemporary
studies disproved theories of genetic determinism and inheritable conditions. 

An examination as to why psychiatry
endorsed the agenda of eugenics movements is worthy of analysis because the
field of social sciences developed exponentially as societies began to
modernize.  Since the age of Greek
medicine, the geneses of medicine and understanding the human condition were created
with good intentions.  Understanding and
treating difficult mental illness and mental disability is an important
undertaking.  It would not be inhumane
for experts to have a desire to lessen the burden of these conditions.  These conditions leave afflicted populations
and their families burdened with hardship. 
Populations afflicted with managing these conditions of severity often
need the involvement and the support of programs and institutions within
modernized societies to receive professionally-administered care and guidance
for a reasonable quality of life.

Thus, it can be seen that mental healthcare
has developed as a reaction to this need within society.  Eugenics influenced the public administration
of law and policy from the early 1900s to the 1960s.  Psychiatry evolved during the development of
the eugenics movements and was influenced by the body of work that was within
the field like many other social sciences. 
Mental healthcare professionals and figures within public administration
have historically segregated the mentally disabled from the rest of society
through institutionalization within asylums, living colonies, prisons, and training
schools.  Mental healthcare professionals
have historically also held prejudices towards the effects that immigration would
have on the population.2  Most alarming were the compulsory sterilization
laws adopted by some 30 states that led to more than 60,000 sterilizations of
disabled individuals.3  Ultimately, a thought to consider why this is
important is that, “sterilization was the ultimate weapon in the arsenal of the
eugenicists” because “sterilization laws marked the triumph of eugenic ideas
among a considerable sector of the American people.”4

Sterilization programs within
institutions began in the early 1900s.  Sterilization
laws were adopted exclusively at the state level and were primarily intended
for implementation within state-run institutions.5  These programs increased after Harry Laughlin
crafted the “Model Eugenical Sterilization Law” as a guide for state
legislators and designed the safeguards that were upheld in the United States
Supreme Court’s ruling of Buck v. Bell in
1927, in which Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., “accepted the argument
that compulsory sterilization was no more severe a public health measure than
compulsory vaccination.”6  Between 1909 and the early 1950s, the state
of California sterilized over twenty thousand patients in government
institutions for the mentally ill and mentally deficient.7  Notably, the first section of the revised California
compulsory sterilization statute in 1913 indicated that the patient must be “afflicted
with hereditary insanity or incurable chronic mania or dementia,” which
introduced “heredity into the determination for the first time…thus providing concrete evidence that
eugenics was a consideration.”8
Many sterilizations were also occurring in thirty other states including
Virginia and North Carolina.9  Eugenics started to lose its once credible scientific
stance after the Second World War.  It is
important to realize that, “Nazi medicine was the most scientifically advanced
medicine of any country in the world.  At
the same time the atrocities committed by German psychiatrists, in the name of
medical care, were unprecedented in the history of Medicine.  Although their acts were monstrous, German
psychiatrists were not monsters but more like psychiatrists in other Western
countries than not.”10  In fact, it should be noted that, “the Nazis
famously pointed to California’s success when embarking on their own mass
sterilization programs.”11

Any modernized citizen throughout the
world can recognize that any sterilization and euthanasia program is
unacceptable.  But the Nazis were not
unlike other eugenicists throughout the world, and like many sectors of public
administration that were influenced by eugenic application in law and policy, German
psychiatrists actively engaged in the forced sterilization and killing of
mentally ill and mentally disabled children and adult patients.12  Incredibly, eugenics proponents did not want
these atrocities to hinder their ability to maintain discretion towards responsible
eugenic application in law and policy.  A
thought to consider in contextualizing this in the aftermath of the Second
World War is that, “The experience with Nazism radically reduced the
attractiveness of eugenic policies. 
Nonetheless, there was no sudden abandonment of eugenics after World War
II.  Moderate non-racist versions
continued in some contexts.  It had been
clear by the 1930s that simple hereditary models, such as identifying one
recessive gene as the cause of a wide range of mental retardation, were
untenable.  But some moderate eugenicists…still argued that sterilization of the
mentally retarded could have significant eugenic effect.”13 

Psychiatrists therefore, “continued to
promote eugenic sterilization of the mentally retarded as late as the
1950s.  Within the medical profession,
psychiatrists in particular held on to a strong genetic determinism.  But around 1960 the rapid development of human
genetics, in particular cytogenetics, made this view scientifically obsolete.”14  The field of psychiatry held on to beliefs of
genetic determinism when much was not understood about these conditions and
used the clout of the eugenics movements to support the stances within their
own field when it was academically acceptable to do so.  When new discoveries were made in the 1960s,
psychiatry was able to adjust its position and apply these new insights to
continue modernizing the field.

Naturally, a historian should question
why sterilization was thought to be a viable method in ameliorating the
symptoms of mental abnormality. 
According to Alex Wellerstein in the chapter “States of Eugenics:
Institutions and Practices of Compulsory Sterilization in California,” in
Sheila Jasanoff’s book Reframing Rights:
Bioconstitutionalism in the Genetic Age, “‘Whenever in the opinion’ is the
crucial phrase that defines the character of sterilization…operations were ordered at the discretion of hospital
superintendents.  Though the laws would
change, this fundamental delegation of judgment would not.”15  Dr. Fred P. Clark directed the Stockton
institution in California from 1906 until 1929. 
Clark stated that, “Many of the results claimed by others, in the past,
for such operations were evidently due to suggestion.  However, since beginning these sterilization
operations, we are led to believe that by the improvement in mental and general
health that there is a definite beneficial effect from vasectomy and may lead
to important findings as an organo therapeutic agent.16

Yet, a brutal thought to consider is
that, “As a disciplinary practice of sorts, sterilization complemented other
harsh measures taken to control the behavior and the lives of the institution’s
residents.  As a so-called protective
measure, it ensured the childlessness of individuals thought to be incapable of
handling the burdens of parenthood, and it continued a long tradition of
treating those with mental retardation as helpless children themselves.  There was simply no conception within the
institutional framework that individuals with mental retardation had a right to
self-determination, especially in major life choices such as whether to have
children.”17  The brutality of sterilization crushes the altruistic
sensitivity that positive eugenic application hoped for, as, “The eugenics
movement, advocating the sterilization of insane, defective, and criminal
persons in order to improve the race, represented the Progressive attempt to
deal with that part of man which was not malleable.  Many psychiatrists supported the efforts of
the prohibitionists to remove from commerce what they regarded as social
poison”18  Because of views that were held like this, “These
mass sterilizations have generally been taken as the most tangible and
permanent of all of the American forays into eugenics, and its closest link to
the genocidal policies practiced by National Socialist Germany.”19

America’s involvement in eugenics
movements created platforms around the world.  The educated and socially-liberal
Progressives that supported the eugenics movements agenda did so in both theory
and practice.  Psychiatrists and
psychologists wanted to receive academic recognition and funding from influential
philanthropists that came with the momentum of the eugenics movements before
its eventual failure.  Academia and
philanthropy accelerated the credibility and application of eugenic ideals in
modernized societies.  The acceptance of
eugenics within these socio-political dimensions demonstrated the importance of
those forces in the eugenics movements agenda. 
Acceptance within these groups ensured the continuity of any research
associated with the field for decades because eugenics was considered a legitimate
and renowned scientific discipline that supported a growing socio-political movement.  Science has been instrumental in the
processes of modernization, making eugenics particularly worthy of
philanthropists’ attention. 
Philanthropists and foundations devoted resources not only to the
research behind the movement, but also to lobbying for government adoption of
eugenic policies.  At the federal level, lobbying
to restrict immigration of the “unfit”; at the state level, by means of institutionalization
and compulsory sterilization.20 

Ultimately, there are astounding truths
that come with the realization of the complicity of psychiatry in perpetuating
the eugenics movements agenda.  Yet, it
seems that psychiatry itself was not directly responsible for
accelerating the implementation of eugenic policies on mental illness and
mental disability.  Psychiatry was drawn
to any platform that could advance credible positions within the field, though
it also had some concerns that, “association with such an operation risked
further stigmatizing the field.”21  Acknowledging that sterilization programs were carried out
within institutions across the country creates questions on where ethical
considerations stand in the present with the implementation of treatment
programs exploring experimental drug therapies.  Ill-intentioned or not, these methods were
invasions of autonomy that were performed with the intention to modify behavior
and finally render these afflicted populations as incapable to reproduce their
defective conditions into subsequent generations.  The history of eugenics takes historians back
to a not so distant past.  The history of
eugenics remains largely unspoken of under the guise of a continually
modernizing cultural amnesia.  The
outlook on fundamental human rights has changed so much that embracing eugenics
would destroy the credibility of any professional now, but the “us” versus
“them” temperament felt within the period of the eugenics movements agenda
still permeates through the socio-political coded language we see in various
forms of media.  A covert multi-faceted agenda
funded by the elite that has been designed to focus on systemically isolating
and oppressing targeted segments of the population would not surprise me in the
slightest after our research in this seminar. 
The only thing that still surprises me is the way people can treat each
other.

1
Franz Boas. “Eugenics.” The
Scientific Monthly 3, no. 5 (1916): 477. http://www.jstor.org/stable/6055.

2
Alison Bashford and Philippa Levine, The
Oxford Handbook of the History of Eugenics (New York: Oxford University
Press, 2012), 120.

3
Alex Wellerstein. “States of Eugenics: Institutions and Practices of Compulsory
Sterilization in California,” in Sheila Jasanoff, ed., Reframing Rights: Bioconstitutionalism in the Genetic Age.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011) 30.

4
Rudolph J. Vecoli. “Sterilization: A Progressive Measure?” The
Wisconsin Magazine of History 43, no. 3 (1960): 196. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4633515.

5
Alex Wellerstein. “States of Eugenics: Institutions and Practices of Compulsory
Sterilization in California,” in Sheila Jasanoff, ed., Reframing Rights: Bioconstitutionalism in the Genetic Age.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011) 32.

6
Alex Wellerstein. “States of Eugenics: Institutions and Practices of Compulsory
Sterilization in California,” in Sheila Jasanoff, ed., Reframing Rights: Bioconstitutionalism in the Genetic Age.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011) 32.

7
Alex Wellerstein. “States of Eugenics: Institutions and Practices of Compulsory
Sterilization in California,” in Sheila Jasanoff, ed., Reframing Rights: Bioconstitutionalism in the Genetic Age.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011) 29.

8
Alex Wellerstein. “States of Eugenics: Institutions and Practices of Compulsory
Sterilization in California,” in Sheila Jasanoff, ed., Reframing Rights: Bioconstitutionalism in the Genetic Age.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011) 34.

9
Alex Wellerstein. “States of Eugenics: Institutions and Practices of Compulsory
Sterilization in California,” in Sheila Jasanoff, ed., Reframing Rights: Bioconstitutionalism in the Genetic Age.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011) 30.

10
Irwin N. Hassenfeld “Doctor–Patient Relations in Nazi Germany and the Fate
of Psychiatric Patients,” Psychiatric
Quarterly 73, no. 3 (2002) 184, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost
(accessed December 2, 2017).

11
Alex Wellerstein. “States of Eugenics: Institutions and Practices of Compulsory
Sterilization in California,” in Sheila Jasanoff, ed., Reframing Rights: Bioconstitutionalism in the Genetic Age.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011) 30.

12
Irwin N. Hassenfeld “Doctor–Patient Relations in Nazi Germany and the Fate
of Psychiatric Patients,” Psychiatric
Quarterly 73, no. 3 (2002) 183, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost
(accessed December 2, 2017).

13
Alison Bashford and Philippa Levine, The
Oxford Handbook of the History of Eugenics (New York: Oxford University
Press, 2012), 91.

14
Alison Bashford and Philippa Levine, The
Oxford Handbook of the History of Eugenics (New York: Oxford University
Press, 2012), 91.

15
Alex Wellerstein. “States of Eugenics: Institutions and Practices of Compulsory
Sterilization in California,” in Sheila Jasanoff, ed., Reframing Rights: Bioconstitutionalism in the Genetic Age.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011) 34.

16
Alex Wellerstein. “States of Eugenics: Institutions and Practices of Compulsory
Sterilization in California,” in Sheila Jasanoff, ed., Reframing Rights: Bioconstitutionalism in the Genetic Age.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011) 39.

17
Katherine Castles. “Quiet Eugenics: Sterilization in North Carolina’s
Institutions for the Mentally Retarded, 1945-1965.” The Journal of Southern History 68, no. 4 (2002): 853.
doi:10.2307/3069776.

18
John Chynoweth Burnham, “Psychiatry, Psychology and the Progressive
Movement,” American Quarterly
12, no. 4 (1960): 460, doi:10.2307/2710328

19
Alex Wellerstein. “States of Eugenics: Institutions and Practices of Compulsory
Sterilization in California,” in Sheila Jasanoff, ed., Reframing Rights: Bioconstitutionalism in the Genetic Age.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011) 29.

20
William A. Schambra, “Philanthropy’s Original Sin,” By William A.
Schambra, accessed December 2, 2017, https://www.hudson.org/research/9747-philanthropy-s-original-sin.

21
Alison Bashford and Philippa Levine, The
Oxford Handbook of the History of Eugenics (New York: Oxford University
Press, 2012), 128.

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