If you’ve ever read or heard about a stupid parent and thought to yourself, “the government ought to keep people like that from having children,” then you might find it interesting to know that they did. In fact a number of state and Federal policies were enacted to prevent imbeciles from breeding (And in that same harsh sentiment of these exact terms I might add). Sadly, these efforts where anything but good as they were bore from bigotry and unfounded fears that took aim at the sick, the mentally ill, the poor, non-Anglo races, and immigrants.
The bulk of these efforts occurred during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, an period in United States History referred to as the Progressive Era, so named for the flurry of progressive social and political reforms such as child labor laws and women’s suffrage. Such reforms and the ideology behind them affected all aspects of life to include the American (read “white”) family which was seen as the bedrock institution of our society. As the fundamental building block on which the success of our country rested on, the family became ground zero for a range of experts to study in an effort to protect its longevity.
Among a growing number of Progressive Era leaders, especially economists, a concern started to grow that unchecked birth control by large under-performing (read, poor, sick, non-white, immigrant) families was sapping the resources deserved by productive families that actually contributed to society. The recommended solution: Eugenics, a “bio-social” effort supporting practices meant to improve the genetic makeup of the general population, or in other words, a socially acceptable way of throwing a little chlorine into the gene pool.
Here’s how it started and the horrific eventuality.
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Ron Mattocks is a father of five (3 sons, 2 stepdaughters) and author of the book, Sugar Milk: What One Dad Drinks When He Can’t Afford Vodka. He blogs at Clark Kent’s Lunchbox, and lives in Houston with his wife, Ashley, who eternally mocks his fervor for Coldplay.
Photo Credit: Wiki Commons