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Sterilization Act of 1924

The passage of the Virginia Sterilization Act of 1924 demonstrates how science has been used to drive policy throughout history. In the case of the Virginia sterilization law, the science used to draft the law was based on the principles of eugenics. With the help of Harry Laughlin's Model Sterilization Law, the state of Virginia was able to pass its own law allowing sterilization of the feebleminded, expressing sterilization as a health issue that needed to be protected from the public.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Eugenical Sterilization in the United States (1922), by Harry H. Laughlin

Eugenical Sterilization in the United States is a 1922 book in which author Harry H. Laughlin argues for the necessity of compulsory sterilization in the United States based on the principles of eugenics. The eugenics movement of the early twentieth century in the US focused on altering the genetic makeup of the US population by regulating immigration and sterilization, and by discouraging interracial procreation, then called miscegenation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Legal, Ethics, Publications

“The Stein-Leventhal Syndrome: A Curable Form of Sterility” (1958), by Irving Freiler Stein Sr.

In 1958, Irving Freiler Stein Sr. published “The Stein-Leventhal Syndrome: A Curable Form of Sterility” documenting his findings on the diagnosis and surgical treatment of Stein-Leventhal syndrome. Stein-Leventhal syndrome, later called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), affects the reproductive health of women. Common symptoms include excess body hair, a lack of menstrual cycle or amenorrhea, and infertility. As of 2017, polycystic ovarian syndrome is considered the most common reproductive health disorder among women in the United States.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Oregon State Board of Eugenics

In 1917 the Oregon State Legislature, in Salem, Oregon, passed a bill titled, 'To Prevent Procreation of Certain Classes in Oregon.' Passage of the bill created the Oregon State Board of Eugenics, an organization that presided over the forced sterilization of more than 2,600 Oregon residents from 1917 to 1981. In 1983, Legislation abolished the State Board of Eugenics, by that time called the Oregon State Board of Social Protection.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction

Human Betterment Foundation (1928-1942)

In 1928 Ezra Seymour Gosney founded the non-profit Human Betterment Foundation (HBF) in Pasadena, California to support the research and publication of the personal and social effects of eugenic sterilizations carried out in California. Led by director Gosney and secretary Paul Popenoe, the HBF collected data on thousands of individuals in California who had been involuntarily sterilized under a California state law enacted in 1909. The Foundation's assets were liquidated following Gosney's death in 1942.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction

Tomorrow's Children (1934)

Tomorrow's Children is a film that tells the story of Alice Mason, a young woman whom the US government forcibly sterilizes because she comes from a family with a history of alcoholism, mental illnesses, and physical disabilities, traits that they considered biologically determined and inferior. The film, released in 1934, was directed by Crane Wilbur, produced by Bryan Foy, written by Wilbur and Wallace Thurman, and released by Foy Productions Ltd.

Format: Articles

Harry Hamilton Laughlin (1880-1943)

Harry Hamilton Laughlin helped lead the eugenics
movement in the United States during the early twentieth century.
The US eugenics movement of the early twentieth century sought to
reform the genetic composition of the United States population through
sterilization and other restrictive reproductive measures. Laughlin
worked as superintendent and assistant director of the Eugenics
Research Office (ERO) at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Cold
Spring Harbor, New York, alongside director Charles Davenport.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Eugen Steinach (1861–1944)

Eugen Steinach researched sex hormones and their effects on mammals in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Europe. He experimented on rats by removing their testicles and implanting them elsewhere in their bodies, and he found that the testes interstitial cells produce male sex hormones. He developed the Steinach Rejuvenation Procedure, which he claimed could rejuvenate men by increasing their production of sex hormones. Steinach’s work on female sex hormones and on ovarian extracts led to the development of the first standardized injectable estrogen.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Skinner v. Oklahoma (1942)

In 1942, the United States Supreme Court Case of Skinner v. Oklahoma ruled that states could not legally sterilize those inmates of prisons deemed habitual criminals. Skinner v. Oklahoma was about the case of Jack Skinner, an inmate of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma, who was subject to sterilization under the Oklahoma Habitual Criminal Sterilization Act of 1935. The case, decided on 1 June 1942, determined that state laws were unconstitutional if those laws enabled states to forcibly sterilize inmates deemed to be habitual criminals.

Format: Articles

Subject: Ethics, Legal

Buck v. Bell (1927)

In 1927, the US Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell set the legal precedent that states may sterilize inmates of public institutions because the court argued that imbecility, epilepsy, and feeblemindedness are hereditary, and that the inmates should be prevented from passing these defects to the next generation. On 2 May 1927, in an eight to one decision, the US Supreme Court ordered that Carrie Buck, feebleminded daughter of a feebleminded mother and herself the mother of a feebleminded child, be sterilized under the 1924 Virginia Eugenical Sterilization Act. Buck v.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

David Starr Jordan (1851-1931)

David Starr Jordan studied fish and promoted eugenics in the US during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In his work, he embraced Charles Darwin s theory of evolution and described the importance of embryology in tracing phylogenic relationships. In 1891, he became the president of Stanford University in Stanford, California. Jordan condemned war and promoted conservationist causes for the California wilderness, and he advocated for the eugenic sterilization of thousands of Americans.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Irving Freiler Stein Sr. (1887–1976)

Irving Freiler Stein Sr. was a physician who studied women’s reproductive health during the twentieth century in the United States. In partnership with his colleague, Michael Leventhal, Stein identified a women’s reproductive disorder related to elevated male sex hormones, or androgens. The syndrome was originally called Stein-Leventhal syndrome and later known as polycystic ovarian syndrome. While studying the syndrome, Stein also helped establish a treatment for the condition, through the surgical removal of ovarian tissues.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Humanae Vitae (1968), by Pope Paul VI

The "Humanae Vitae," meaning "Of Human Life" and subtitled "On the Regulation of Birth," was an encyclical promulgated in Rome, Italy, on 25 July 1968 by Pope Paul VI. This encyclical defended and reiterated the Roman Catholic Church's stance on family planning and reproductive issues such as abortion, sterilization, and contraception. The document continues to have a controversial reputation today, as its statements regarding birth control strike many Catholics as unreasonable.

Format: Articles

Subject: Religion, Reproduction

Evangelium Vitae (1995), by Pope John Paul II

The encyclical entitled "Evangelium Vitae," meaning "The Gospel of Life," was promulgated on 25 March 1995 by Pope John Paul II in Rome, Italy. The document was written to reiterate the view of the Roman Catholic Church on the value of life and to warn against violating the sanctity of life. The document focuses on right to life issues including abortion, birth control, and euthanasia, but also touches on other concepts relevant to embryology, such as contraception, in vitro fertilization, sterilization, embryonic stem cell research, and fetal experimentation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Religion, Reproduction

Pope Paul VI (1897-1978)

Pope Paul VI, born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini, has been crucial to the clarification of Roman Catholic views on embryos and abortion in recent history. His 1968 encyclical "Humanae Vitae" spoke to the regulation of birth through various methods of contraception and sterilization. This encyclical, a result of Church hesitancy to initiate widespread discussion of the issue in a council of the Synod of Bishops, led to much controversy in the Church but established a firm Catholic position on the issues of birth control and family planning.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

Norman Haire (1892-1952)

Norman Haire was a physician who advocated for eugenics, which is the betterment of human population by promoting positive traits, and birth control rights in the twentieth century in both Australia and the UK. In the UK, Haire joined the Malthusian League, a contraception advocacy organization, and helped the League open the first physician-supervised birth control clinic, called Walworth Women’s Welfare Centre in London, England.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

China's One-Child Policy

In September 1979, China's Fifth National People's Congress passed a policy that encouraged one-child families. Following this decision from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), campaigns were initiated to implement the One-Child Policy nationwide. This initiative constituted the most massive governmental attempt to control human fertility and reproduction in human history. These campaigns prioritized reproductive technologies for contraception, abortion, and sterilization in gynecological and obstetric medicine, while downplaying technologies related to fertility treatment.

Format: Articles

Subject: Ethics, Legal, Reproduction

Charles Benedict Davenport (1866-1944)

Charles Benedict Davenport was an early twentieth-century experimental zoologist. Davenport founded both the Station for Experimental Evolution and the Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor in New York. Though he was a talented statistician and skilled scientist, Davenport's scientific achievements are eclipsed by his lasting legacy as the scientific leader of the eugenics movement in the US.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

“Family Limitations” (1914), by Margaret Higgins Sanger

In 1914, Margaret Sanger published “Family Limitations,” a pamphlet describing six different types of contraceptive methods. At the time Sanger published the pamphlet, the federal Comstock Act of 1873 had made distributing contraceptive and abortion information through the US postal service illegal. The Comstock Act classified contraceptive information as obscene and limited the amount of information available to individuals about preventing pregnancies.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

"Altruism and the Origin of the Worker Caste" from The Ants (1990), by Bert Hölldobler and Edward Osborne Wilson

In 'Altruism and the Origin of the Worker Caste,' Bert Hölldobler and Edward Osborne Wilson explore the evolutionary origins of worker ants. 'Altruism and the Origin of the Worker Caste' is the fourth chapter of Hölldobler and Wilson's book, The Ants, which was published by The Belknap Press of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1990. In 'Altruism and the Origin of the Worker Caste,' Hölldobler and Wilson evaluate various explanations for how a non-reproductive caste of ant evolved.

Format: Articles

Frank Rattray Lillie's Study of Freemartins (1914-1920)

Frank Rattray Lillie's research on freemartins from 1914 to 1920 in the US led to the theory that hormones partly caused for sex differentiation in mammals. Although sometimes applied to sheep, goats, and pigs, the term freemartin most often refers to a sterile cow that has external female genitalia and internal male gonads and was born with a normal male twin.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

American Eugenics Society (1926-1972)

The American Eugenics Society (AES) was established in the US by
Madison Grant, Harry H. Laughlin, Henry Crampton, Irving Fisher, and
Henry F. Osborn in 1926 to promote eugenics education programs for
the US public. The AES described eugenics as the study of improving
the genetic composition of humans through controlled reproduction of
different races and classes of people. The AES aided smaller eugenic
efforts such as the Galton Society in New York, New York, and the

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

Casti Connubii (1930), by Pope Pius XI

"Casti Connubii," a papal encyclical given by Pope Pius XI on 31 December 1930, served primarily as a reaffirmation and expansion of the issues discussed in Arcanum, an encyclical written by Pope Leo XIII. It was released to address new threats to marriage and conjugal unity, and indeed is translated "On Christian Marriage" or "On Chastity in Marriage." The document explores the meaning of Christian marriage and emphasizes its threefold purpose as borrowed from St.

Format: Articles

Subject: Religion

The Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (1910-1939)

From its founding in 1910 until it closed its doors in 1939, the Eugenics Record Office (ERO) at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York was the center of the American Eugenics Movement. Charles Davenport, a geneticist and biologist, founded the ERO, and served as its director until 1934. Under the direction of Davenport and his associate, superintendant Harry H. Laughlin, the influence of the ERO on science and public policy waxed during the early twentieth century until after World War II.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction

"Conservatism in Obstetrics" (1916), by Edwin B. Cragin

In 1916 Edwin B. Cragin in the United States published Conservatism in Obstetrics in which he discussed medical practices and techniques to preserve the vitality of pregnant women and their fetuses. Cragin argued that women who give birth via cesarean section, the surgical act of making an incision through both the abdomen and uterus to remove the fetus from a pregnant woman's womb, must rely on that method for future births. That claim was later coined the Dictum of Cragin.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

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