Saturday, July 25, 2020
The eugenics movement was extraordinarily popular in the early 20th century, particularly in the elite circles in which Sanger traveled. Movement leaders included Harvard faculty and administrators. The American Museum of Natural History hosted an international eugenics meeting. The Supreme Court ruled 8 to 1 in 1927 the state of Virginia could sterilize anyone deemed “feebleminded” or otherwise unworthy; the majority opinion was written by revered jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes. (Chesler and Cohen both independently mentioned a heated discussion they got into about Sanger’s role in that case at a panel discussion a few years ago. “He and I almost had a fistfight,” Chesler said. “Adam is a very smart guy and a very nice guy, but he’s just wrong about this.”) And the idea was popular with the public, too. A 1937 poll in Fortune magazine found that two-thirds of the American public supported forced sterilization for the mentally disabled. The only significant institutional opposition to the eugenics movement, particularly the push for widespread sterilization, came from the Catholic Church.
Eugenics is making a comeback now that race is so important and you can modify people in so many ways. I don't like it.