1922 Eugenics – New York State

Thirty New York State Institutions were subject to the 1912 statute. One man and forty-one women were sterilized. It is interesting to read the opinions of the superintendents of the custodial institutions from which sterilization was tested or performed: Auburn State Prison; Rome Custodial Asylum for the Feeble-Minded (test case of Frank Osborn challenged the New York statute); Buffalo and Gowanda State Hospitals. To read the opinions in their entirety, click on the RED link below.

Eugenics Record Office, Annual Meeting of the Eugenics Research Association, 1918 (Laughlin in front, Stewart House in background) http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/index2.html?tag=1664

Eugenics Record Office, Annual Meeting of the Eugenics Research Association, 1918 (Laughlin in front, Stewart House in background) http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/index2.html?tag=1664

NAMES: 1. Alexander Weinstein, 2. Dr. Howard J. Banker, 3. Robert W. Kegner, 4. Sarah Oates, 5. Dr. Oscar Riddle, 6. Ella Newman, 7. Mrs. H.H. Laughlin, 8. George MacArthur, 9. Ruth Gardiner, 10. Laura Garrett (Mrs. Clafflin), 11. Leslie E. Peckhem, 12. Edna Rosselot, 13. Dr. Arthur M. Banta, 14. No Name, 15. Emilee Viccari, 16. Mathilda Koch, 17. Louise A. Nelson, 18. Nua A. Minns, 19. Dr. B. Onuf, 20. Annie Henchman, 21. Dr. Wilhelmina E. Key, 22. Mrs. Howard J. Banker, 23. Mrs. Helen Martin Pitcher, 24. Julia F. Goodrich, 25. Dr. Arthur H. Harris, 26. Ethel Thayer, 27. Mrs. W.B. Browning, 28. Caroline E. Conway, 29. Alfie M. Newbuk, 30. Marion Collins, 31. Dr. Harry H. Laughlin, 32. Mrs. Estella Hughes, 33. Dr. Rene Sand, 34. Mrs. W.L.F. Brown, 35. Frederick Hoffman, 36. Mary Kitchell, 37. Mrs. Charles B. Davenport. 

New York “The statute dates from 1912. Present status (January 1, 1922): Repealed 1920, after having been declared unconstitutional by the lower courts in 1918. Thirty (30) state institutions were subject to the act before its repeal; they performed eugenical sterilizing operations as follows:

1. State Prison, Auburn – 1 Vasectomy
2. Clinton State Prison, Dannemora
3. Sing Sing Prison, Ossining
4. Great Meadow Prison, Comstock
5. Farm for Boys, Valatie
6. Reformatory, Elmira
7. Eastern New York Reformatory, Napanoch
8. Agricultural and Industrial School, Industry
9. Training School for Girls, Hudson
10. Western House of Refuge for Women, Albion
11. Reformatory for Women, Bedford Hills
12. Institution for Feeble-Minded Children, Syracuse
13. Newark State School, Newark
14. Custodial Asylum, Rome – Frank Osborn Test Case for New York Statute
15. Craig Colony for Epileptics, Sonyea
16. Letchworth Village, Thiells
17. Matteawan State Hospital, Beacon
18. State Hospital, Utica
19. State Hospital, Willard
20. Hudson River State Hospital, Poughkeepsie
21. State Hospital, Middletown
22. State Hospital, Buffalo – 12 Salpingectomies
23. State Hospital, Binghamton
24. St. Lawrence State Hospital, Ogdensburg
25. State Hospital, Rochester
26. Gowanda State Hospital, Collins – 29: 24 Salpingectomies; 5 Ovariotomies
27. State Hospital, Kings Park
28. State Hospital, Central Islip
29. Long Island State Hospital, Brooklyn
30. Manhattan State Hospital, Ward’s Island, N.Y.
Total to January 1, 1921: (42) 1 Vasectomy; 36 Salpingectomies; 5 Ovariotomies

(Institutions 3, 4, 5, 8, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25 and 29 did not supply historical comment.) 3. Sing Sing Prison, Ossining; 4. Great Meadow Prison, Comstock; 5. Farm for Boys, Valatie; 8. Agricultural and Industrial School, Industry; 17. Matteawan State Hospital, Beacon; 18. State Hospital, Utica; 19. State Hospital, Willard; 24. St. Lawrence State Hospital, Ogdensburg; 25. State Hospital, Rochester; 29. Long Island State Hospital, Brooklyn.

Auburn State Prison, Auburn, (a) Dr. Frank L. Heacox, Physician.
“The State Commission made a special study of a few cases, but no recommendations were made as to the cases investigated. One operation of double vasectomy was performed on one patient at his own and his family’s request. The patient was a youth twenty years of age, who was suffering from tubercular testicles.” Dr. Heacox stated that, in his opinion, the medical value of the statute was very little, but that eugenically it was invaluable. March, 1918. (b) “Our one case of eugenical sterilization was a voluntary one.” January, 1921.

Custodial Asylum, Rome. Dr. Charles Bernstein, Superintendent, from whose institution the test case for the New York statute arose, reported that there had been no operations under the law in his institution; that he could not in the ordinary course of professional practice perform any operation under this law that would be forbidden or illegal without it; that, in his opinion, “there was no medical value in the statute; and that, instead of being of eugenical value, the statute was a eugenical hindrance.” January, 1918.

Buffalo State Hospital (a) Dr. Arthur W. Hurd, Superintendent, in answer to inquiries, reported that he was doubtful whether the law, as it stood before tested in the courts, was applicable to inmates of the hospitals for the insane. He stated also that in reference to the medical value to the institution: “That it may be of a great deal of value in selected cases, as child-bearing, for instance, brings on recurrent attacks of insanity. Eugenically the statute is of much value in preventing the propagation of defectives. * * * Since 1912 six sterilizations have been done in this institution on women to produce sterility on account of the mental condition, which made it unwise that the patients should have any more children, and in two instances where the mental condition was in unmarried insane women and was accompanied by immoral tendencies. In each one of the cases we obtained the written consent of the relatives, which was filed in the case before such an operation was undertaken. We have always felt that indiscriminate sterilization among the insane was not indicated, but believe very strongly in it, and think it is of very great value in decreasing the number of people who would be born with a bad heredity, and also in saving the strength of women, for instance: If continued child-bearing would weaken the system, and in that way increase the tendency to mental breakdown.” February, 1918. (b) F. W. Parsons, Superintendent. “There have not been any untoward mental or physical effects resulting from our cases of salpingectomy, as the menstruation has continued uninterrupted. Before operating we obtain and file the written consent of husband, parent or guardian. Several defectives of bad moral tendencies were sterilized before they were allowed to go on parole, also a number of insane women with good intelligence and who had repeated attacks of insanity during pregnancy or the puerperium. The sterilization act is not in force in New York State. The hospital assumes the responsibility.” January, 1921.

Gowanda State Hospital, Collins. Dr. C. A. Potter, Superintendent. (a) In answer to inquiry concerning the medical and eugenical values of the statute, Dr. Potter replied: “If properly amended, the law would be of very great value in preventing recurrence of attacks of insanity, one of our cases has proven this conclusively. If enforced, after amendment, its eugenical value would be greater than any law of recent years which applies to institutions.” February, 1918. (b) “We note that several of our patients who have been sterilized have had no mental breakdown since the operation and have been able to fill their places in the household since they have not been exposed to pregnancy. Those cases which became insane on account of child-bearing or have a bad heredity but who could remain outside if not exposed to frequent child-bearing, are selected for sterilization and written consent is obtained from the husband or legal guardian, or nearest relative, the whole process and reasons therefor having been thoroughly explained. The public should be shown that insane, epileptics, feeble-minded and criminals have no right to procreate, from an economic standpoint as well as from the point of eugenics. The insane, feeble-minded, epileptics and criminals of child-bearing age should be sterilized.” January, 1921.”

1922 Eugenics Enforcement, Information and Opinions.

Eugenics Archive.

SOURCE: Reprinted from Eugenical Sterilization in the United States, Harry Hamilton Laughlin, D.Sc., Assistant Director of the Eugenics Record Office, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, New York, and Eugenics Associate of the Psychopathic Laboratory of the Municipal Court of Chicago. Published by Psychopathic Laboratory of the Municipal Court of Chicago, December, 1922, Pages 81, 82, 84-87.


1907 Eugenics

The mid-nineteenth century was the dawn of scientific thought and research concerning evolution and the human condition. Three men made an influential mark in history with their provocative theories which are still debated today. These men were: Charles Darwin, “natural selection;” Herbert Spencer, “survival of the fittest;” and Sir Francis Galton, “nature versus nurture.” Galton invented the term “eugenics.” Eugenics is the science of selective breeding in order to manipulate the gene pool and improve the human race. In other words, only certain members of society should be allowed to procreate. One of the goals of the Eugenics Movement was to rid the United States of the dregs of society: the defective, dependent, and delinquent classes by means of forced sterilization.

15 states enacted Eugenics legislation in America: Indiana, Washington, California, Connecticut, Nevada, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Michigan, Kansas, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Oregon, and South Dakota. Eugenics began on March 9, 1907, with Indiana being the first state to enact a law, and ended on December 13, 1921, with Oregon proving the law unconstitutional. But that wasn’t the end. Wisconsin’s law was still active on January 1, 1922. From 1913 to January 1, 1921, the state of Wisconsin performed 76 forced sterilizations on inmates at the Home for Feeble-Minded at Chippewa Falls: 15 males (Vasectomy); and 61 females (Salpingectomy).

New York State passed a Eugenics Law on April 16, 1912, Chapter 445; Declared Unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Albany County, March 5, 1918, and by Appellate Division July 1, 1918; and Repealed by the State Legislature, May 10, 1920. Forty-two operations were performed in the State of New York “while the statute was in force, but none of them was performed under this statute; all were performed by special arrangement with the patients and their families under the laws and customs governing ordinary surgical operations.” An agreement was made between the inmate who was targeted for sterilization and the inmate’s family, for permission to perform the needed operation that would make the life of their loved one more comfortable, leaving them to lead a productive, “normal” life. One vasectomy (1) was performed at the Auburn State Prison; twelve salpingectomies (2) at the Buffalo State Hospital; and twenty-four salpingectomies (2) and five ovariotomies (3) by the Gowanda State Hospital at Collins. Buffalo State Hospital opened in December 1880 and Gowanda State Homeopathic Hospital (Collins Farm) opened on August 9, 1898. Both were for the care of the mentally ill and were located in Erie County, New York.

These are the people mentioned in the book as being considered for sterilization and/or involved in litigation. According to my research, none of them were sterilized, with the possible exception of Peter Feilen.

Peter Feilen, convicted rapist, inmate; ordered vasectomy, Washington State Penitentiary Walla Walla.

William Henry Harrison, inmate; ordered vasectomy, Washington State Penitentiary Walla Walla.

John Hill, inmate (stole hams for his family); ordered vasectomy, Yakima County, Washington.

Chris McCauley, alias Harry Taylor, inmate; ordered vasectomy, State Reformatory, Monroe, Washington. Formerly at Washington State Penitentiary Walla Walla.

New Jersey:
Alice Smith, epileptic: ordered salpingectomy; State Village for Epileptics at Skillman.

Rudolph Davis, twice convicted of felony; ordered vasectomy; Penitentiary at Fort Madison.

New York:
Frank Osborn, feeble-minded; ordered vasectomy; Rome State Custodial Asylum.

Pearley C. Mickle or Mickie, convict; ordered vasectomy, Elko County.

Nora Reynolds, inmate; ordered sterilization, Michigan Home and Training School at Lapeer.

Jacob Cline, convict; ordered sterilization, Oregon State Penitentiary.

ALL of this information was taken from the book Eugenical Sterilization in the Untied States by Harry Hamilton Laughlin.

Fountain Of The Ages by Charles Haag

Fountain Of The Ages by Charles Haag

Keep The Life Stream Pure

Dr. Harry H. Laughlin
, Eugenics Associate of the Psychopathic Laboratory of the Municipal Court of Chicago, and Eugenics Director of Carnegie Institution of Washington, Cold Springs Harbor, N. Y., has rendered the nation a signal service in the preparation of this work, “Eugenical Sterilization in the United States.”

Since the rediscovery of Mendel’s Law of Heredity and the recent advances made by the biologists and psychopathologists in respect to the causes of mental and physical defects in the human race, with the consequent revelation of the great role played by heredity as a producing cause, the science of eugenics has become of vital importance.

“Eugenics,” says Professor Irving Fisher, “stands against the forces which work for racial deterioration, and for improvement and vigor, intelligence and moral fiber of the human race. It represents the highest form of patriotism and humanitarianism, while at the same time it offers immediate advantages to ourselves and to our children. By eugenic measures, for instance, our burden of taxes can be reduced by decreasing the number of degenerates, delinquents and defectives supported in public institutions; such measures will also increase safeguards against crimes committed against our persons or our property.”

America, in particular, needs to protect herself against indiscriminate immigration, criminal degenerates, and race suicide.

The success of democracy depends upon the quality of its individual elements. If in these elements the racial values are high, government will be equal to all the economic, educational, religious and scientific demands of the times. If, on the contrary, there is a constant and progressive racial degeneracy, it is only a question of time when popular self-government will be impossible, and will be succeeded by chaos, and finally a dictatorship.

Dr. Laughlin is well qualified for the work he has undertaken. For twelve years he has been in immediate charge of the Eugenics Record Office (founded in 1910 by Mrs. E. H. Harriman and since 1918 a part of the Carnegie Institution of Washington), located at Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, New York. There he is engaged in organizing and conducting eugenical investigations. He is, also, Expert Eugenics Agent of the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization of the House of Representatives of Washington, D. C., and recently organized the exhibits of the Second International Congress of Eugenics in New York City.

As a product of scientific research the book will have permanent value. The importance and usefulness of the work is not to be gauged by the extent of its circulation. Enough copies will be published to reach the leaders of the medical, legal and clerical professions, the press and members of legislative bodies.

The Municipal Court of Chicago, which has for years made an intensive study of crime prevention, punishment and suppression, feels privileged to be able to make another notable contribution in this field.

The courts have special functions to perform in the suppression of crime. The first of these is to enforce the laws impartially and justly. Incidental to this duty much original information comes to the judges of our courts, and it has been the policy of the Municipal Court to make public such incidental information, as the relationship between degeneracy and crime and their relationship to heredity, through the reports of its Psychopathic Laboratory. In the performance of this duty the Municipal Court of Chicago has pointed out the need of the permanent segregation of incorrigible defectives, which serves three purposes: First, the protection of society from the individual offender; second, the protection of the individual from himself, and, third, the restriction of propagation of the defective type due to heredity. The alternative to segregation is to continue to do what we have been doing, that is, incarcerate the offender for a time, more or less brief, and then permit him freedom to repeat his offense, and to propagate his kind.

Segregation is necessary, even though sterilization were invoked. Sterilization protects future generations, while segregation safeguards the present as well. The segregation of incorrigible defectives on farm colonies as a measure of crime prevention is urgently needed in the State of Illinois. However, in a number of states, fifteen up to the present time, experiments have been made with sterilization. The two theories of segregation and sterilization are not antagonistic, but both may be invoked.

With the intention of covering every phase of crime prevention, the Municipal Court of Chicago publishes this work as an important contribution to that cause.

We desire to make acknowledgment to the sculptor, Charles Haag, for the use of his “Fountain of the Ages,” to illustrate the significance of heredity and the continuity of the blood stream. Harry Olson, Chief Justice.

This volume is intended primarily for practical use. It is designed to be of particular service to four classes of persons: First, to law-makers who have to decide upon matters of policy to be worked out in legislation regulating eugenical sterilization; second, to judges of the courts, upon whom, in most of the states having sterilization statutes, devolves the duty of deciding upon the constitutionality of new statutes, and of determining cacogenic individuals and of ordering their sexual sterilization; third, to administrative officers who represent the state in locating, and in eugenically analyzing persons alleged to be cacogenic, and who are responsible for carrying out the orders of the courts; and fourth, to individual citizens who, in the exercise of their civic rights and duties, desire to take the initiative in reporting for official determination and action, specific cases of obvious family degeneracy.

The work is designed also as an historical record of the several types of activities which characterized the early days of modern eugenical sterilization, and of the later working out, through legislation, litigation, experimental administration and scientific research, of a conservative state policy in reference to eugenical sterilization as an aid in protecting the country’s family stocks from deterioration.

The facts here reported have been secured, and the analyses and principles here given have been worked out during the past ten years. The present study was begun by the author in 1911, as secretary of a committee appointed by the Eugenics Section of the American Breeders’ Association “to Study and to Report on the Best Practical Means for Cutting Off the Defective Germ-Plasm in the American Population.” Of this committee, Mr. Bleecker Van Wagenen was chairman. He reported a summary of the first year’s work to the First International Congress of Eugenics in London in 1912. In February, 1914, under the authorship of the secretary, it issued bulletins 10-a and 10-b of the Eugenics Record Office, entitled respectively, “The Scope of the Committee’s Work,” and “The Legal, Legislative and Administrative Aspects of Sterilization.”

The statistics reported in this work are brought down to January 1, 1921, and the legal records to January 1, 1922. Great care has been taken to insure completeness and accuracy of record and fact throughout the study, and an attempt has been made to cover the whole field of policy, legality and practice.

Thanks are due for hearty co-operation in securing the facts needed for this work, to the superintendents of the custodial institutions in which eugenical sterilizing operations have been performed, to state officials who willingly supplied copies of official records, to judges of the courts of law before whom seven sterilization statutes have been tested, to the attorneys-at-law who have generously given legal advice and opinions, to many physicians who have been consulted in reference to the medical aspect of the problem, to the scientific field investigators of the Eugenics Record Office, to surgeons who have furnished case-records of persons sexually sterilized, and to authors and publishers of the several text-books on anatomy and surgery who have kindly permitted quotations in reference to the technique of given sterilizing operations.

Besides these many persons who have so generously aided the investigations, special obligations are due to Dr. Charles B. Davenport, Director of the Eugenics Record Office, for many constructive suggestions and for constant encouragement throughout the investigations, and to Hon. Harry Olson, Chief Justice of the Municipal Court of Chicago, for kindly writing the foreword, for rendering an opinion on the legal aspects of sterilization, which appears as Section 1 of Chapter IX, and for publishing the whole of these studies under the auspices of the Psychopathic Laboratory of his court.

Harry Hamilton Laughlin. Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, N. Y., January 1, 1922.”

(SOURCE: Laughlin, Harry Hamilton, Eugenical Sterilization in the Untied States, Psychopathic Laboratory of the Municipal Court of Chicago, 1922, Pages v-viii).

1. Salpingectomy
– surgical excision of a fallopian tube.

2. Ovariotomies – surgical incision of an ovary. (Not sure if this procedure is the same as Oophorectomy – the surgical removal of an ovary, called also ovariectomy.)

3. Vasectomy – surgical division or resection of all or part of the vas deferens usually to induce sterility.
(SOURCE: Definitions by Dictionary and Thesaurus – Merriam-Webster Online: http://www.merriam-webster.com/).

4. Eugenics – is the applied science of the bio-social movement which advocates the use of practices aimed at improving the genetic composition of a population, usually a human population. It is a social philosophy which advocates for the improvement of human hereditary traits through the promotion of higher reproduction of more desired people and traits, and the reduction of reproduction of less desired people and traits.

5. Dysgenics (also known as Cacogenics) – is the study of factors producing the accumulation and perpetuation of defective or disadvantageous genes and traits in offspring of a particular population or species. Dysgenic mutations have been studied in animals such as the mouse and the fruit fly. The term dysgenics was first used as an antonym of eugenics – the social philosophy of improving human hereditary qualities by social programs and government intervention.
(SOURCE: Definitions by Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page)

1912-1920 Eugenics in New York State.

1920 Margaret Sanger & Eugenics.

1922 Eugenics – New York State.