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 Present status (January 1, 1922): Repealed 1920, after having been declared unconstitutional by the lower courts in 1918.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.