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The Eugenics Survey of Vermont: An Overview

The 1930s: Eugenics Education and the "Immigrant Question"

After the publication of Rural Vermont, the Eugenics Survey launched an education campaign through study groups, libraries and schools to promote its objectives for "human betterment" in Vermont communities using Rural Vermont as a guidebook. Professor Perkins, serving as President of the American Eugenics Society, promoted the Vermont Commission on Country Life program as a model eugenics program for America.

In 1932 the Eugenics Survey embarked on a new project, an ethnic study of Burlington. Directed by Elin Anderson, Instructor of Eugenics and Assistant Director of the Eugenics Survey, the four-year study offered an alternative view of eugenics to the one Professor Perkins had advocated for the past decade. Through the voices of her interviewees, sociological analysis, and her own observations, Anderson revealed instead the race consciousness and the social forces that secured the Yankee Protestant stronghold on the institutions of the city. Her study, We Americans: A Study of Cleavage in An American City (1937) endures as an important statement on the value of cultural diversity in America and an indictment of those social forces that sought to supress it.

The Eugenics Survey closed in 1936 at the completion of Shirley Farr's ten year agreement to fund the enterprise. Eugenics education continued at the University of Vermont and other colleges and high schools in the state. Vermont's eugenic solutions -- in the form of identification, registration, intervention in families with problem or backward children, and sterilization of those deemed unfit to conceive future Vermonters -- continued under the supervision of the Department of Public Welfare and associated agencies.

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