30 individuals were sterilized, of whom 20 were women (Paul, p. 254). 80% of victims were considered mentally ill, and the remaining 20% mentally deficient.
Although the compulsory sterilization law was enacted in 1929, no sterilizations occurred until 1932. The last sterilization took place in 1956 (Paul, p. 252).
The first twenty eugenic sterilizations occurred in 1932. A single sterilization occurred in 1949; another single sterilization took place in 1955. Eight sterilizations occurred in 1956. No sterilizations have been recorded following this year (Paul, p. 254). The rate of sterilizations per 100,000 residents was approximately 4 in the year of 1932.
Arizona passed a compulsory sterilization law on March 9, 1929. No amendments were made to the law (Landman, p. 92; Paul, p. 252). Although the law was quite detailed in its content, a lack of enforcement from the Superintendents of the Arizona State Hospital resulted in little sterilization (Paul, p. 252).
The law authorized the compulsory sterilization of individuals “afflicted with hereditary forms of insanity that are recurrent, idiocy, imbecility, feeble-mindedness, or epilepsy… and by the laws of heredity is the probable potential parent of socially inadequate offspring likewise afflicted” (Paul, p. 252).
It was the choice of the Superintendent of the Arizona State Hospital to initiate the legal process by which an individual could be compulsorily sterilized. Once the Superintendent had recommended vasectomy or salpingectomy, the individual would be referred to the state board of medical examiners to verify the individual’s disability. The individual was given thirty days in which he/she could appeal against the sterilization in the superior and supreme courts of the country (Landman, p. 92).
The State Asylum for the Insane, later renamed the Arizona State Hospital, was rebuilt in 1911 after a fire and included two new buildings. With the addition of the new “Community Center,” the population of inmates rose rapidly to 568 by 1922, 998 in 1942, and 1,200 in 1945. Simultaneously, a staff shortage occurred due to World War II (Arizona State Hospital). The overpopulation of the institution and the need to “safely” release inmates may have contributed to the passage of the law, which specifies that the Superintendent of the Arizona State Hospital must recommend individuals. This indicates that only individuals in the institution were targeted for sterilization.
(Photo origin: Rootsweb.com, available at http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~asylums/phoenix_az/)All victims of the Arizona sterilization law were recommended by the Arizona State Hospital Superintendent, and were therefore inmates of the Arizona State Hospital. Originally the “Insane Asylum of Arizona” when it was founded in January 1887, was renamed "Territorial Asylum for the Insane" in 1902 (Arizona State Hospital). After a fire the name was changed in 1911 the hospital was rebuilt and renamed the "State Asylum for the Insane" in 1913 (Arizona State Hospital). Finally in 1958 the building went through its final name change and was dubbed the Arizona State Hospital (Arizona State Hospital).
Arizona State Hospital. 2006.
“History of Arizona State Hospital.” Available at
Arizona Senate Research Staff. 2007. "Arnold v. Sarn." Arizona State Research Brief, September 25. Available at <http://www.azleg.gov/briefs/Senate/ARNOLD%20V.%20SARN.pdf>
Landman, J. H. 1932. Human Sterilization: The History of the Sexual Sterilization Movement. New York: MacMillan.
Paul, Julius. 1965. "'Three Generations of Imbeciles Are Enough': State Eugenic Sterilization Laws in American Thought and Practice." Unpublished ms Washington, D.C.: Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
Steckner, Susie. 2008. "Seeking Asylum." Phoenix
Magazine. October, p. 62. Available at