Number of victims
In total, there were 2,350 victims of sterilization in Minnesota.
Of the 2,350, 519 were male, and 1,831 (approx. 78%) were female. About
18% were deemed mentally ill and 82% mentally deficient. The
sterilizations in Minnesota accounted for 4 percent of all the
sterilizations in the nation (Lombardo, p. 118).
Period during which sterilizations occurred
The sterilizations took place predominantly between 1928 and the late
1950s. Sterilizations were relatively high in the 1930s and early
1940s (Paul, p. 393). During the war, there was a shortage of
staff, which may be the reason why there were fewer sterilizations from
1942 to 1946 (Paul, p. 396).
Temporal pattern of sterilizations and rate of sterilization
Eugenics was popular in Minnesota in the 1930s, but by the early 1940s,
social workers and officials in the state were opposed to it.
Minnesota became much more selective with its sterilizations in the
late 1940s and early 1950s (Ryan, p. 272). There were about 135
sterilizations per year between 1928 and 1944. The rate was about 5
sterilizations per 100,000 residents per year during the peak
Passage of law(s)
Minnesota’s sole sterilization law was passed on April 8, 1925, making
it the seventeenth state to pass such legislature (Reierson, p. 11).
The law was formally voluntary in nature, and would stay in the
Minnesota law books almost unchanged for fifty years.
Minnesota also passed a marriage law in 1901, which "forbade the
marriage of any woman under the age of 45 or any man of any age that
was likely to father children, if either partner was epileptic,
imbecilic, feeble minded, or afflicted with insanity" (Hudulla, p. 31).
Groups identified in the law
Prior to the passage of the sterilization law in 1925, the Children’s
Code passed in 1917 "included a civil commitment law that empowered
county probate judges to commit neglected, dependent, and delinquent
children—and any person 'alleged to be Feeble Minded, Inebriate, or
Insane,' regardless of age—to state guardianship without the approval
of parent or kin. The guardianship was for life, unless the person was
specifically discharged. Once committed as feebleminded, a ward took on
the status of a permanent child: he or she was unable to vote, own
property, manage his or her financial affairs, or marry without the
state’s approval" (Ladd-Taylor, "Eugenics and Social
Welfare in New Deal Minnesota", p. 119). Given the strength of social
Progessivism, the emphasis in applying this code was on individuals who
were considered feebleminded, who could presumably be helped by social
programs ameliorating their conditions and preventing them from having
offspring that they were considered incapable of raising well.
Those groups identified in the 1925 sterilization law were the
"feeble-minded" and insane persons having been institutionalized or
hospitalized for at
least six months (Reierson, p. 11). “The law provides that
feeble-minded and insane in state institutions may be tubectomized or
vasectomized upon the advice of the state board of control, the
superintendent of the state school for feeble mindedness, a reputable
physician or psychologist, provided or his or her legal representative
gives consent” (Landman, pp. 89-90). Eugenics enthusiast Charles F
Dight estimated there to be 80,000 to 100,000 "morons and mental
defectives" in Minnesota alone, and 5,000,000 in the entire United
States (Dight, p. 28).
Process of the law
passage of the 1925 sterilization law, institutionalized
"feeble-minded" and insane could be sterilized in the state of
Minnesota. It only applied to persons under state gudaridanship. For a
ward considered feebleminded, the state board of control could give
consent, but only if no spouse of nearest kin could be located, who
otherwise would have had to provide written consent. Sterilization also
required assent by the superintendent of the state school for the
feebleminded, and by a psychologist and physician (Ladd-Taylor,
"Eugenics and Social
Welfare in New Deal Minnesota", p. 120).
The consent itself was very
carefully documented. Minnesota officials recorded consent of both the
patient and kin as well as “basic demographic information like birth
date, IQ and country of residence in a medical record book of the first
1,000 sterilization operations preformed” (Ladd-Taylor, "Eugenics and
Welfare in New Deal Minnesota," p. 127). Often the consent of the
individual who was considered feebleminded was obtained, even though it
was not legally necessary.
Minnesota's law was formally voluntary. However, families were sometimes told that release from the state
institutions would proceed "more easily and satisfactory" if patients
consented to sterilization (Ladd-Taylor, "Eugenics and Social Welfare
in New Deal Minnesota", p. 128). Though it was not specifically stated
that individuals would be released if they consented to sterilization,
it was implied that they would have more success if they obliged to
As Ladd-Taylor ((Ladd-Taylor, "Eugenics and Social
Welfare in New Deal Minnesota", p. 119) has pointed out, "a mentally
ill person committed to the custody of the superintendent of the state
hospital for the insane could be sterilized only if he or she had been
a patient in the institution for six consecutive months. Both the
patient and the next of kin had to give their written consent. It is
not surprising, given the statutory requirements pertaining to
institutionalization and personal consent, that fewer than 20 percent
of sterilizations in Minnesota were performed on the insane."
Precipitating factors and processes
Minnesota was considered to have an outstanding program of legal
guardianship for people who had mental disabilities, and the state’s
School for the Feebleminded in Faribault was considered among the best
custodial institutions (Ladd-Taylor, “‘Sociological Advantages’ of
Sterilization,” pp. 282-83). This reflects the strength of
progressivism in the state, which also manifested itself in extensive
intrusions by courts and social workers into family life. The
reason that such intrusions were considered necessary and important for
the well-being of families was that with expansion of intelligence
tests, the number of the “feeble minded” increased, with a subsequent
increase in the number of people committed as feeble minded.
Judges committed feeble-minded people to the guardianship of the state
without consent of the parent or guardian (Ladd-Taylor, “‘Sociological
Advantages’ of Sterilization,” pp. 285-86). Judges and social workers
forced their attention on those who were considered beyond the benefit
of public assistance, particularly those who were already in trouble
with the law or welfare agencies as well as unmarried mothers
(Ladd-Taylor, “‘Sociological Advantages’ of Sterilization,” p. 287).
Yet their commitment in high numbers led to overcrowding and in the
Depression of the 1930, when the system of parole and family support
broke down (Ladd-Taylor, “‘Sociological Advantages’ of Sterilization,”
p. 293). “Frustrated by high case loads, disjointed relief
policies, and limited resources, a significant number of Minnesota
welfare workers concluded the ‘eugenic’ sterilization was a viable and
indeed humane solution to the seemingly endless cycle of family
poverty, dysfunction, and delinquency (Ladd-Taylor, “‘Sociological
Advantages’ of Sterilization,” p. 239).
One of the larger precipitating factors was the development of the 1917
Children's Code. The code, composed of thirty-five laws in it's
entirety, included a law which granted "country probate judges the
power to commit neglected, dependent or delinquent children, as well as
those deemed 'Feeble Minded, Inebriate, or Insane' to state
guardianship" (Reierson, p. 10). Along with granting the state the power
to commit a feeble minded child, the code created administrative bodies
to oversee the process of committing an individual to state custody. A
state children's bureau, child-welfare bureau were created to lengthen
the arm of the law (Ladd-Taylor, "Coping with a 'Public Menace,'" p. 239). Minnesota's mother's pensions
and juvenile court laws were revised in the process, and the state made
a commitment to providing illegitimate children with the same support
and education as children whose parents were lawfully married.
(Ladd-Taylor, "Coping with a "Public Menace,'" p. 239) The passage of this law was in many
ways the starting point of eugenics laws in that it committed children
deemed unfit to state custody, thus taking away an individuals right to
their own body. Compulsory commitment laws allowed the state to
legally obtain access to children (Reierson, p. 10).
In Minnesota, eugenic sterilizations were routine during the Inter war
period because they serve a variety of functions in the state’s welfare
system. For social workers, it made their jobs more manageable because
it reduced the numbers of the “feeble minded.” For some families,
various kinds of contraception were unavailable, so the sterilizations
were forms of birth control. For eugenicists, it was a launching point
that would lead to more stringent fertility laws for the unfit.
And for welfare officials, the sterilizations reduced public
expenditures by at least shifting them to another level of the
government (Ladd-Taylor, “‘Sociological Advantages’ of Sterilization,”
By the 1930s, Minnesota was considered to be the most
“feeble minded-conscious” state in the United States because of its
comprehensive program for people living with mental disabilities
(Ladd-Taylor, “‘Sociological Advantages’ of Sterilization,” p. 283).
The greatest number of sterilizations in Minnesota took place in the
1930s because relief rolls expanded due to the Depression.
In the 1930s and 1940s, sterilizations in Minnesota were rather high as
a result of people’s belief that the ward had the ability to raise a
family. (Before 1946, more feeble-minded people were sterilized in
Minnesota and Michigan than in the entire South combined.) Today
however, we do not feel the same way. In fact, from 1945 on, the
number of sterilizations results from the belief that surgery is not
always the best way to deal with the mentally retarded. People started
to care about what was best for the patients holistically, discussing
their sterilizations by respecting the patients’ will (Paul, p. 393).
There were fewer sterilizations during World War II not because of
knowledge about Nazi eugenics, but because there was a shortage of
medical and nursing persons.
Support for eugenics began to fade in the 1960s as general knowledge of
genetics grew. As the public became more accepting of individuals with
mental disabilities the field of mental health began to change, and
eugenics laws began to be challenged. (Ladd-Taylor, "Coping with a 'Public Menace,'" p. 246)
And, even though there was a scandal over the sterilizations
at the state institution, sterilizations continued but were reduced in
number until 1975, when the law was changed (Ladd-Taylor,
“‘Sociological Advantages’ of Sterilization,” p. 282). However,
sterilization is still permitted upon a court order (Ladd-Taylor, "Coping with a 'Public Menace,'" p. 246).
Groups targeted and victimized
“Defective” individuals included the feeble-minded and insane persons
that were hospitalized. Most of the sterilizations were of poor,
sexually active women who violated the traditional standards of
morality and allegedly had children who they could not support
(Ladd-Taylor, “Coping With a 'Public Menace,'” p. 243). As Molly
Ladd-Taylor put it, “most women sterilized in Minnesota during the
inter war years were either young sex ‘delinquents,’ often unmarried
mothers, who were committed as feeble-minded through the court system,
or slightly older women with a number of children on public assistance”
("‘Sociological Advantages’ of Sterilization,” p. 289).
One of the known victims was Lola. She came from a family in which her
father had committed suicide and her mother, a polio survivor, was
deemed incompetent by social workers. Lola was sent to a correctional
facility at age sixteen after authorities suspected her to have had sex
with older men repeatedly. She was sterilized in 1938 at the age of 21.
She was “a girl who needs a family… [and] got sterilized instead”
(Ladd-Taylor, “‘Sociological Advantages’ of Sterilization,” p. 290).
Another known victim was an eight-teen old girl by the name of
Edna Collins. She was the ninety-eight person to become legally
sterilized from Faribault (Ladd-Taylor, "Coping with a 'Public Menace,'" p. 237). She was labeled as
feeble minded. Six weeks after her operation
Edna was healthy enough to be discharged and moved from the school to
the Harmon Club, a home for feeble minded girls located in Minneapolis.
(Ladd-Taylor, "Coping with a 'Public Menace,'" p. 237). Later the following year Edna was readmitted to
Ida Henderson was thirty-two years old when she was sterilized. Her IQ
score of 51 placed her into the "moron" category, which by Minnesota
law made her suitable for sterilization (Reierson, p. 1). Soon after
her mother's consent was given, Ida Henderson was sterilized. Four
months after sterilization Ida was returned to the institution because
she could not adjust life outside of the Faribault school. (Reierson,
An interesting known sterilization case is that of Tena and Stewart.
Tena was pregnant with her fourth child Stewart had a drinking
problem, when administered an IQ test both were found to be
"feeble minded". What is interesting about their case is that both
husband and wife were "committed to state guardianship, sent to a state
institution, and sterilized" (Ladd-Taylor, "Eugenics and Social Welfare
in New Deal Minnesota," p. 117). In this case it was the couple's
economic situation which qualified them for sterilization.
(Photo origin: Minnesota Historical Society; available at http://www.mnhs.org/library/tips/history_topics/117eugenics.html)
Charles Fremont Dight was the founder of eugenics in
Minnesota. Dight was a physician in Minneapolis, who believed
that the state should control the reproductive patterns of the
unfit. He was born in Mercer, Pennsylvania in 1856. Dight
graduated from University of Michigan in 1879 with a degree in
medicine. He eventually moved on Faribault, where he served as
resident physician at Shattuck School until 1892. This might have
been Dight’s first experience with the mentally handicapped, and their
institutions, which also happened to be the same place as the Minnesota
School for the Feeble minded (Phelps, p. 100). After taking some time to
travel and teach in Syria at the Medical College in Beirut Dight returned to in 1913 Minnesota
to teach at Hamline University (Hudulla, p. 4). In 1913 Hamline medical school fused
with the University of Minnesota. Dight continued to teach pharmacology
at the University of Minnesota until 1933 (Sonderstrom, p. 99).
Dight was an outspoken socialist who had served on the Minneapolis city
council before he took on eugenics (Ladd-Taylor, "Coping With a 'Public
Menace,'” p. 241). Eugenics was not his only focus, Dight also had many
other ideas for improving the general lifestyle of society. For
instance he argued that Minneapolis should feed its garbage piles to
pigs instead of burning it (Carlson, p. 132). Much like his views,
Dight's personality was also quite eccentric, he built and lived in a
tree house in Minneapolis for many years (Carlson, p. 133).
It was no until the early 1920s that Dight began his
attempts to create a eugenics movement in Minnesota (Hudulla,
p. 4). The question Dight was asking of society was "why is there
crime and degeneracy?" (Carlson, p. 133) Dight believed the answer to
this lay in individual genes. He believed that individuals who were
"defective" were so because of innate characteristics that could not be
altered. He pushed for eugenics education, changes in
the marriage laws, and the segregation and sterilization of these
people. In Dight's eyes, the only way to prevent crime was to prevent
criminals and degenerates from reproducing (Carlson, p. 135). In fact,
Dight sought to create a Utopian society, free from "degenerates"
(Carlson, p. 142). Dight believed that "eugenics would not simply make
a better world, it would create a perfect world (Carlson, p. 142). He
argued for sterilization by saying that a house "cannot be made out of
rotting lumber" (Carlson, p. 132). Dight organized the Minnesota
Eugenics Society in 1923
and started to campaign for a sterilization law. He launched a
legislature crusade for the sterilization of the “defectives.” He
did not think that that segregation of the unfit was enough; they
needed to be sterilized so that they did not pass their undesirable
traits through procreation (Phelps, p. 101). Dight often used a
metaphor of "keeping an ambulance at the foot of a cliff to carry to
the hospital the people who fall over" (Dight, p. 28). Instead he
argued, a railing should be installed in order to prevent people from
falling off the cliff in the first place. The railing, in this case
represented a suitable sterilization law (Dight, p. 28).
Dight argued that mental inferiority could be easily identified by two
things: jazz and skull shape. Jazz, according to Dight was the 'devil's
kind", and was enjoyed more by the inferior because it appealed to
their "inborn animal nature" (Hudulla, p. 9). Craniometry the study of
the size and shape of skulls/brains was also a crude tool used by Dight
to assess mental capabilities. His argument is that "great men" have
larger fore heads representing their larger frontal lobe, where
as "lower animals" including the feeble minded and inferior would have
smaller foreheads (Hudulla, p. 9). Dight's beliefs on craniometry
ultimately stemmed from a professor of clinical surgery: Paul Broca. As
a "cure" for mental defectives Dight turned to the well known practice
of farming. He argued that much like a farmer would bred his two
healthiest animals together, humans should also only breed the best
with the best. Dight sought to extend breeding practices to humans
(Hudulla, p. 25). Not only should humans stop the unfit from
reproducing, but he breeding of "thoroughbred should be encouraged.
(Hudulla, p. 26). To properly execute human breeding Dight suggested to
"learn if feeble-minded-ness, insanity, epilepsy, or repeated
criminality have existed during the last three generations" of your
potential mate (Hudulla, p. 30). In this way Dight hoped to prevent the
marriage of the reproductively unfit (Hudulla, p. 30).
Dight’s biggest adversary was the Catholic Church,
who opposed his ideas on moral grounds (Phelps, p. 104).
Interestingly enough Dight often used religion as a reason and as
support for eugenics. He argued that Jesus condemned the "unfit", using
a familiar bible quote "and every tree that bringeth not forth good
fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire" as a pro sterilization
argument (Carlson, p. 139). The American Eugenics society even
published "A Eugenics Catechism" in
which they combated potential arguments from the religious community.
(Hudulla, p. 14). Despite the printing of "A Eugenics Catechism" and
Dight's frequent use of biblical metaphors in defense of eugenics, few
in the religious community were swayed. It is not surprising then that
Dight also expressed distaste of the church, as well as the state and
educational system. His argument was that you cannot change individuals
from the inside out and that the church, state and educational systems
were wasting time and resources trying to alter the inevitable
(Carlson, p. 135). In fact Dight specifically attacked the church on
many occasions calling it the "uplifter reformer" and mocking it for
its "coddling and forgiving treatment" (Carlson, p. 136). Dight instead
believed that "training after birth cannot undo a bad inheritance"
(Carlson, p. 136). Education and religion were only temporary fixed,
and in the long run did not achieve results (Carlson, p. 137).
among Dight’s goal was convincing the state legislature to enact
encompassing sterilization laws for the mentally handicapped. He
confronted the legislature each biennium in this regard from 1925 to
1935” (Phelps, p. 99). Dight tried to get the sterilization law
to extend to the feeble-minded and insane persons that we not
institutionalized, but he was unsuccessful. Though he was not at
fault for his effort, often promoting his ideas to senators up to a
point of annoyance (Carlson, p. 141). Overall, he pushed
for stricter sterilization laws in Minnesota, but they did not pass.
Dight praised other eugenics movements across the world, often citing
Germany as the "shining example" of an effective eugenics program.
(Hudulla, p. 16). He would often attribute Germany's success as support
for the American eugenics movements. According to Dight, Germany's
orderly society was a direct result of their efficient eugenics
programs (Hudulla, p. 18). In
1933, Dight wrote a letter to Adolf Hitler wishing Nazi efforts in
eugenic sterilization “to be a great success” and noted in a letter to
the Minneapolis Journal that “if carried out effectively, [compulsory
sterilization of the disabled] will make [Hitler] the leader of the
greatest rational movement for human betterment the world has ever
seen” (http://www.chgs.umn.edu/Histories/letterHitler.pdf). Dight hoped
to inspire future eugenics movements after his death. Though he died in
1938, he devoted much of his life savings to fund the creation of the
Dight Institute for Eugenics on the University of Minnesota Campus
(Carlson, p. 132). The name has since been changed to the Dight
institute for the Promotion of Human genetics (Carlson, p. 132).
Fred Kuhlmann was a psychologist and an important
proponent of eugenics. He served as the Director of Research at the
Faribault school from 1910 to 1921 (Reierson, p. 18). After leaving
Faribault Dr. Kuhlmann took up the post of the head of the Research
Bureau of the State Board of Control (Reierson, p. 18). During his time
at Faribault Dr. Kuhlmann was responsible for the administration and
the interpretation of psychological testing. He revised the Binet-Simon
Test in 1920, dubbing it the Kuhlman-Binet test, and administered it in
order to identify “high grade” mental defectives (Reierson, p. 17). Dr.
Kuhlmann was responsible for the increase in the number of Minnesotans
who were labeled feeble minded (Ladd-Taylor, “Coping With a 'Public
Menace,'” p. 240). His paper entitled "The Larger Aspects of the
Special Class", Kuhlmann asserts that "subnormal children" were half of
all social trouble (Reierson, p. 19).
Mildred Thomson was in charge of the control board’s
bureau for feeble minded and epileptic from 1924 to 1959. Her position
the head of the control board bureau made her, by law, the guardian of
the wards of state hospitals (Ladd-Taylor, "Eugenics and Social Welfare
in New Deal Minnesota," p. 124). Though Thomson
considered herself primarily a social worker, she studied at Stanford
University where she wrote her thesis on the IQ testing of school
children (Ladd-Taylor, "Eugenics and Social Welfare in New Deal
Minnesota," p. 124). She worked closely with both Dight and
Execution of the Law
Sterilizations began at the School for the Feeble minded on January 8,
1926. George G. Eithel preformed the first 150 surgeries, after
his death in 1928 his nephew George D. Eithel would take over.
(Reierson, p. 22). The Faribault School for the Feeble-minded was the
only location in Minnesota where sterilization of the mentally
handicapped were preformed (Hudulla, p. 31). Once individuals had been
lawfully committed to an
institution they would often work at their respective institutions as
low-wage workers. (Reierson, p. 13). High-grade inmates were expected to
work in order to "pay" for room and board. Sterilizations were often
preformed on site, it was common for Dr. Eithel to travel to Faribault
to preform free sterilizations (Reierson, p. 17). Once individuals had
been sterilized they were either released, or sent to "clubhouses".
Approximately a fifth of the inmates released from institutions were
sent to clubhouses. (Reierson, p. 13). The clubhouse was set in place as an
intermediate step between institutionalization and the "real world".
Clubhouses allowed individuals to have a greater sense of independent
living, while still under constant supervision. In this way, the
procedure of segregation was again assimilated into eugenics programs.
Clubhouses opperated under the reward system, granting inmates more
freedom depending on their levels of mental deficiency (Reierson,
p. 13). During the Great Depression the clubhouse system would collapse
due to a lack of funding.
“Feeder institutions” and institutions where sterilization were performed
origin: Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental
Disabilities; available at
The Faribault State Hospital in Minnesota served the
entire state until the late 1950s. The school was first opened in 1879
under the name of the School for Idiots and Imbeciles, two years after
the school began collaborating with the Minnesota Institute for the
Deaf Dumb and the Blind. (Reierson, p. 15) The combination of the
two institutions was then named the Minnesota Institute for Defectives.
In 1901 the name was again changed to the School for the Feeble-Minded
and Colony of Epileptics (Reierson, p. 15). Patients in the institution
were of all ages and had varying degrees of mental retardation. The
school was created with three main objectives in mind: to function as a
trade-school type education, as shelter for those who could not take
care of themselves and to care for children whose parents were unable
to (Reierson, p. 16). In the 1940s however another principle was added,
the school would also act as a home for those who are a menace to
society (Reierson, p. 16).
Dr. Arthur C. Rogers led the School for
Feeble minded, as superintendent, from 1886 to 1917. In 1910 Dr. Fred
Kuhlmann, a research psychologist from Clark University, was invited to
assist Dr. Rogers as the Director of Research (Reierson, p. 16). As
director, Kuhlmann was asked by Dr. Rogers to try and establish more
tangible evidence of mental deficiently caused by heredity (Reierson
p. 16). With the assistance Charles Davenport and ERO fieldworkers
Rogers and Kuhlmann were able to create a pedigree of all the school’s
inmates and compile the results into a book he named Dwellers in the
Vale of Sidden (Ladd-Taylor, “Coping With a ‘Public Menace,’” p. 239).
Dr. Rogers died in 1917 and was succeeded by G.C. Hanna. Sterilizations
began with the passage of the law in 1925. A surgeon by the name of
George G. Eithel would frequently make a fifty-mile journey to
Faribault to perform sterilizations on inmates free of charge
(Reierson, p. 17). Dr. James Murdoch would take over the position of
superintendent when Hanna died. During Murdoch’s time as superintendent
the school went through its greatest grown period, between 1920 and
1932 the population increased by 500 residents to a grand total of
2,217 (Reierson, p. 17). Often the doctors of the school would
offer summer courses with the goal to educated like-minded people and
expand the number of institutions. It was one of the nation’s foremost
institutions for the feeble minded. The school was re-named to the
Faribault Regional Center, and then again to the Faribault State School
and Hospital before it closed. The institution closed on July 1, 1998
and was replaced by a correctional facility (Ladd-Taylor, “Coping With
a 'Public Menace,'” p. 246).
The Harmon Club was established in 1942, as a place for women to go
during "parole" (Ladd-Taylor, "Coping with a 'Public Menace,'" p. 244) Once women were discharged they
would be moved to the Harmon Club in Minneapolis. The club was
considered to be an intermediate between the Faribault School and the
community where women could live more independently and inexpensively
(Ladd-Taylor, "Coping with a 'Public Menace,'" p. 244). Unfortunately the Harmon Club as well as the two
other club houses in St. Paul and Duluth felt the effects of the Great
Depression and closed in the 1930s (Ladd-Taylor, "Coping with a 'Public Menace,'" p. 244)
American Catholics were the main opponents of Eugenics (Leon), and
social workers and some state officials opposed it as well (Ryan, p.
272). Though not all of the press coverage given to the eugenics
movement was negative, the media was generally critical, labeling
eugenics as a "war of the wealthy against the poor" (Reierson,
p. 9) Overall, however, there was very little public discussion
about the feeble-minded, which resulted in indifference towards them.
However there were a few who challenged the sterilization practices. Of
the total one thousand recorded sterilizations, seven men and seventeen
women attempted to flee the institution (Reierson, p. 23).
Unfortunately, the inmates rarely succeeded in avoiding sterilization.
The reason being that any resistance on the part of the inmate, or
general public was
attributed to their low IQ, and not to the practice of sterilization.
Due to the lack of organized opposition, one individual's criticism
against an "organized and mobile eugenics machine" (Reierson, p. 10) was
One case stood out beyond all others, Rose Masters was a
"Catholic farm wife and mother of ten" (Ladd-Taylor, "Eugenics and
Social Welfare in New Deal Minnesota", p. 132). Though their children
were normal, agents from the country welfare board repeatedly showed up
at the farm. Mrs. Masters was sent to the state institution in 1942,
three months following her neighbors petitioned her release. The case
went up all the way to the Minnesota Supreme court and she was
eventually released. (Ladd-Taylor, "Eugenics and Social Welfare in New
Deal Minnesota", p. 132). In another important case in 1944 the
Supreme Court ruled that the burden of proof was not on the individual
but the state welfare board. (Reierson, p. 14).
Carlson, Jessie A. 2009. "Eugenic Sterilization: The Final Solution for America". Undergraduate Research Journal at UCCS 2, 1. Available at <http://ojs.uccs.edu/index.php/urj/article/view/56/64> .
Dight, Charles F. 1935. "History of the early stages of the organized
eugenics movement for human betterment in Minnesota." Minneapolis: Minnesota Eugenics
Hudalla, Justin W. 2001. "The Human Garden Needs Weeding: Charles F.
Dight and Eugenics in Minnesota, 1920-1938." Undergraduate Thesis, Dept. of History, University of Minnesota at Minneapolis.
Ladd-Taylor, Molly. 2011. "Eugenics and Social Welfare in New Deal
Minnesota." Pp.117-140 in A Century of Eugenics in America, ed. P. Lombardo.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
--------. 2005. "Coping With a 'Public Menace': Eugenic Sterilization in Minnesota." Minnesota History 59, 6: 237-248.
-------. 2004. “The ‘Sociological Advantages’ of
Sterilization: Fiscal Politics and Feeble minded Women in Inter war
Minnesota.” Pp. 281-99 in Mental Retardation in America: A Historical
Anthology, eds. S. Noll and J. Trent. New York: New York University
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