ABBREVIATIONS, ARCHAIC TERMS & MEANINGS, LOCAL EXPRESSIONS FOR PEOPLE AND PLACES, THE EUGENICS LEXICON
B.B.R. = Brattleboro Retreat. Vermont’s first institution for the care of persons with mental illnesses. Founded in 1834 in Brattleboro, Vermont through a private endowment for the care of “the insane poor,” the “Vermont Asylum for the Insane” was subsidized by the state and renamed Brattleboro Retreat in 1898.
borderline. See feebleminded.
Brandon. Central Vermont town, location of Vermont State School for the Feebleminded (renamed Brandon Training School in 1929)
C. A. = chronological age in years. See I.Q.
C.A.S. = Children’s Aid Society (usually refers to the Vermont Children’s Aid Society)
defect/ defective = social, physical, or mental condition considered to be a handicap. Assumed by eugenicists to be hereditary in origin, the term was used to describe physical or mental disabilities resulting from disease, injury, or environmental factors. One of the “3 D’s” of eugenics.
degeneracy/degenerate families = Eugenicists’ term for a perceived decline in the health, intelligence, and moral character of particular families, which they attributed to a concentration of “genetic defects” in particular families over successive generations.
delinquency = failure or refusal to adhere to the social, moral, or legal codes and obligations of society. One of the “3 D’s” of eugenics.
dependency/dependent = requiring charity or public assistance due to poverty. One of the “3 D’s” of eugenics.
D.P.W. = Department of Public Welfare
dysgenic = relating to conditions or agencies believed to impair the hereditary quality of a population or race.
eugenic = relating to conditions or agencies believed to improve the hereditary quality of population or race. Negative eugenics refers to social, economic, or legal measures to prevent the birth of children from allegedly inferior or “defective” parents. Positive eugenics refers to strategies to increase fertility and encourage procreation among those believed to possess superior genetic endowment.
feebleminded, feeblemindedness = clinical term of the nineteenth and early twentieth century for mental retardation or developmental delay. Definitions and categories of severity were refined with the development of I.Q. tests. In the early 20th century, clinical distinctions in the level of mental impairment were introduced, where “moron,” “imbecile” and “idiot” referred to slight, moderate, and severe disability. In the 1920s, “borderline” “dull” and “feebleminded” were defined by ranges of I.Q. scores below the norm, where an I.Q. below 70 was considered “feebleminded.” The term “mental deficiency” eventually replaced “feeblemindedness” in the 1930s, followed by “mental retardation” in the 1950s.
germplasm = the genetic components of the reproductive cells
of individuals, or the collective hereditary potential of a human population
(reconceived as the “gene pool” in the 1930s and the human genome after
Gypsy = pejorative term describing nomadic families and kinship groups in New England, usually Native Americans. In Vermont, Abenaki families who sustained their tribal customs and a traditional nomadic way of life in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Huntington’s Chorea/ Huntington’s disease = degenerative neurological condition associated with a dominant gene. The terms “Chorea” or “choreic tics” appear in medical documents to describe involuntary spasms resembling early symptoms of this disease, but do not necessarily assume a positive diagnosis.
idiocy/ idiot = see feeblemindedness.
imbecile = see feeblemindedness.
I.Q. = intelligence quotient, according to the formula: mental age (M.A.) ÷ chronological age (C.A.) X 100%
M. A. = mental age, as measured by performance on standardized tests according to norms dictated by the experts who developed the tests.
mental deficiency = synonym for feeblemindedness or mental retardation
mental defect (mental defective) = condition (or individual displaying it) of apparently irreversible intellectual, behavioral, or psychological handicap, either of hereditary or environmental origin.
mental hygiene = early twentieth century term for mental health, which stressed early diagnosis and prevention of mental illness.
moron = see feeblemindedness.
native American/ native Vermonter. American-born or Vermont-born. In documents on this site, these terms refer to persons of Anglo-American or Euro-American racial ancestry, while “American Indian” or “Indian” referred to indigenous people whom we know today as Native American.
neuropathic taint = observed tendency of mental instability in a family lineage.
O.O.P. = Overseer of the Poor
Pauper = person dependent on charity or public assistance for life support.
Pirates = local Vermont expression for the community of boat-dwelling families who made their living by transporting goods up and down Lake Champlain, wintering over on the shores and harbors of Vermont and New York state.
psychometric tests = usually refers to intelligence tests, but also may include personality and psychological tests.
race = May refer to a coherent population or ethnic group, national identity of similar ethnic, linguistic, and cultural heritage (the French Race/ the English Race), the classic racial distinctions based on skin color and continent of origin (American Indian, Asian, African, Caucasian), or the “human race.” Biologists in the early 20th century often used the term “race” interchangeably with “population” but ultimately rejected the concept of race for “population” as a legitimate biological entity. The protean meanings of race are central to all eugenics endeavors throughout the world. The particular significance attached to racial distinctions varied with time, culture, and the context in which they were applied.
race hygiene = practices and programs designed to improve the “hereditary” health of a nation or race. Often used interchangeably with “eugenics” until the 1930s, when the Nazi regime’s race hygiene laws gave the term a new and precise meaning.
race poisons = eugenics era term for substances or environmental factors associated with birth defects: alcohol, drugs, contagious diseases (particularly syphilis), and toxic substances such as lead. Scientific opinion varied as to whether the germplasm was permanently damaged or whether the effects were produced during prenatal development.
sex delinquency/sex delinquent = behavior/ individual in violation of the codes of sexual conduct and sexual restraint. The term most often describes girls or women engaging in sexual relations outside the legal confines of marriage.
sex habits = social work term of the 1920s, usually in reference to overt displays of sexuality in children or adolescents (bad sex habits). Showing the expected lady-like or gentlemanly moral conduct (good sex habits).
V.C.A.S. = Vermont Children’s Aid Society
Vergennes = eastern Vermont town, site of the Vermont Industrial School.
V.I. S. = Vermont Industrial School, Vergennes, Vermont. Rehabilitation center for juvenile delinquents, also used as a shelter for dependent children. Renamed Weeks School in 1937.
Visiting teacher = specialist assigned to supervise emotionally disturbed youth, who would educate teachers in the educational and behavioral problems of their clients and facilitate their adjustment to the social and academic demands of the classroom.
V.S.H. = Vermont State Hospital for the Insane, Waterbury, Vermont.
V.S.P. = Vermont State Prison, Windsor, Vermont.
V.S.S. = Vermont State School for the Feebleminded, Brandon, Vermont. Name changed to Brandon Training School in 1929.
Waterbury = central Vermont town, site of Vermont State Hospital. Often used in reference to the State Hospital.
Weeks School = juvenile detention center, Vergennes, Vermont.
The Vermont Industrial School (VIS) prior to 1937.