ToC Search About SiteMap Glossary

The Eugenics Survey of Vermont 1925-1936: An Overview

For more than a century, Vermont has been one of the most reliable seedbeds of our national life. In the present generation an extraordinary number of her sons and daughters have risen to positions of distinguished service. How may the fertility of this seedbed be maintained and how may the quality of the human stock be conserved are questions which rightfully command the attention of the leaders of the Green Mountain State.

Henry C. Taylor, 1931
Rural Vermont: A Program for the Future

In 1925, Henry F. Perkins, professor of zoology at the University of Vermont, organized the Eugenics Survey of Vermont as an adjunct to his Heredity course. Its mission was threefold: eugenics research, public education on their findings, and support for social legislation that would reduce the apparent growing population of Vermont's "social problem group." Most notorious of these reforms was Vermont's 1931 eugenic sterilization law, "A Law for Human Betterment by Voluntary Sterilization."

Eugenics in Vermont did not begin with the Eugenics Survey, nor did it disappear after the Survey closed in 1936. This enterprise, however, with the support and endorsement of social reformers, government agencies and private philanthropies, acted as the official agency of the American eugenics movement in Vermont. Its archives, now stored in Vermont Public Records Division, Middlesex, Vermont, provide a detailed record of its studies and campaigns to shape public opinion and social policy in Vermont. The Eugenics Survey's investigations of Vermont families, institutional populations, and communities were inspired by the research models of the period; their publications dramatize their efforts to instill "a eugenic consciousness" among Vermonters. The Survey's projects reflect the shifting beliefs of biologists, sociologists, and psychologists about hereditary and social causes of human problems during the interwar years, while preserving an underlying commitment to manage Vermont's "underclass" through a comprehensive program of social planning, education, and reproductive control.

Continue to . . .

Return to: Beginning of this section
Return to: Vermont Survey Table of Contents