Number of Victims
The eugenics project in Arkansas did not result in compulsory eugenic sterilizations of mentally ill, mentally deficient, or otherwise.

Precipitating Factors and Processes
In the early 1930s, at the height of the eugenics movement in America, Arkansas had been hit hard not only by the Great Depression but also by a terrible drought, making it one of the poorest states in the country (Leung 1994, pp. 57-58).
Though declared a disaster area, Arkansas did not receive food as a form of direct aid from Herbert Hoover’s administration. Thus, the prospect of controlling the number of children of poor affected by the depression could have, appealed to physicians and lay persons alike (Leung 1994, p. 58). In this context, many believed that local birth control clinics, such as the Little Rock clinic, could help prevent “undesirable” people of society from procreating.

Thus though the movement in Arkansas may have shared some of the same "negative" eugenic rhetoric with the larger national eugenic movement, the practice was quite different, as supporters in Arkansas focused on limiting reproduction of the poor through contraception instead of forced sterilization.

Proposed Sterilization Law
In 1941, a legislation for eugenic sterilization was considered in the Arkansas Senate. The bill pushed for the creation of an Arkansas State Board of Eugenics that, much like those found in other states, would be comprised of a group of individuals, including the superintendent of the Arkansas state mental institution, a practiced physician of sterilization cases, and the dean of the Arkansas medical school (Welch 2009, p. 30). Those people in power at mental institutions and prisons could recommend individuals to be brought to the attention of this State Eugenics Board (Welch 2009, p. 31). The bill failed, but it seems that it may have been for reasons quite different than one might expect. The Arkansas sterilization bill, and an attached pubic funded contraceptive bill, failed due to an overarching public consensus that the bill represented a form of "socialized medicine" (Welch 2009, p. 34). 

Groups to Receive Contraception
Because there were no sterilizations performed in Arkansas, there were never any targets of sterilization. Instead, there was a powerful contraceptive movement that primarily aimed at getting contraceptives to poor, white women who could not support families for what were eugenics reasons, many believed that the number of offspring of the poor should be limited, and humanitarian reasons, many believed that it was ethical to provide poor women with contraceptive who could not otherwise afford physician treatment (Leung 1996, p. 52). The language that was used sometimes included that of "negative eugenics," or stopping those undesirable individuals from procreating, but focused largely on making clear those desirable properties of those individuals who should procreate (Leung 1994, p 57). This list included "emotional stability, strong characters, considerateness for other people, the tendency to uphold or improve moral standards, intelligence, adaptability, and originality" (Leung 1994, p 57).

Major Proponents of Contraceptive Rights
The largest proponent of eugenics and birth control in Arkansas was Hilda Cornish.  Born in 1878 in St. Louis, Missouri to German immigrants Sophie and Rudolph Kahlert, her early life spent observing working-class struggles made those different life experiences of the many facets of society all the more evident. While raising her six children, Cornish volunteered on the board of managers of a correctional facility in Arkansas, the State Farm for Women, and as the manager of the Arkansas Federation of Women Clubs.  She also led volunteers aiding victims of The Flood of 1927. Cornish devoted all of her available time to reform and social work, after the suicide of her husband in 1928. Though she may have originally been influenced by the regime of the American Eugenics Society and the ideals of eugenics, that seemed to change with an interaction with Margaret Sanger. Having met and collaborated with Margaret Sanger, the founder and leader of the American Birth Control movement, in 1930 (Welch 2009, p 5), Cornish launched the Arkansas Birth Control movement and her mindset seemed to change from that of endorsing eugenics to that of endorsing contraceptive rights. Cornish also joined the Arkansas Eugenics Association, which did not involve itself in any involuntary sterilizations but focused on "positive" eugenic practices instead.

The association opened the Little Rock Birth Control Clinic in 1931 to further the ability of lower class white women to have access to contraceptives during a time of great depression when many women did not feel they had the means to raise a child, or even the physical health to bring one into the world. Cornish, with the help of a small group of very devoted women including her daugher Hilda Cornish Coates, was able to help these poor women, most of whom had already given birth multiple times (Leung 1998, p. 20). She advocated that though most of these women did not have the funds to attend a clinic, they should not be denied access to contraceptives (Leung 1998, p. 22).

Cornish also worked with the National Committee of Federal Legislation for Birth Control.  Eventually, the Arkansas Eugenics Association limited its work to referrals and education and changed its name to the Planned Parenthood Association of Arkansas in 1942.  Hilda Cornish died November 19, 1965 (Leung, “Cornish”).

Clinics in which Contraception was Made Available
Although there were no sterilization institutions in Arkansas, important to the eugenics movement was the Little Rock Birth Control Clinic, providing poor white married women with safe contraceptives (Leung, “Cornish”).

The clinic's resources were not made available to African-American women until 1937, after African-American contraceptive rights became a more public issue.
All members of the Arkansas Eugenics Association received a subscription to the Birth Control Review, a magazine released monthly by the American Birth Control League, from Cornish's connection with Margaret Sanger's organization. The June, 1932, issue of the magazine was considered a special issue, including the views of contributors W.E.B. Dubois (Leung 1996, p 57). This publication further demonstrates the changing face of eugenics in Arkansas, with Afircan-American writers, including Elmer A. Carter, calling for "eugenic" practices for African-Americans. " 'Birth control,' Carter stated, 'as practiced today among Negroes is distinctly dysgenic.' He urged for increased access to birth control information for Afircan Americans of hte lower socio-economic level" (Leung 1996, p 58). Thus, it seems that the face of the eugenics movement was different in Arkansas, not a eugenics movement in the same sense as other states, but rather a contraceptive rights movement.

It is difficult to understand the motivation of those inviduals working at the clinic in Little Rock, or furthering contraceptive rights with Cornish in Arkansas. As Welch writes, "These women were not feminists in the sense of calling for greater individual freedom, meaningful work, or freer sexual expression for women. Instead, Arkansas birth control advocates identified with eugenics, arguing for birth control for potential charity cases, and for eugenic sterilization. Their rhetoric did not include discussion of beliefs in biologically inferior and superior races or promotion of lower birth rates for racial minorities" (Welch 2009, p. 8). There are statements that seem to suggest that those people leading the clinic, including Hilda Cornish, were influenced by the ideals of the American Eugenics society, which in the early 1930s stressed the economic burden that an increased lower class would have and advocated for the availability of birth control to those individuals (Leung 1994, p. 57). In fact, an Arkansas Planned Parenthood publication of the 1940s went so far as to cite "fewer births of unwanted children who can be cared for only at public expense" as a reason that the community would benefit from the widespread access to contraception (Welch 2009, p. 32). The group did concern itself with humanitarian issues, however, such as voicing a deep concern that contraceptive use allowed for better child spacing. It stated publicly "child spacing is not concerned with the total prevention of pregnancy, but with giving the mother an opportunity to recover fully from one pregnancy before starting another" (Welch 2009, p 36).  Soon, however, the clinic distanced itself from the eugenic ideals, as made evident by the change in association name mentioned above.

Leung, Marianne. 1994. "Better Babies: Birth Control in Arkansas in the 1930s." Pp. 18-68 in Hidden Histories of Women in the New South, ed. Virginia Bernhard. Columbia: University of Missouri Press.

Leung, Marianne. 1996. "'Better Babies' : The Arkansas Birth Control Movement during the 1930's." Doctoral Dissertation, Department of Philosophy, University of Memphis.
Leung, Marianne. 1998. "Making the Radical Respectable: Little Rock Clubwomen and the Cause of Birth Control during the 1930s." The Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 57, No. 1 (Spring): 17-32.
Leung, Marianne. 2008.  “Hilda Cornish (1878–1965).” Available at <http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=1625.>

Welch, Melanie. 2009. "Politics and Poverty: Women's Reproductive Rights in Arkansas, 1942-1980." Doctoral Dissertation, Dept. of History, Auburn University. Available at <http://etd.auburn.edu/etd/bitstream/handle/10415/1716/WmrepAR.pdf>