There were at least
officially documented cases of sterilizations in Michigan.
Of the 3786 cases, 74% of
sterilizations were carried out on females and 26% on males. 440 sterilizations
cases were carried out on people considered mentally ill, while 2927 were
carried out on persons deemed mentally deficient. The remaining 419 were of
neither--those considered “sexual deviants, epileptics or moral
degenerates” (Paul, p. 375). According
to a study by the Human Betterment Foundation stated that 76% of the
total sterilizations were performed on the feeble-minded, and 73% of
all sterilizations were on women. Of the insane, 82% were women, and
72% of the feebleminded were female. In “the HBF category of others,”
most of the women suffered from epilepsy, while “many of the men were
presumably sex offenders” (Hodges, “Dealing with Degeneracy,” p. 187).
Sterilizations in Michigan
occurred from 1914 through 1963 (Paul, p. 382). The vast majority of
them occurred after the Michigan passed its last sterilization law in
initial number of sterilization in Michigan
was relatively low for the first 10 years of its eugenic history. The number peaked from the time period between 1928 and the end of 1932, when approximately
per year were sterilized. During this period, the rate of sterilization was about 4 people per year per 100,000 citizens.The yearly number of sterilizations was fairly constant from the mid
to the mid fifties.
Following 1953, the number of yearly sterilizations decreased
significantly, with an average of 37 sterilizations per year
(Hodges, “Dealing with Degeneracy,” p.185).
In 1897, Michigan
became the first state in the
nation to propose eugenics legislation.
bill called for the castration of certain types of criminals and "degenerates"; however, this legislation did not pass.
adopted a forced sterilization
policy which applied to “mentally defective or insane” in public
institutions (Paul, p. 372; Laughlin, p. 28). Only
one sterilization occurred before the Michigan
Supreme Court system declared the law unconstitutional in the Michigan
court case of Haynes v. Lapeer
A new sterilization
passed in 1923, which amended in 1925 and subsequently upheld in several court cases in 1925 and 1926 (Paul, pp. 372-3; Landman, pp. 71-2). Under
the 1923 reimplementation
of the 1913 law, x-rays were added to vasectomy and salpingectomy as
stated means of sterilization (Hodges, "Euthenics, eugenics," p. 148). The law was written by Burke Shartel, a professor of law at the University of Michigan (Randall 177). As Jeffrey Hodges has commented in his Master's thesis on eugenics in Michigan, Nazi Germany was not the first entity to contemplate the x-ray sterilization procedure (Hodges, "Euthenics, eugenics," pp. 41-2).
law was passed in 1929, which expanded the groups potentially subject
to sterilization. It also included a new reference to a "more humane
method of sterilization" (Landman, p. 73), which came to mean
castrastration, of which by 1938 twenty had been performed, all on sex offenders (Hodges, "Euthenics, eugenics," pp. 41-2).
Identified in the Law
1913 sterilization law pertained to the "mentally
defective" and "insane."
1923 law was compulsory and voluntary and pertained to "idiots,
imbeciles, and feebleminded, but the not the insane" (Paul, p. 372),
and it was extramural in that it included not only patients in state
institutions but also those at large (Paul, p. 372).
1929, the act was expanded to include, in addition to the previously
included groups, the "insane and epileptic persons, ..., moral
degenerates, and sexual perverts likely to become a menace to society
or wards of the state" (see Hodges, "Dealing with Degeneracy," p.
141; Paul, p. 375).
1913 law consisted
of several sections and provided that the
state of Michigan
had the right to sterilize via a vasectomy or salpingectomy anyone with
the preceding labels if there was a potential that this person could generate
"mental defectives" as offspring. A board of surgeons and
physicians would examine the "mental condition" of each patient in a a state institution to
determine whether sterilization was necessary.
1923 law stipulated that the boards of state institutions providing
social services (including those for the mentally disabled and ill) and
penal, and correctional facilities, family members, and apparently even
community members could petition a court for the sterilization of a
person, upon which a panel of three physicians would be provide an
opinion, which on demand (of the person to be sterilized) would then be
considered by a six-person jury impaneled by the court. If a
sterilization order came forth, it could be challenged by the person to
be sterilized in an appeals process (Landman, p. 73). The amendment in
1925 allowed probate courts to hear sterilization request (Hodges,
"Dealing with Degeneracy," p. 150).
expanded 1929 law provided that superintendents or wardens of state
institutions could recommend to the board of such institutions and the
state welfare commission the sterilization of a resident. The decision
required written consent, but a probate court could dispense with the
requirement of such consent (Landman, pp. 72-3).
In Michigan and elsewhere, the
proponents of eugenics were concerned with the well-being of the
unborn.” They thought of eugenics as the tool with
which to create a race of strong, healthy individuals by weeding out the "unfit." When the U.S. Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell
set precedence for more lenient sterilization justifications, Michigan’s
Supreme Court in turn reinterpreted its sterilization policy as an
its compulsory vaccination law, which precipitated an massive increase
sterilizations (Paul, p. 373).
upon the words of Dr. Randall, President of the Michigan State Medical
society, conditions believed to be hereditary included “migraine, deaf
mutism, color blindness, astigmatism, fragile bones, cases of
phalangeal ankylosis....food idiosyncracies, polydactylism, blood
groupings, hemophilia, famlial hemolytic jaundice or family jaundice,
hereditary ataxia, Huntington’s chorea (10 generations), skin diseases
with psoriasis, ichthyosis” (Randall 177). Randall proceeded to point
out that, if physical deficiencies such as these can be passed down
through generations, the same is possible of mental deficiencies. Steps
such as more stringent immigration laws, the prohibition of
inter-racial marriage, and general limits on marriage were steps that
had already been taken to limit the spread of feeble-mindedness. This,
however, “has often failed,” and Randall believed that further steps
were necessary (Randall 177).
Randall continues, commenting on
the success rate of sterilizations, as many opponents believe that it
can “promote [the loss] of moral conduct”(Randall 179). Randall,
however, offers a report from Dr. Wm. J Kay, Superintendant of Michigan
Home and Training School, who said that of the 111 sterilizations, only
27 were returned to the institution based upon unsatisfactory home
conditions or the inability to make a living. Of those individuals
released from the institution, the facility had a full history of 70 of
them. Of those 70, 11 had continuing actions of sexual delinquency, but
the remaining 59 have no history of it (Randall 179).
Judge Clark E.
Higbee, a judge of the Probate Court in Grand Rapids, Michigan, spoke
at the Third Race Betterment Conference in Battle Creek, Michigan,
claiming that “only the feebleminded are sterilized.” He also believed
the sterilization of the insane to be unnecessary, as the insane and
epileptics have the potential to contribute to society. It should be
noted, that Higbee believed that manic depression to a form of
insanity, so the term insane, by his standards, likely included
conditions today considered mild (Higbee 180).
Targeted and Victimized
Americans living in Michigan may have had
a four times
greater chance of being sterilized than whites; the extant records do not allow for a definitive determination, however (Hodges, "Euthenics, eugenics," p. 59). ther highly targeted people
families, which could be easily split up by a county judge and nomadic
Americans from tribes such as the Ottawa
the records examined by Hodges, he found that "over twenty percent of
the sterilization requests include a history of criminal offenses.
Nearly half of the offenses listed were of a sexual nature. These
sexual offenses ranged from indecent exposure to rape and murder.
Homosexuality was also included as a deviant, illegal behavior. Though
homosexuality was legally defined as a form of sodomy, cases of
bestiality and worse were also extant. The most unusual case was a
poor, physically deformed girl of 13, who had been repeatedly raped by
uncles and other family member. Reportedly, she preferred intercourse
with a 'large hunting do' the family owned. This file reveals the
patient not so much as a victim, but as a repository of social evil.
Through her weakness, her inability to prevent males from taking
physical advantage of her, she supposedly represented a continuing
temptation towards societal immorality. Rape, incest, and sodomy
constituted evidence of her personal degeneracy, not society's
inability to protect her from abuse" ("Euthenics, Eugenics," p. 68).
a presentation at the Third Race Betterment Conference, Probate Judge
Ruth Thompson spoke on the responsibility of parents to raise their
children well and their responsibility for truant children. Thompson
references the number of delinquent (160) and neglected (97) children
out of the 20,350 enrolled in the county’s schools. Thompson states
that, in the case of a delinquent child, discovering the mother’s
maiden name and ancestry “is the key to the whole situation” (183).
Several examples of children are given, most of them considered
delinquent for stealing. A girl, Ethel, however, was a “sex offender,”
and Thompson called this the fault of her parents (Thompson).
Restrictions on the
1846 epileptics were barred from marriage in Michigan. This
prohibition was elminated in 1962 (Paul, p. 389).
Hodges has commented on instances of "euthanasia" for infants in
Michican: "Euthanasia of deformed and retardet newborns wa not unknown.
In the hospital jargon of the times, they were 'set aside.' The were
set aside, to live or die, while care was given to the
mother....Deformed and retarded children were referred to as FLKs,
funny-looking kids; their parents as FLPs" ("Euthenics, Eugenics," p.
(photo origin: Willard Library;
available at http://www.willard.lib.mi.us/historical/bcphotos/individuals/images/h41_3981.jpg)
Harvey Kellogg, American entrepreneur and inventor of “Corn Flakes”,
avid supporter of eugenics. In
founded the “Race Betterment Foundation” at Battle Creek, Michigan. As president the
foundation held three
conferences in 1914, 1915, and 1928. The foundation was mostly
influencing the people of Michigan
to support positive eugenics programs in which citizens deemed to have
beneficial traits were encourages to marry and have large families
(Photo origin: The Vaughan Family Archive;
available at www.vaughan.org/bios/vcv/images/vcva2.jpg)
C. Vaughan was another large supporter of eugenics in Michigan.
He first became famous as the dean of the University
he vocally supported a
forced sterilization program, claiming it would lead to a more humane
and even benefit the victims of the sterilizations (Millikan).
Serving with Kellogg on
the state board of
health, Vaughan and Kellogg were able to leverage the state legislators to pass a
sterilization law in 1913, Vaughan
became president of the American Medical Society at Ann Arbor
in 1914 (Sturm; Hodges, "Dealing with Degeneracy," chap. 4).
The Race Betterment Foundation
origin: Proceedings of the Third Race Betterment Conference, January
2-6, 1928, Battle Creek, Michigan. Available through Vassar University)
The purpose of the Race
Betterment Foundation, founded by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, who also
ran the Battle Creek Sanitaium, as
stated in the Proceedings of the Third Race Betterment Conference, are
as follows: “To bring together a group of leading scientists,
educators and others for the purpose of discussing ways and means of
applying science to human living in the same thoroughgoing way in which
it is applied to industry—in the promotion of longer life, greater
efficacy and well-being and of race improvement” (Kellogg, p. ii). The
President of this particular conference was C.C. Little, D.Sc., the
President of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. In
a speech given at this conference, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg praised the
advantages of “being a member of a good family” (Kellogg, p. 118).
Kellogg says to maintain that “prize-winner” status, individuals should
be examined by a family physician every 6 months, and should stay away
from tobacco, alcohol, coffee and tea (Kellogg, p. 119).
Institutions where Sterilizations were Performed
1893 the Michigan Home for the Feebleminded and Epileptic was
established, later known as the Michigan Home and Training School,
Lapeer State Home and Training School, and the Oakdale Center for
Developmental Disabilities. It was the place where the majority of
sterilizations appear to have occurred, at least until 1937, and the
majority of them on women (Hodges, "Euthenics, eugenics," p. 31). It received children whose
families could not
longer care for their children during the Great Depression. The city of Lapeer's
largest business, it once employed 1060 people.
This institution closed down for good in 1992 and is in the
process of being fully demolished (Sturm; Michigan Department
of Environmental Quality; see also Edwards).
2000, ABC investigated sterilization at the institution in Lapeer. In a
20/20 segment they interviewed Ted and Fred Aslin, two men who, along
with 5 of their siblings, were institutionalized following the death of
their father. Fred was determined to be a “feeble-minded moron” and
“mentally defective” by his doctors, and was sterilized at age 18 in
1934. His brother Ted, his mother and 3 of his other siblings were also
sterilized (Berman). The ABC crew also investigated the court papers
at the Lapeer courthouse pertaining to sterilization cases. The
testimonies of doctors were very uniform, and reasons for sterilization
ranged from frequent masturbation, sexual deviancy, being an only child
or one’s mother having had frequent miscarriages. Investigators were
not able to find testimonies for Fred Aslin’s court case (Berman). More
recently, Fred and Ted Aslin requested an official apology from the
State of Michigan. They received one from the head of Michigan
institutions, filmed by ABC, but that was not enough. The Secretary of
Defense then sent a General to replace Fred Aslin’s damaged purple
heart. Ironically, Ted Aslin was licensed to become a foster father,
and fostered over 100 children, despite having been determined unworthy
of caring for children and being sterilized. Both Fred and Ted adopted
("Euthenics, eugenics," p. 31) mentions the Michigan Farm Colony for Epileptics, in
Wahjamega/Caro, as the location of a small number of sterilizations. It
was also called the Caro State Home for Epileptics, Caro State
Hospital, Caro Regional Mental Health Center, and a few buildings still
appear to be used today (Rootsweb.org).
(Photo origin: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~asylums/ionia_mi/index.html)
sterilization institution included the Ionia
State Hospital for the Criminally
Insane, which is now used
as a correctional facility (Ionia County). (Picture origin: Jackson District Library, available
at < http://jackson.lib.mi.us/gallery/v/buildings/PA_FULL_24.jpg.html>)
Another is the Michigan
State Prison at Jackson, which
the largest prison in the world. In
it was renovated and reopened as the Southern
Michigan Correctional Facility. The facility officially
closed in 2007 (Michigan Department of Corrections).
was another location where sterilizations occurred (Sturm; Hodges, "Euthenics, eugenics,"
p. 33). A Human Betterment Foundation (HBF) survey, states that in
1939, 132 individuals were sterilized in Ann Arbor, 89% of whom were
women (Hodges, “Dealing with Degeneracy,” p. 187).
None of the
institutions make reference to their role at sterilization institutions
theories had much
opposition in the early 1900's in Michigan's
scientific community. Many
refuted the principle that pure-bred organisms have a competitive
over hybrids. They
looked to the
competitive success of genealogically diverse corn over pure-breeding
corn. In addition,
by 1910, Hardy and
Weinberg proposed their evolutionary equilibrium model which
sexual sterilization in the short term would not greatly alter the gene
frequency of heritable traits (Sturm). When
the 1929 Michigan sterilization law was passed, Jeffrey Hodges notes,
"the Catholic church's opposition had not concretized at this point"
(Hodges, "Dealing with Degeneracy," p. 154). In the 1960’s medical
research proved that much of the
defects doctors thought
were genetic turned out to be linked to ground and water toxins
(Hodges, "Euthenics, eugenics,"
Berman, Thomas. 2000. “Breeding Better Citizens.” ABC 20/20 special. Aired 3/22/2000.
Edwards, Jen. 2010. "Lapeer State Home (Oakdale)." Available at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=147638288602234
Organizations.” Available at <http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/static/themes/19.html>.
Clark E. 1928. “Sterilization Approved by Intelligent People of Every
State.” Proceedings of the Third Race Betterment Conference, January
2-6, 1928, Battle Creek, Michigan.
Jeffrey Alann. 2001. "Dealing with Degeneracy: Michigan Eugenics in
Context." Ph.D. dissertation in history, Michigan State University.
Jeffrey Alan. 1995. "Euthenics, Eugenics and Compulsory Sterilization
in Michigan, 1897-1960." Master's thesis, Dept. of
History, Michigan State University.Ionia County MIGenWeb. “Michigan State
Prisons in Ionia County.” Available at <http://ionia.migenweb.net/history/prisons.htm>.
John Harvey. 1928. “Purpose.” Proceedings of the Third Race Betterment
Conference, January 2-6, 1928, Battle Creek, Michigan.
Landman, J. H. 1932. Human Sterilization: The History of the Sexual Sterilization Movement
. New York: MacMillan.
Laughlin, Harry H. 1922. Eugenical Sterilization in the United States
. Chicago: Municipal Court of Chicago.
Michigan Department of Corrections. “Southern
Michigan Correctional Facility (JMF) Closed November 17, 2007.” Available at <http://www.michigan.gov/corrections/0,1607,7-119-1381_1388-5357--,00.html>.
Department of Environmental Quality. "Lapeer County." Available at
Arikia. 2008. “A Dark Medical History.” The
Daily. Available at <http://www.michigandaily.com/content/arikia-millikan-dark-medical-history>.
Julius. 1965. “‘Three Generations of Imbeciles Are Enough’: State Eugenic
Sterilization Laws in American Thought and Practice.” Unpublished manuscript. Washington, D.C.:
Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
H. E. 1928. “The Sterilization of Feeble Minded in Michigan.”
Proceedings of the Third Race Betterment Conference, January 2-6, 1928,
Battle Creek, Michigan.
Rootsweb.org. "Caro Center." Available at <http://freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~byram/asylums/caro_mi/
Daniel. 2004. “Living with the Legacy of 'Racial Hygiene' in Michigan.” Lansing City Pulse 3, 22. Available at <http://www.lansingcitypulse.com/lansing/archives/040114/040114cover.html>
Thompson, Ruth. 1928. “The Delinquency of Parents.” Proceedings of
the Third Race Betterment Conference, January 2-6, 1928, Battle Creek,