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Better for All the World: The Secret History of Forced Sterilization and…

von Harry Bruinius

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854256,416 (3.64)12
InBetter for All the World,Harry Bruinius charts the little-known history of eugenics in America—a movement that began in the early twentieth century and resulted in the forced sterilization of more than 65,000 Americans. Bruinius tells the stories of Emma and Carrie Buck, two women trapped in poverty and caught up in a new scientific quest for racial purity.Buck v. Bellbecame a test case brought before the Supreme Court, which voted 8–1 to make sterilization a constitutionally valid way for the state to prevent anyone deemed “unfit” from having children. The court’s majority opinion was written by Oliver Wendell Holmes: “It is better for all the world,” Holmes wrote, “if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. . . . Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Eugenicists believed that the human race must begin to take control not just of human reproduction, but of ethnic intermingling. With the natural and objective methods of science they hoped to breed only the biologically best of the races and prevent the propagation of the worst. The result: marriage restriction, anti-miscegenation, and immigration laws. InBetter for All the World,Harry Bruinius shows how reformers across the nation transformed haphazard, locally run systems of charity and welfare—mostly church handouts and town asylums—into government-run systems of welfare that aspired to make America a place where social and moral purity could reign, free from the “hereditary defectives” of the past. Those who supported the programs included Theodore Rooseve< Margaret Sanger; Alexander Graham Bell; the heads of the Harriman, Carnegie, and Rockefeller foundations; and scholars from Harvard, Yale, and Stanford. Bruinius writes how many of the leaders of the eugenics movement were New England Protestants who used an evangelical tone that harked back to their Puritan forebears, and who proclaimed their goal to keep the “American stock” pure by excising the causes of immoral behavior. Drawing on personal letters, diaries, and documents never before used, the author writes of the three scientists who developed the theories and practices of eugenics: Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin, who coined the word “eugenics” to describe the science of better breeding; Charles Davenport, the first influential eugenic thinker in America, professor at Harvard University and the University of Chicago, direct descendant of Reverend John Davenport, the founder of the city of New Haven; and Harry Laughlin, Davenport’s protégé, the nation’s foremost expert in eugenic sterilization and also a leader in the movement to stop the tide of immigrants coming to this country. The author makes clear how America’s quest for racial purity influenced Nazi Germany: one of its first laws, the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring, followed the work of California’s Human Betterment Foundation and Harry Laughlin’s Model Law. In less than two years, more than 150,000 German citizens were sterilized, preparing the way for the genocide to come. In 1936, the Nazi regime awarded Laughlin an honorary doctorate from Heidelberg University for his contributions to “racial hygiene.” During the Nuremberg Trials, the Allied prosecutors were doubtful they could convict Nazi doctors of “crimes against humanity”—since those accused had carried out acts based on theories of eugenics that had been practice… (mehr)
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The full title says it all: The secret history of forced sterilization and America’s quest for racial purity. One of the biggest things I learned was that Germany actually modeled its eugenics program after the United States and that many people here were excited to see whether a statewide implementation of the ideas of racial purity would succeed. The story isn’t complete without mentioning that some of the biggest players were themselves genetically ‘inferior’ i.e. epileptic, father of a lesbian, and no father at all. ( )
  Seafox | Jul 24, 2019 |
State-sanctioned eugenics programs. We inspired the Nazis. ( )
  Sullywriter | Apr 3, 2013 |
4242 Better For All the World The Secret History of Forced Sterilization and America's Quest for Racial Purity, by Harry Bruinius (read 8 Dec 2006) This tells of the eugenics drive in the U.S. in the early 20th century, culminating in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Buck v. Bell, the opinion in which was authored by Oliver Wendell Holmes. My Constitutional Law teacher at Georgetown told something about what a flawed case it was, but this book tells what a farce the actual trial was, with Buck's lawyer scarcely bothering to help his client. In fact it was a kind of set-up case since the eugenics people wanted to get a favorable ruling--and Holmes obliged with an opinion which illustrates that Father Lucey was right to berate Holmes' legal outlook. In fact the Nazis relied on Buck v. Bell and the sterilization program in the U.S. to defend their horrendous sterilization processes. The book is not too well organized, and kind of jumps around chronologically, but on balance tells an important story which should be better known. ( )
  Schmerguls | Oct 28, 2007 |
I learned several things from reading this book. #1: America's sterilization laws formed the literal blueprint for similar laws in Nazi Germany, and in fact, a leading eugenicist was granted an honorary degree in Germany for his work. #2: the key figures advocating selective breeding of the fittest never had grandchildren, and in fact two of them never had children. #3: Eugenics continued as a force well into the 1940s -- I had always thought it was a 1920s thing.

Vividly told, fascinating and informative. This book will make you angry about our neighbours to the south for a whole bunch of new reasons. ( )
1 abstimmen Meggo | Oct 1, 2006 |
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InBetter for All the World,Harry Bruinius charts the little-known history of eugenics in America—a movement that began in the early twentieth century and resulted in the forced sterilization of more than 65,000 Americans. Bruinius tells the stories of Emma and Carrie Buck, two women trapped in poverty and caught up in a new scientific quest for racial purity.Buck v. Bellbecame a test case brought before the Supreme Court, which voted 8–1 to make sterilization a constitutionally valid way for the state to prevent anyone deemed “unfit” from having children. The court’s majority opinion was written by Oliver Wendell Holmes: “It is better for all the world,” Holmes wrote, “if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. . . . Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Eugenicists believed that the human race must begin to take control not just of human reproduction, but of ethnic intermingling. With the natural and objective methods of science they hoped to breed only the biologically best of the races and prevent the propagation of the worst. The result: marriage restriction, anti-miscegenation, and immigration laws. InBetter for All the World,Harry Bruinius shows how reformers across the nation transformed haphazard, locally run systems of charity and welfare—mostly church handouts and town asylums—into government-run systems of welfare that aspired to make America a place where social and moral purity could reign, free from the “hereditary defectives” of the past. Those who supported the programs included Theodore Rooseve< Margaret Sanger; Alexander Graham Bell; the heads of the Harriman, Carnegie, and Rockefeller foundations; and scholars from Harvard, Yale, and Stanford. Bruinius writes how many of the leaders of the eugenics movement were New England Protestants who used an evangelical tone that harked back to their Puritan forebears, and who proclaimed their goal to keep the “American stock” pure by excising the causes of immoral behavior. Drawing on personal letters, diaries, and documents never before used, the author writes of the three scientists who developed the theories and practices of eugenics: Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin, who coined the word “eugenics” to describe the science of better breeding; Charles Davenport, the first influential eugenic thinker in America, professor at Harvard University and the University of Chicago, direct descendant of Reverend John Davenport, the founder of the city of New Haven; and Harry Laughlin, Davenport’s protégé, the nation’s foremost expert in eugenic sterilization and also a leader in the movement to stop the tide of immigrants coming to this country. The author makes clear how America’s quest for racial purity influenced Nazi Germany: one of its first laws, the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring, followed the work of California’s Human Betterment Foundation and Harry Laughlin’s Model Law. In less than two years, more than 150,000 German citizens were sterilized, preparing the way for the genocide to come. In 1936, the Nazi regime awarded Laughlin an honorary doctorate from Heidelberg University for his contributions to “racial hygiene.” During the Nuremberg Trials, the Allied prosecutors were doubtful they could convict Nazi doctors of “crimes against humanity”—since those accused had carried out acts based on theories of eugenics that had been practice

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