Full text: Problems in eugenics

Wagenen.Appendix.477 As a case in point, the following pedigree illustrates the manner of 
increase of defective children from defective women. This is an actual 
example of the type of pedigree so common that it has become known to 
students of heredity as the “ almshouse ”* type—a sad commentary on the 
general ineffectiveness of such institutions :—(see -page 476.) 
“ The central figure is a feeble-minded woman subject to epileptic fits, 
descended from a feeble-minded mother and a shiftless, worthless father. 
She has spent most of her life in the almshouse, and all of her children have 
been inmates. One is by a negro whom she met in the almshouse. Two of 
the children died in infancy; one, of whom little is known, died at the age 
of 18. Of the remainder, two are feeble-minded, and one, from a sire of 
criminal tendencies, is an epileptic imbecile.” (“Inheritance of 
EpilepsyDavenport and Weeks, p. 5.) 
8.—Public Opinion. 
While it is true that much public interest has developed in the past few 
years on the subject of sterilization as a Eugenic measure, and periodical 
literature discussing it has multiplied, it must still be recognised that there 
is, as yet, no considerable number of people committed to its propaganda. 
The laws already enacted have usually been put through by some very small 
energetic group of enthusiasts, who have had influence in the legislatures. 
In at least two of the States it was chiefly the work of a physician. In one, 
of a woman. It is, therefore, easy to understand why little has been 
actually done. The machinery of administration has to be created. It was 
a new and untried proposition. Public sentiment demanding action was 
absent. Law officers of the state were not anxious to undertake the defence 
of a law the constitutionality of which was questioned. So we must frankly 
confess that what has sometimes seemed to be, and has been heralded in 
some quarters as a remarkable development in this movement for race 
betterment, is, as yet, little more than the hobby of a few groups of people, 
and does not really indicate the adoption of a settled policy. It is evident 
that active hostility and opposition will arise as soon as there is any attempt 
to carry out the laws in a thorough-going manner. Much more extensive 
education of the public will be necessary before the practice of sterilization 
can be carried to the extent which will make it a factor of importance in any 
Eugenic program. 
It has been said that the Roman Catholic Church is strongly opposed to 
sterilization. From Catholic sources, we learn, first, that the Church has 
no dogma on the subject, and, second, that among the prelates of the Church 
and the priesthood there are held opposing views. For a year and a half, 
during 1910 and 1911, an active controversy was carried on in the pages of 
the “ American Ecclesiastical Review ” on this subject. There were five 
* Almshouse is equivalent to English Workhouse.

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