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[Readings]

Valley of Sterility

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From records of the Eugenics Board of North Carolina, which was abolished in 1974. Between 1929 and 1974, 7,600 people in the state were sterilized, in the majority of cases without their consent. The complete records are still sealed, but a number of files were made available to Kevin Begos, a journalist at the Winston-Salem Journal, for his book-in-progress, provisionally entitled Eugenics Reborn: America’s Last Sterilization Campaigns.

Single girl, twenty years of age, who was admitted to State Hospital. Six or seven months previous to that, she became overly religious, preached, and talked in “unknown tongue,” was noisy and ran away from home. She expresses visual hallucinations and expansive ideas. At times she is mentally depressed. Diagnosis: Dementia Precox-Paranoid.

Negro girl, age twenty-one, single. Has two illegitimate children. Has been in court four times on charges of disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, assault with deadly weapon. She wears men’s clothing all the time. Is very immoral. Is now pregnant. Diagnosis: Low mentality.

This seventeen-year-old girl expects her first child. The parents feel that her ability to care for a child is nonexistent, as she likes to play with seven- or eight-year-old children. She is quite passive and extremely submissive to suggestions from the opposite sex. She states she “made love to him” when referring to her boyfriend. Both parents have trouble disciplining her. She runs loose in the neighborhood, carries tales and gossip, and keeps the neighbors in an uproar. The parents are very much in favor of sterilization because of the protection it will give to her as well as to the family who will have the responsibility of any child born to her. Diagnosis: Feebleminded.

This fourteen-year-old girl lives in a very poor home environment. Both parents appear to be limited, and the father admits to incestuous feelings for his daughter. Girl’s mother has been reported to the agency by her own daughter for sexual promiscuity, but does make some efforts to give supervision. After the father admitted his feelings for his daughter, the mother had her carefully examined by a physician, who reported that she had had intercourse. The parents wish sterilization, as they are afraid she will become pregnant.

This pregnant thirteen-year-old girl has never had the opportunity for self-development. Her brother is the alleged father of her child, and there is also a feeling in the community that the father has had relations with her, but no proof of this has been secured. According to the brother, she would make an attempt to resist him but would give in each time. The parents now wish sterilization because they feel that other men could easily persuade her to have relations. Sterilization will prevent additional children from being born for whom she cannot care. Diagnosis: Feebleminded.

Age fourteen. I.Q. 54. Has become very aggressive with boys; while in school attempted to write love letters to boys she imagined were interested in her and would ask to go to the bathroom, later being found in the high school building seeking the attention of high school boys. She would pester them for money, candy, and other favors. As she became more developed, the boys began to respond with fresh remarks. The mother states that her daughter has no inhibitions about exposing her body. Diagnosis: Feebleminded.


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August 2005