“To Eliminate the Defectives”

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One of the main arguments of those in favor of eugenic sterilization and segregation was the supposed financial drain “defectives” had on America’s financial resources. In this statement by Alexander Johnson of the National Conference of Charities & Corrections, Johnson suggests that isolating “feebleminded” from “normal” Americans and eliminating their ability to have children would save taxpayers from the expense of prisons, reform homes, and orphanages in which he claims these people will inevitably end up.

Today, politicians and talking heads make similar arguments about the financial burden of caring for people with disabilities, low-income families, and immigrants. What would America look like if we were concerned with all members of society rather than just those who are deemed “productive”?

Images Courtesy of the American Philosophical Society

Anthropometric Measurements

Hazel Wilson 1 Hazel Wilson 2


These ERO documents from the “Negro-Chinese” trait file profile a young woman who was institutionalized for “truancy,” “immorality,” and teen pregnancy. After two pregnancies she was recommended for sterilization and her mental age determined to be 11 years 8 months, which the institution considered “normal for race.” Anthropometric measurements were taken of her entire body including “head width, “nose breadth,” and “ear prominence.”

Images Courtesy of the American Philosophical Society