Eugenics Movement in America

Woodrow Wilson

Definition and Summary of the Eugenics Movement in America
Summary and Definition: The Eugenics Movement in America was established in 1903 and popularized the ideas of selective breeding of 'superior stock' and the biological threat of "inferior types." Eugenics was a pseudo-science that gained support from highly prominent and influential people. The ideals of the movement were well publicized and fueled anti-immigrant and racist beliefs that resulted in stringent US laws being passed to restrict immigration.

1920's Eugenics Movement: Pseudo-Scientific Racism
Woodrow Wilson was the 28th American President who served in office from March 4, 1913 to March 4, 1921. One of the important events during his presidency was growth in popularity of the Eugenics Movement.



1921 Eugenics Tree was used as a logo

Eugenics Movement Facts: Fast Fact Sheet
Fast, fun facts and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) about the Eugenics.

What does Eugenics mean?
The term "Eugenics' was coined by Francis Galton in 1883 from the Greek word 'eugenes' meaning "well-born, of good stock, of noble race" and from 'eu' meaning "good"and 'genos' meaning "birth".

What are Eugenics? Eugenics is the doctrine of progress in evolution of the human race and race-culture involving the investigation of the conditions under which men of a 'high type' are produced.

When did the Eugenics Movement begin in America?
The Movement began in America in 1903. The second International Eugenics Congress was held in New York in 1921

The 1921 Eugenics Tree Picture
The 'Eugenics Tree' used as a logo by the Eugenics Record Office. The tree describes how Eugenics were perceived in the early 1920's headed "Eugenics is the self direction of Human Evolution". The description of the 'Eugenics Tree' goes on to state "Like a tree, Eugenics draws it materials from many sources and organizes them into an harmonious entity". The 'sources' are shown as the roots of the Eugenics Tree and include anatomy, biology, physiology, mental testing, anthropology, geology, archeology, ethnology, law, politics, statistics, genealogy, sociology, biography, economics, education, religion, psychiatry, medicine, surgery and genetics. The adherents to the Eugenics Movement believed that it was an opportunity for people to control their own evolutionary destiny. Not surprisingly the movement drew support from some highly influential Americans of all political persuasions. Eugenicists envisioned a society that perpetuated white middle and upper class power was optimistic that scientific changes in human breeding habits would solve many complex problems facing modern American society.

Negative Eugenics and Positive Eugenics
Definition: Negative Eugenics discouraged reproduction by people who have genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits. Positive Eugenics encouraged reproduction by persons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits.

Eugenics Movement Facts for kids: Eugenics Movement in America
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on the Eugenics Movement in America.

Facts about the Eugenics Movement in America for kids

Eugenics Movement Fact 1: Eugenics was introduced to Europe in the 1880s by English scientist and biologist  Sir Francis Galton (1822-1911) a cousin of Charles Darwin. The principles were described in his 1869 book 'Hereditary Genius'. Sir Francis Galton founded the Eugenics Education Society in 1901 which was based in the Statistics Department at the University College of London.

Eugenics Movement Fact 2: The Galton Society, named after Eugenicist Sir Francis Galton, was established by a group of socially prominent and highly influential men and publicized the movement through the Eugenical News

Eugenics Movement Fact 3: In 1912 the first International Eugenics Congress in 1912 was held in London and presided over by Major Leonard Darwin, the son of Charles Darwin. Winston Churchill was one of the prominent people to attend the Congress. and the ideas spread to America in the early 1900's and the American Eugenics movement began in 1903.

Eugenics Movement Fact 4: Definition: Sir Francis Galton defined eugenics as "the study of all agencies under human control which can improve or impair the racial quality of future generations". The idea arose out of the Darwinian theory of evolution and attempted to apply that theory to mankind.

Eugenics Movement Fact 5: The ideas spread to America in the early 1900's and the American Eugenics movement began in 1903. The next facts explain why the movement gained so much support in the United States.

Eugenics Movement Fact 6: A Pseudo-Scientific form of Racism - Eugenics was a phenomena which claimed to be scientific, but was not in fact supported by a valid scientific method, reliable evidence and could not be tested. In other words it was pseudoscience. Eugenics is a pseudo-science, or false science, that deals with improving hereditary traits and led to Pseudo-Scientific form of Racism. The Movement was fueled by a resurgence of Nativism and xenophobia in America during the 1920's.

Eugenics Movement Fact 7: Rise of Nativism and Immigration in America: The Eugenics Movement gained momentum by a burst of Nativism in America during the 1920's. Nativism refers to the preference for established US residents, as opposed to foreigners, and the vehement opposition to immigration. The belief in Nativism was based on the origin, race, ethnic background or religion of a person.

Eugenics Movement Fact 8: Old Immigrants vs New Immigrants: Between 1901 - 1920 over 14 million immigrants had arrived in America and the debate raged over Old Immigrants vs New Immigrants. The majority of new arrivals to America were classified as 'New Immigrants' from countries such as Italy, Greece, Russia and Poland.

Eugenics Movement Fact 9: The movement was 'Legitimized' by the 1911 Dillingham Commission Report - The belief in Nativism and the emergence of the Eugenics Movement was given credibility by the official Dillingham Commission Report that had concluded that the 'New Immigrants' were "inferior, uneducated and posed a serious threat to American society".

Eugenics Movement Fact 10: The ideals of the movement added to the widespread attitude that rejected immigrants,  xenophobia, the anti-immigration hysteria of the Red Scare and would result in new, stringent US laws being passed to restrict immigration.


Facts about the Eugenics Movement in America for kids

Facts about the Eugenics for kids
The following fact sheet continues with facts about the Eugenics Movement in America.

Facts about the Eugenics Movement in America for kids

Eugenics Movement Fact 11: In 1903 Willet M. Hays founded the American Breeders' Association (ABA), later known as the American Genetic Association (AGA). The ABA focused on the presumed hereditary differences between human races an popularized the ideas of selective breeding of superior stock and the biological threat of "inferior types".

Eugenics Movement Fact 12: The first Eugenics Movement included many of the most famous scientists, biologists and geneticists in the country who were based at prominent educational institutions such as Stanford University, Harvard University and the University of Chicago.

Eugenics Movement Fact 13: One of the most prominent eugenicists in America was Charles Benedict Davenport (1866 – 1944), a Harvard Ph.D, who went on to found the International Federation of Eugenics Organizations (IFEO) in 1925

Eugenics Movement Fact 14: A wide variety of other prominent people supported the movement including Alexander Graham Bell, Margaret Sanger, Marie Stopes, H. G. Wells, Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, George Bernard Shaw, John Maynard Keynes and John Harvey Kellogg. These famous people gave huge credibility to the movement.

Eugenics Movement Fact 15: Critics of the movement included Lester Frank Ward, G. K. Chesterton, Franz Boas and Halliday Sutherland

Eugenics Movement Fact 16: In 1906 John Harvey Kellogg provided financial support for the movement and created the Race Betterment Foundation  located at Battle, Creek Michigan

Eugenics Movement Fact 17: In 1907, Indiana passed the first eugenics-based compulsory sterilization law in the world. Over thirty more U.S. states would soon follow their lead.

Eugenics Movement Fact 18: In 1910, the Eugenics Record Office (ERO), headed by Charles Davenport and Harry Laughlin, Mrs. E. H. Harriman, the widow of railroad magnate E.H Harriman, provided financial support for a nationwide publicity campaign that propagandized eugenics.

Eugenics Movement Fact 19: The second International Eugenics Congress was held in 1921 at New York’s American Museum of Natural History. The 2nd Eugenics Congress was presided over by Henry Fairfield Osborn with Alexander Graham Bell as its honorary president.

Eugenics Movement Fact 20: In 1926 the American Eugenics Society (AES), financed by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, was established in America by Madison Grant, Harry H. Laughlin, Henry Crampton, Irving Fisher, and Henry F. Osborn to promote eugenic education programs for the US public with exhibits at State Fairs. Financial contributions were made by George Eastman and John D. Rockefeller Jr.

Eugenics Movement Fact 21: In the 1920's the National Education Association's Committee on Racial Well-Being sponsored programs to help college teachers integrate eugenic content in their courses. Universities such as Harvard, Brown, Columbia and Cornell were amongst the first to list courses.

Eugenics Movement Fact 22: By 1928, eugenic courses were listed in 376 separate college courses, attended by approximately 20,000 students.

Eugenics Movement Fact 23: After WW2 and the Holocaust, the American eugenics movement was widely condemned. Nazism made the subject synonymous with racism and genocide. But sterilization programs continued in many states until the early970s. Between 1927 and the 1970s, there were more than 60,000 compulsory sterilizations performed in 33 states in the United States

Facts about the Eugenics Movement in America for kids

Facts about Eugenics: Related Topics
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Black History for kids: Important People and Events
For visitors interested in African American History refer to Black History - People and Events. A useful resource  for teachers, kids, schools and colleges undertaking projects for the Black History Month.

Eugenics - President Woodrow Wilson Video
The article on the Eugenics Movement provides detailed facts and a summary of one of the important events during his presidential term in office. The following Woodrow Wilson video will give you additional important facts and dates about the political events experienced by the 28th American President whose presidency spanned from March 4, 1913 to March 4, 1921.

Eugenics Movement in America

● Interesting Facts about Eugenics for kids and schools
● Key events and Eugenics in America for kids
● The Eugenics Movement, a major event in US history
● Reasons, causes, effects, supporters and critics
● Fast, fun facts about the Eugenics
● History, ideals, beliefs, reasons, causes, effects, supporters & critics
● Woodrow Wilson Presidency and Eugenics for schools, homework, kids and children

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