Eugenics traces its roots back to the late 19th century when Charles Darwin’s cousin Sir Francis Galton coined the term. The theory is that human characteristics and afflictions could be bred out of the human race. It was all the rage in the early 20th century until Adolf Hitler came along and ruined all the fun for everyone.
Today, eugenics still is going strong except people don’t call it that. But recently, the Kenyan bishops seemed to have exposed an involuntary sterilization program there. And in India, eleven women recently died after a botched sterilization surgery. There have been reports women were bribed to undergo sterilization surgeries in India.
While the term “eugenics” is typically applied to Hitler’s Germany, it was in the United States where eugenics also found great acceptance. Even Hitler once said, “There is today one state in which at least weak beginnings toward a better conception are noticeable. Of course, it is not our model German Republic, but the United States.”
Hooray for us.
Truly, the level of acceptance for eugenics in America was and is shocking. Here’s a list of seven famous people (some of them quite beloved) who were wildly pro-eugenics.
1) Teddy Roosevelt
Teddy Roosevelt is typically lauded as one of America’s great political figures. So beloved is he, that teddy bears are actually named after him. You don’t get more famous or lovable than Teddy.
But Teddy’s beliefs about breeding humans wasn’t all that cuddly.
Teddy wrote a letter:
I agree with you if you mean, as I suppose you do, that society has no business to permit degenerates to reproduce their kind. It is really extraordinary that our people refuse to apply to human beings such elementary knowledge as every successful farmer is obliged to apply to his own stock breeding. Any group of farmers who permitted their best stock not to breed, and let all the increase come from the worst stock, would be treated as fit inmates for an asylum. Yet we fail to understand that such conduct is rational compared to the conduct of a nation which permits unlimited breeding from the worst stocks, physically and morally, while it encourages or connives at the cold selfishness or the twisted sentimentality as a result of which the men and women ought to marry, and if married have large families, remain celebates or have no children or only one or two. Some day we will realize that the prime duty the inescapable duty of the good citizen of the right type is to leave his or her blood behind him in the world; and that we have no business to permit the perpetuation of citizens of the wrong type.
Kinda’ ruins teddy bears for you doesn’t it? Unless you think of teddy bears as demented furry creatures intent on wiping out the unfit.
The thing with this stuff is always, “Who is unfit?” And those against eugenics inevitably bring up names like Helen Keller who was deaf and blind but still accomplished so much. She’s a great argument against eugenics…except for the fact that Helen Keller was wildly pro-eugenics.
2) Helen Keller:
I know what you’re thinking. Come on Matt. Helen Keller was pro-eugenics? Are you crazy? Yes, but not about this. Helen Keller was blind and deaf but clearly, made a distinction between Helen Keller and non-Helen Keller people.
In defense of eugenics, Keller wrote “Our puny sentimentalism has caused us to forget that a human life is sacred only when it may be of some use to itself and to the world.”
She also called for “physicians’ juries for defective babies.” Seriously.
“It is the possibility of happiness, intelligence and power that give life its sanctity, and they are absent in the case of a poor, misshapen, paralyzed, unthinking creature,” Keller said, adding that allowing a “defective” child to die was simply a “weeding of the human garden that shows a sincere love of true life.”