- Eugenics & The Story of Carrie Buck
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Eugenics & The Story of Carrie Buck
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Abstracts: Wildfires, Swine Fever, and More. Visual: The M. A historical marker in Charlottesville, Virginia, tells the story of Carrie Buck. Carrie Buck died in a nursing home in The author spent decades tracing her case and, having interviewed her shortly before her death, described her as having normal intelligence.
Berry, Will write to you this A. This leaves me real well and getting along just fine.
I guess there are lots of girls going away now. I had a letter from mother here several days ago and said for me to send her some things. Will you please let me know. Give Miss Vian? Well I must close for now. With Love, Carrie B. I am getting along very well. I guess a lot of the girls has gone away since I have been up here.
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Bell I am expecting Mrs. Newberry to write you about some trouble I have had but I hope you will not put it against me and have me to come back there as I am trying now to make a good record and get my discharge. Give Mrs. Berry my love and best regards. We have had lots of cold weather up here. Guess I will close for this time. I am yours Sincerely, Carrie Buck.
Eagle — in August, This leaves me very well and getting along just fine. I am still keeping house. It sure is hard to get hold of in Bland, but he is going away to work for a week or two and I guess he will have some then. The people with who he works for furnishes us things to live on. We will send for money to come there and will fix for her if you think she can make the trip. I will see that my mother is well taken care of and plenty to eat if you will let her come. I am real anxious for her to come. I had a letter from Dorris sometime ago and said that her husband had left her.
I am sorry about that —was hoping she would do well. She said she was going to get a divorce for her husband for not taking care of her. Before being institutionalized, Carrie was allowed to have her baby on the outside.
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On March 28, , Vivian Buck was born. Carrie was a mother for two weeks before she was sent away, leaving Vivian with the Dobbses. The large, red brick "Mastin-Minor" building was built in , and by the time Carrie came it housed approximately inmates. Upon arrival, Dr. Priddy examined her and found no evidence of hallucinations or psychosis.http://lastsurestart.co.uk/libraries/install/1701-cell-track.php
He also found that Carrie could read and write, which is not surprising since she had had five years of school and been an average student. In the Colony, Carrie was reunited with her mother. Colony records describe Emma Buck as a widow who "lacked moral sense and responsibility. Perhaps most shockingly, her housework was "untidy. The term "moron" is originally a "scientific" one, invented by Dr. Henry H. Goddard , a pioneer of the "science" of eugenics. His book, Feeble-Mindedness: Its Causes and Consequences , tried to classify and describe the attributes of those who are "incapable of performing his duties as a member of society in the position of life to which he was born.
Goddard created a taxonomy of the "feeble-minded. Next, came "imbeciles," those with intelligence comparable to a child from ages three to seven. Finally, came the "morons," eight to ten. It's difficult to comprehend the extent of the popularity of eugenics during the first three decades of the twentieth century. According to one historian, eugenics ideas were integral to "the political vocabulary of virtually every significant modernizing force between the two world wars.
Eugenic goals were behind the Immigration Act of , which created quotas for immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe that remained in effect until Harry Laughlin, one of the doyens of the American eugenics movement and, like Arthur Estabrook, also of the Eugenics Record Office, testified to Congress that immigration restrictions were necessary to defend "against the contamination of American family stocks by alien hereditary degeneracy.
Carrie was prosecuted under the Racial Integrity Act of , but the anti-miscegenation part of that law wouldn't be struck down until in the landmark case of Loving v. At the time of Loving , Virginia's marriage license not only required the couple to be of the same race, but also that the couple affirm that "neither is she nor am I a habitual criminal, idiot, imbecile, hereditary epileptic, or insane person," all words which reek of eugenics origins. Loving would later become an essential precedent to overturning same-sex marriage bans in 's Obergefell v.
In , only a few months after Carrie's first trial, the country was enamored with the famous Scopes "Monkey" Trial, when Tennessee schoolteacher John Scopes was put on trial for teaching evolution, famously dramatized in the movie based off the play Inherit the Wind.
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What's remembered now as a valiant struggle of science over superstition was also a fight over an explicitly eugenics-favoring biology textbook. If such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading. Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways preventing intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race.
Remedies of this sort have been tried successfully in Europe and are now meeting with success in this country. Well into the later parts of the 20th Century, eugenics-inspired laws left people sterilized, prohibited to marry, committed to state institutions, or barred from the country. Even presidents got on board. Woodrow Wilson was a fan. As governor of New Jersey he signed the state's forced sterilization law, and Theodore Roosevelt once wrote that "society has no business to permit degenerates to reproduce their kind.
The first U. Albert Priddy of the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feeble-minded could fairly be described as a zealot of eugenics. Prior to , Priddy had performed hundreds of forced sterilizations by creatively interpreting laws which allowed surgery to benefit the "physical, mental or moral" condition of the inmates at the Colony.
He would operate to relieve "chronic pelvic disorder" and, in the process, sterilize the women. According to Priddy, the women he chose were "immoral" because of their "fondness for men," their reputations for "promiscuity," and their "over-sexed" and "man-crazy" tendencies. One sixteen-year-old girl was sterilized for her habit of "talking to the little boys. But Priddy got himself into hot water when he forcibly sterilized Willie Mallory and her daughter Jessie.
In September, , Willie, Jessie and seven other Mallory children were arrested in their home on suspicion of running a brothel. In reality, Priddy had directed police to the Mallory house because he felt the family was a particularly egregious case of congenital feeble-mindedness and immorality. Priddy felt the "germ plasm" of the Mallorys needed to be purged, and the charges were entirely manufactured. Once in Priddy's hands, Willie was declared "unable to control her nerves" and sterilized, as was her daughter Jessie.
George Mallory, the husband and father, had been out of town when the arrests were made. When he found out what had happened, he fought to get his family back and to prevent any further sterilizations. After a protracted legal battle, Willie and the Mallory children were freed. Although the courts did not overturn the sterilization program, Priddy worried that it now rested on shaky legal foundations. What he needed was a new law and then a test case to validate it once and for all. And in order to prove his theory of hereditary feeble-mindedness to the highest court in the land, he would need at least three generations of verifiable "imbeciles.
Carrie Buck found herself in the Colony in June of , shortly before her 18th birthday. Priddy quickly made the connection between Emma and Carrie, and he knew about the recently born Vivian. He began building his case. Designed to withstand legal challenge, the new Virginia law provided more due process than the previous ad hoc regime that rested entirely on official discretion. Carrie's case first had to go before the Colony Board. Priddy testified that Carrie was "congenitally and incurably defective" with a mental age of only nine, and that she had borne "one illegitimate mentally defective child.
What did Carrie think of all this?