The Kallikaks and the Eugenicists

A partial view of one part of the Kallikak pedigree from "The Kallikak Family." Inset: Emma Wolverton, known in "The Kallikak Family" as Deborah Kallikak. Public domain

Spurred by the same fears, prejudices and societal issues that were driving the progressive movement in general, the eugenics movement in the United States focused on identifying, sequestering and even sterilizing people who were deemed to be "unfit."

Correction: In addition to North Carolina, one other state, Virginia, has passed legislation to compensate people who were sterilized under state eugenics laws.

Read a transcript of this episode here.

Tracy's Research:

  • "Cold Spring Harbor's Image Archive on the American Eugenics Movement."
  • "Who Was Shut Out?: Immigration Quotas, 1925–1927." History Matters. George Mason University.
  • American Journal of Psychology. "Reviewed Work(s): The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeble-Mindedness by H. H. Goddard." The American Journal of Psychology, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Apr., 1913). Via JSTOR.
  • Benjamin, Ludy T. " The birth of American intelligence testing." American Psychological Association. Monitor on Psychology. Vol. 40, No. 1. 2009.
  • Christianson, Scott. "Bad Seed or Bad Science?" New York Times. 2/8/2003.
  • Conte, Chris. " White County Inmates Given Reduced Jail Time If They Get Vasectomy." NewsChannel 5. 7/19/2017.
  • DenHoed, Andrea. "The Forgotten Lessons of the American Eugenics Movement." The New Yorker. 4/27/2016.
  • Elks, Martin A. "Visual Indictment: A Contextual Analysis of 'The Kallikak Family' Photographs." Mental Retardation. Vol. 43, No. 3, August 2005.
  • Goddard, Henry Herbert. "The Kallikak family : a study in the heredity of feeble-mindedness." 1913. Via
  • Hunter, George William. "A Civic Biology Presented in Problems." Cincinnati. 1914. Via Proejct Gutenbert.
  • Plucker, J. A., & Esping, A. (Eds.). (2014). Human intelligence: Historical influences, current controversies, teaching resources.
  • Relf v. Weinberger. Via Justia.
  • Ryan, Patrick. " Unnatural Selection: Intelligence Testing, Eugenics, and American Political Cultures." Journal of Social History. Vol. 30, No. 3 (Spring, 1997). Via JSTOR.
  • Smith, J. David and Michael L. Wehmeyer. " Who Was Deborah Kallikak?" Intellectual Developmental Disabilities. Vol. 50, No. 2. April 2012.
  • Stern, Alexandra Minna. "Sterilized in the Name of Public Health." American Journal of Public Health. 2005.
  • Valdes, Marcela. "When Doctors Took ‘Family Planning’ Into Their Own Hands." New York Times Magazine. 2/1/2016.
  • Vaughn v. Utz. Via FindLaw.

Topics in this Podcast: court cases, racism, disability, eugenics movement, 20th century, civil rights, legal history, medical history, psychology