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Fixing the Poor: Eugenic Sterilization and Child Welfare in the Twentieth Century, by Molly Ladd-Taylor

Fixing the Poor: Eugenic Sterilization and Child Welfare in the Twentieth Century, by Molly... FixingthePoor:EugenicSterilizationandChildWelfarein theTwentiethCentury ByMollyLadd-Taylor (Baltimore,MD:JohnsHopkinsUniversityPress,2017)(304pages;$54.95 hardcover) In her intriguing new book,Fixing the Poor: Eugenic Sterilization and Child Welfare in the Twentieth Century, Molly Ladd-Taylor deftly draws upon fresh archival evidence on sterilization, institutionalization, eugenics, and under- standings of delinquency and disability and in doing so, amends our under- standing of the origins and purpose of the welfare state. Rather than framing sterilization as a product of a eugenics-obsessed state focused on the ultimate goalof“racebetterment,”sheinsteadplacestheprocedureanditsgoalswithin a “broad set of social welfare polices” aimed at reducing dependency and the “problems of poverty, sex, and single motherhood” (p. 2). In doing so, she movestheongoingscholarshiparoundthehistoryofbothwelfareandeugenic policy away from simplistic binaries, and illustrates the ways they together “reflected and reworked popular and scientific ideas about race, gender, dis- ability,andmodernityitself”(p.4). Thebookteasesoutthreebroadthemesoverthecourseofsixchapters sterilization’skeyplaceinthecontributingtothedevelopmentoftheemerging childwelfaresystemoftheera,sterilization’srelationshipwithinstitutionaliza- tion,andhowtheall-encompassingconceptof“feeblemindedness”was“used to justify both segregation and sterilization” (p. 3). Ladd-Taylor’s evidence is rootedintherecordsofthestateofMinnesotawhichfeaturedalessrestrictive programofsterilizationandconfinementthanotherstates,andtheprogram’s “unremarkable quality[ies]” there also help to “expand our understanding of thespectrumofsterilizationprograms.”Ratherthantargetingpeopleofcolor for sterilization as in other states like California and North Carolina, Min- nesotainsteadfocuseditseffortsonthoseitdeemeddelinquentanddependent unmarriedmothers,“sexdelinquents”andthegeneral“dependentpoor.” Yet, as Ladd-Taylor notes, the implementation of Minnesota welfare and eugenic policy was inconsistent and shaped by a variety of stakehold- ers. Authorities often disagreed on the nature of the linkages between feeble- mindednessanddelinquency,andmanyemphasizedclosecommunitysurveil- http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Nursing History Review Springer Publishing

Fixing the Poor: Eugenic Sterilization and Child Welfare in the Twentieth Century, by Molly Ladd-Taylor

Nursing History Review , Volume 28 (1): 3 – Sep 19, 2019

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Publisher
Springer Publishing
Copyright
© 2020 Springer Publishing Company
ISSN
1062-8061
eISSN
1938-1913
DOI
10.1891/1062-8061.28.218
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Abstract

FixingthePoor:EugenicSterilizationandChildWelfarein theTwentiethCentury ByMollyLadd-Taylor (Baltimore,MD:JohnsHopkinsUniversityPress,2017)(304pages;$54.95 hardcover) In her intriguing new book,Fixing the Poor: Eugenic Sterilization and Child Welfare in the Twentieth Century, Molly Ladd-Taylor deftly draws upon fresh archival evidence on sterilization, institutionalization, eugenics, and under- standings of delinquency and disability and in doing so, amends our under- standing of the origins and purpose of the welfare state. Rather than framing sterilization as a product of a eugenics-obsessed state focused on the ultimate goalof“racebetterment,”sheinsteadplacestheprocedureanditsgoalswithin a “broad set of social welfare polices” aimed at reducing dependency and the “problems of poverty, sex, and single motherhood” (p. 2). In doing so, she movestheongoingscholarshiparoundthehistoryofbothwelfareandeugenic policy away from simplistic binaries, and illustrates the ways they together “reflected and reworked popular and scientific ideas about race, gender, dis- ability,andmodernityitself”(p.4). Thebookteasesoutthreebroadthemesoverthecourseofsixchapters sterilization’skeyplaceinthecontributingtothedevelopmentoftheemerging childwelfaresystemoftheera,sterilization’srelationshipwithinstitutionaliza- tion,andhowtheall-encompassingconceptof“feeblemindedness”was“used to justify both segregation and sterilization” (p. 3). Ladd-Taylor’s evidence is rootedintherecordsofthestateofMinnesotawhichfeaturedalessrestrictive programofsterilizationandconfinementthanotherstates,andtheprogram’s “unremarkable quality[ies]” there also help to “expand our understanding of thespectrumofsterilizationprograms.”Ratherthantargetingpeopleofcolor for sterilization as in other states like California and North Carolina, Min- nesotainsteadfocuseditseffortsonthoseitdeemeddelinquentanddependent unmarriedmothers,“sexdelinquents”andthegeneral“dependentpoor.” Yet, as Ladd-Taylor notes, the implementation of Minnesota welfare and eugenic policy was inconsistent and shaped by a variety of stakehold- ers. Authorities often disagreed on the nature of the linkages between feeble- mindednessanddelinquency,andmanyemphasizedclosecommunitysurveil-

Journal

Nursing History ReviewSpringer Publishing

Published: Sep 19, 2019

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