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Carrie Buck was born in 1906 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Soon afterward, her father either abandoned the family or died, leaving Carrie and her mother, Emma, in dire poverty. As a toddler, Carrie was taken in, with the approval of a municipal court, by a well-to-do couple, John and Alice Dobbs, who asked to become her foster parents after seeing Emma on the street. Carrie cleaned their house and was hired out to clean neighbors’ homes, until, at seventeen, she was discovered to be pregnant—she later said that she’d been raped, by Alice Dobbs’s nephew—at which point her guardians moved to have her declared mentally deficient, although there was no prior evidence that this was the case. They then had her committed to the Virginia Colony for Epileptics and Feeble-Minded.
When Carrie was sent to the Virginia Colony, in 1924, the forward thinkers of America were preoccupied by the imagined genetic threat of feeblemindedness, a capaciously defined condition that was diagnosed using often flawed intelligence tests and by identifying symptoms such as moral degeneracy, an overactive sex drive, and other traits liberally ascribed to poor people (especially poor women) who were seen as having stepped out of line.
Eugenics was taught in schools, celebrated in exhibits at the World’s Fair, and even preached from pulpits. The human race, one prominent advocate declared in 1909, was poised “to dry up the springs that feed the torrent of defective and degenerate protoplasm.”
Read full, original post: The forgotten lessons of the American eugenics movement