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August 7, 2002

Eugenics: Building a Better Race: Gender, Sexuality, and Eugenics From the Turn of the Century to the Baby Boom

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorDavid H.MorseMS, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


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JAMA. 2002;288(5):644. doi:10.1001/jama.288.5.644-JBK0807-4-1

A disturbing aspect of human nature is that people can convince themselves of the utter rightness of their actions when it is painfully obvious that those actions are patently wrong. Thus, Wendy Kline recites one example after another of 20th-century eugenicists congratulating themselves for improving the race by preventing the reproduction of overly passionate "wayward girls" and "high grade morons" through confinement and sterilization. Among many other conditions, the sheer facts of unwed motherhood or enlarged genitalia were sufficient reasons for these measures, which were often taken against the wishes or without the knowledge of their victims.