Many of us have been saddened today to learn of the death of prominent disability rights scholar and activist Adrienne Asch. Some obituaries tributes have started to appear, and we will gather those we find in the coming days and add them to this one. Please feel free to add your own in the comments to this post.
Adrienne was the Edward and Robin Milstein Professor of Bioethics, and Director of the Center for Ethics at Yeshiva University in New York. She wrote on ethical issues in reproduction, death and dying, and justice for disadvantaged minorities in American society, and is perhaps best-known amongst philosophers for her powerful articulations of core arguments in the disability rights critique of the busy-as-usual practices utilizing prenatal diagnosis and testing.
Adrienne had been supportive of the What Sorts Network in its early days,
h/t to Ken Bond; from Nathaniel Comfort at the Scientific American blog:
Is eugenics a historical evil poised for a comeback? Or is it a noble but oft-abused concept, finally being done correctly?
Once defined as “the science of human improvement through better breeding,” eugenics has roared back into the headlines in recent weeks in both Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll personae. The close observer may well wonder which will prevail. The snarling Mr. Hyde is the state control over reproduction.
Leilani Muir (centre) with Sandra Anderson (to her right) and the cast of The Invisible Child.
At the Alberta Literary Awards last night, the play The Invisible Child received the Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award for outstanding play. The play was written by David Cheoros, Lou Morin, and Leilani Muir (O’Malley), and was performed at last year’s Edmonton International Fringe Festival. A special reading of the play was given at the Living Archives team meeting in October 2012, and footage of both performances features in the Alberta Eugenics Awareness Week highlights video, which will be released later this week. Congratulations to the team that wrote and performed Invisible Child on this well-deserved honour!
In November, I posted on the Australian Senate Inquiry into the forced sterilization of women and girls with disabilities. Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) has just made its powerful, eye-opening submission to the Inquiry. And there’s something you can do, pronto, that may make a difference here: endorse or support the submission. Anyone who thinks that forced sterilization is a “thing of the past” shoudl read this submission. First, from the submission (p.20),
There is a historical precedent in several countries including for example the USA (until the 1950s), in Canada and Sweden (until the 1970s), and Japan (until 1996) indicating that torture of women and girls with disabilities by sterilisation occurred on a collective scale – that is, mass forced sterilisation. This policy was rationalised by a pseudo-scientific theory called eugenics – the aim being the eradication of a wide range of social problems by preventing those with ‘physical, mental or social problems’ from reproducing. Although eugenic policies have now been erased from legal statutes in most countries, vestiges still remain within some areas of the legal and medical establishments and within the attitudes of some sectors of the community:
from Facing History; you might also want to check out their publication for schools on eugenics here:
March 8, 2013
In San Francisco, a group of Facing History and Ourselves students is spearheading a movement that could change public high school history classes for generations of future California teens. Their goal: to include California’s history with eugenics and sterilization in the state’s public high school curricula. To read more, see the original post.
People with disabilities often were targeted by the state for eugenic intervention. Such policies and practices continue to impact the lives of people with disabilities. The word ‘eugenics’ often invokes thoughts of forced sexual sterilization mandated by a governing body. It recalls to mind 19th and 20th century ideas about a ‘master’ race, the Holocaust and ‘forgotten crimes’. Yet, eugenics often is seen as a dark era of the past, a regrettable fragment of history, beliefs, ideas and practices from which modern society progressively has distanced itself. But is eugenics truly limited to the past?
Eugenics is not just an historical experience. It is, arguably, a contemporary and future topic of concern for people with disabilities and for disability study scholars. To understand why we need only look at how the concept and practice were understood by Sir Francis Galton, the person who coined the term, and the way in which eugenics practices have changed over time. In his 1883 book Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development, Galtonintroduced the term as follows: “the investigation of human eugenics – that is, of the conditions under which men of a high type are produced.”
You can read the full article at the FEDCAN blog here
The state of North Carolina has recently been revisiting its extensive eugenic past, and the latest move is a statement of support for compensation for sterilization victims from the director of Legal and Regulatory Studies at the John Locke Foundation. Eugenic sterilization legislation was in place in NC until 1979; there are slightly fewer than 3000 living survivors of the regime of sterilization that was in place in NC until that time.
A book by Jane Harris-Zsovan will be launch on Wednesday November 17th 1:30 – 3:30
It’s a dirty little secret the heirs to Alberta’s populist legacy don’t want Canadians to talk about. In 1928, the non-partisan United Farmers of Alberta passed the first Sexual Sterilization Act. The UFA’s successor, the Social Credit Party, led by radio evangelist WilliamAberhart, and later by his protégé Ernest Manning, removed the need to obtain consent to sterilize “mental defectives” or Huntington’s Chorea patients with dementia.
The 5-year project, Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada will launch its public face with some inaugural events in Edmonton at the end of this week. All events are free and open to the public, and we welcome community and university members, individuals and organizations.
We start on Friday 22nd October, 2010, with a keynote address by Professor Douglas Wahlsten at the Telus Centre on the campus of the University of Alberta, at 7pm, entitled “Eugenics in Alberta: Science and Politics”. The talk is in Room 150, doors open at 6:30 and a reception will follow.
Events on Saturday October 23, 2010 take place on the lower floor of the Stanley Milner Library located opposite Churchill Square in Edmonton. We will be downstairs in the Edmonton Room, with coffee and snacks available at 9.45am and the first session starting at 10.00am. Members of the public are also welcome to attend a short meeting of the governing board, which will begin at 9.00am in the same location. The Saturday events include:
Dick Sobsey & Heidi Janz “Picturing Eugenics: Telling the Story of Eugenics Through Alternative Communication”
Erika Dyck, “Building a People’s History of Eugenics: Archives Past and Present”
Gregor Wolbring, “Dynamics Around Eugenic Acceptance and Rejection: Lesson for the Future”
Claudia Malacrida, “Creating an Oral History of Eugenics Questions of Scope, Ethics and Access”
The story below by Nick Collins is from the Sydney Morning Herald; h/t Peter Chen.
What year is it? From what they’re doing, you might think 1910, rather than 2010. And from the name of the project, you might think 1984. See also the earlier BBC News story, from February 2010, “Should drug addicts be paid to get sterilised?”
Charity pays addict $320 to have a vasectomy
October 19, 2010
LONDON: A drug addict has become the first person in Britain to be sterilised in exchange for cash under a new project.
The man, known as John, who has been addicted to heroin for 15 years, was given £200 ($320) by a US charity to have a vasectomy. Project Prevention, the charity running the scheme, has made similar payments to thousands of men and women in the US in a campaign to prevent them having children who may inherit their addictions. //
The 38-year-old man said he had been involved with drugs since age 11 or 12 and that the offer of money had prompted him to have the operation. ”It was kind of what spurred me into doing it in a way. It was something that I’d been thinking about for a long time and something that I’d already made my mind up that I wanted to do. Just hadn’t got around to it.” The charity began offering the cash incentive to British addicts after paying 3500 Americans to be sterilised.
During the summer, Monkee Armada put up a couple of posts on the “secret history” of American eugenics. While most of this is not exactly secret, there are some interesting details, especially about North Carolina. You can see part 1 here and part 2 (with it’s NC focus) right here.
One of the things that Monkee Armada focuses on are the demographics of eugenic sterilization in North Carolina, especially those of sex and race. For example, 6/7 sterilizations were of women, and the proportion of those sterilized class as Black shifted from 23% in the 1930s and 40s to high 50s – low 60s during the 1960s. But I’m curious as to whether the shift in racial sterilization rates was, seemingly like shifts in the sterilization rates of women (which approximated 100% during the 1960s) a function simply of sterilizing fewer members Continue reading →
The new 1264-page Encyclopedia of American Disability History now appears to be shipping. Susan Burch is the editor of this massive, three volume Tome that retails for $295 (US) from Facts on File. Burch is well known for her work in deafness, such as Signs of Resistance: American Deaf Cultural History, 1900 to World War II as well as her work more generally in the history of disability. Paul Longmore has also contributed a foreword to the book, and there is a very long list of contributors. Even I got to write a few entries, including biographical pieces on two of my favorite people Barabara Waxman-Fiduccia and Dale Evans Rogers. Continue reading →
The following letter by What Sorts Network member Nick Supina III, an Edmonton-based artist with a cognitive disability, was published in the Edmonton Journal on Sunday, 25th October, 2009, in response to an article by Paula Simons on October 13th. Nick’s letter can be viewed at the journal site right here. Congratulations to Nick on getting the letter published!
Re: “Posthumous Senate appointments bittersweet victory,” by Paula Simons, Oct. 13.
Paula Simons applauds Canada’s Senate for naming Alberta’s “Famous 5” suffrage pioneers as honourary senators to mark the 80th anniversary of the landmark “Persons Case” ruling, which established that Canadian women were “persons” with the right to hold public office, including a Senate appointment. To her credit, Simons acknowledged that some of these appointees were “staunch advocates of Alberta’s despicable eugenics program of forced sterilization of people deemed ‘unfit to breed.’ ” Simons also wrote, “Certainly, it is one of the painful ironies of Alberta’s history that some of the same crusaders who led the flight for votes for women, then turned around and used the political power they had won to undermine the human rights of some of the most marginalized and vulnerable citizens.”
To know the history of eugenics is to know the “eugenics irony” is more than that which Simons acknowledged. Continue reading →
As debate has raged over nationalized health care in the US–i.e., the kind of health care that the rest of the wealthy part of the world enjoys–there have been more than a few smart, savvy, and evocative interventions in the webosphere. Here’s one, linking the history of eugenics in North Carolina, about which we have blogged here, with “government health care”
Make no mistake about it: stories like the one told in the video are sadly common, though neither commonly told nor known. Eugenic sterilization continued until the 1970s and even 1980s in a number of North American jurisdictions. Although the particular groups of people disproportionally sterilized (relative to their numbers in the population) varied from place to place, there were two commonalities: Continue reading →
In North Carolina over 7,600 people were sterilized between 1929 and 1974 under the state’s Eugenics Sterilization Program. Indiana was the first state to implement such a program, and eventually over 30 states followed suit, including North Carolina in 1929. The Eugenics Board of North Carolina reviewed petitions for sterilizations and authorized sterilizations in over 90% of cases. Of those sterilized, approximately 38% were black and 84% were female; moreover, 71% were classified as “feebleminded.” While most states’ sterilization programs diminished in scope after World War II, almost 80% of North Carolina’s cases occurred after 1945. By the late 1960’s over 60% of those sterilized in North Carolina were black and 99% were female.