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[Detail] Millions of acres, Iowa and Nebraska, 1872

Historical Research

Eugenics was a pseudo-scientific movement based on racism that gained popularity in the United States in the early twentieth century. According to the Dolan DNA Research Center, "Eugenics was, quite literally, an effort to breed better human beings – by encouraging the reproduction of people with 'good' genes and discouraging those with 'bad' genes. Eugenicists effectively lobbied for social legislation to keep racial and ethnic groups separate, to restrict immigration from southern and eastern Europe, and to sterilize people considered 'genetically unfit'" ( An American Time Capsule includes two documents about the latter effort of the eugenics advocates.

Examine the 12 points in the flyer "Effects of Eugenic Sterilization as Practiced in California" circulated by the Human Betterment Foundation of Pasadena, California (ca.1937), and the more detailed pamphlet "Human Sterilization Today" printed by the Foundation in 1938. As you read, make notes about things you would like to know more about. For example, you might want to know how popular the concept of eugenics was in the 1930s. Formulate at least three inquiry questions about the eugenics movement and develop a strategy for finding the answers. The Dolan DNA Research Center's site may be a good place to start your research.