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Better for All the World: The Secret History of Forced Sterilization and America's Quest for Racial Purity Hardcover – February 21, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
In the early years of the 20th century, a fixation on eugenics led several states to approve forced sterilization to keep thousands of Americans from producing "morally inferior" or "feeble-minded" offspring. Bruinius's greatest accomplishment in his retelling of this blot on our nation's history is forcing readers to recognize the humanity of the victims of these policies. He begins with Carrie Buck, a young Virginia woman used by state medical authorities as a test case to get the courts to legitimize their program. At times, Bruinius's account of the events leading up to her sterilization employs a novelistic level of detail, such as recreating the mental state of participants, a technique also applied to discussing the lives of the scientists whose theories drove the eugenics movement. (These stories have their bittersweet ironies; one leading eugenicist was an epileptic, while another's daughter showed signs of dyslexia.) The tone occasionally slips into excessive moralizing when he underscores the relationship between American eugenics and Nazi Germany, but the connections are certainly there. This history isn't as "secret" as the title makes it out to be—it's been told most recently by Edwin Black in War Against the Weak—but Bruinius brings compelling drama to the narrative that should give it broad appeal. Photos. (Feb. 27)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From The New Yorker
In 1927, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of sterilizing a twenty-one-year-old woman thought to be "feebleminded," and Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote for the majority, "It is better for all the world, if . . . society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind." This precedent led to the escalation of eugenics in the United States, and the coercive sterilization of more than sixty-five thousand people (many of whom were poor women). Bruinius deftly combines analysis of how the American quest for moral and social purity prepared people to accept pseudo-science as a basis for national policy with an account of the personal and intellectual development of eugenics' most influential American advocatesCharles Davenport and Harry Laughlin. Both from religious families, they wanted to "retranslate" Puritan ethics into scientific practice, and aimed at "tracing the genetic roots of 'sin.' "
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker
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To example, while "War against the weak" didn't told that the famous american eugenicist Charles B. Davenport hadn't any grandson, this book shows that even having two daughters, both of his daughters had no child.
Even so, this book repeats many of the same mistakes made by Edwin Black's book "War against the weak".Some examples of these same mistakes are:
1-Even showing , about eugenics,the right way of catholics and the wrong way by protestants and jews, this book doesn't tells why among eugenics, religion decided so many.Support of eugenics was almost universal among famous jews and protestants in USA; at least until when Hitler came to power, in 1933.At the same times, Roman Catholic Church was eugenics' number one foe in USA.This book didn't tells that while Roman Catholicism had (and has) a Pope, protestants and jews were "following the bible", when they supported the eugenics.Such as happened during witch-hunting and slavery's times, many famous and powerfull people found on bible, support for eugenics.At the same times, there was not just one eugenics, even in USA there was hundreds of eugenics, while having tens of judaisms and hundreds of protestantisms.Jews and protestants saw on eugenics, such as a a mirror of his own religious believes.Only the opposition from Pope, priests and bishops didn't explained why eugenics was ever a failure, among catholic countries.Divorce existed in France and Italy, since XIX Century (both more than 90% catholics at eugenics's time).Eugenics was a godless religion, having many sects, even in USA.
2-Such as on Edwin Black's book, this book has too many space, about both Dr. Laughlin and Charles B. Davenport.They were both neurothic and crooks, but they were following orders from rich and powerfull americans; many of them jews.When in Hitler's times(1933-1945), they became useless both went to fame to nothing in a few years.About Laughlin's family, on page 180, this book writes:"Kirksville was the home of Andrew Taylor Still the visionary healer whose eccentric treatment methods physical manipulations to improve the body's natural functions." on same page 180:"Earl attended the osteopathic college".Well, osteopathy wasn't a type of medicine , but only quackery.Harry Laughlin's family was linked to quackery, but this book forgets this thing.
3-Too many american doctors of both sexes, were among eugenics's leaders.This same happended in every country where eugenics existed.Well, why this happened in USA and all the world?Because medicine was next to useless in eugenics' times.Even so, some decades before eugenics' creation, the doctors had replaced the pastors and religious leaders as God's preachers among people's minds.They were maily useless, but the people wanted something to believe.Having no medicine for the desiases, they told that eugenics was the solution, for medical and social problems in USA and many other protestants countries.
4-The same rich and powerfull americans who gave money, to Lenin, Russian Revolution and Hitler were also famous eugenicists.This book forgets this fact.
5-Feminism in America was deeply linked to eugenics.There's almost nothing about feminism in this book.
6-After World War II, eugneics became "population control" or neo-malthusianism in USA.Just one line of this book is about this very important fact.
This book is better than "War Against the weak" , but it remains a little weak many times.
Next, the author moves into a history of the eugenics movement (including its British antecedents), both prior to and after the Buck case. The leading figures in the movement, including Charles Davenport and Harry Laughlin, are all profiled in depth and their activities documented over much of the first half of the 20th century. The role of the Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations in funding eugenics research is also examined. The relationship between eugenics supporters and the infamous Immigration Act of 1924 also is discussed. The development of the compulsory sterilization device is as well studied and placed in perspective. One of the most interesting facets of the book is how closely the Nazis based their eugenics and race laws upon American examples, a somewhat embarassing fact that emerged from the Nuremberg trials. The last couple of chapters on several extended case studies struck me as repetitive and unnecessary, though they do add more of the poignant human dimension.
The author has included helpful illustrations and extensive notes. The writing is clear and moves along, although at 365 pages (not counting notes) the treatment certainly is not lean. Knopf continues its reputation for producing quality books that are a pleasure to hold and read--this being another example of the fine work of Berryville Graphics in Virginia.
I highly recommend it.