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

Building a Better Race Gender Sexuality and Eugenics from the Turn of the Century to the Baby Boom Wendy Kline s lucid cultural history of eugenics in America emphasizes the movement s central continuing interaction with popular notions of gender and morality Kline shows how eugenics could seem a

Wendy Kline s lucid cultural history of eugenics in America emphasizes the movement s central, continuing interaction with popular notions of gender and morality Kline shows how eugenics could seem a viable solution to problems of moral disorder and sexuality, especially female sexuality, during the first half of the twentieth century Its appeal to social conscience andWendy Kline s lucid cultural history of eugenics in America emphasizes the movement s central, continuing interaction with popular notions of gender and morality Kline shows how eugenics could seem a viable solution to problems of moral disorder and sexuality, especially female sexuality, during the first half of the twentieth century Its appeal to social conscience and shared desires to strengthen the family and civilization sparked widespread public as well as scientific interest.Kline traces this growing public interest by looking at a variety of sources, including the astonishing morality masque that climaxed the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition the nationwide correspondence of the influential Human Betterment Foundation in Pasadena, California the medical and patient records of a model state institution that sterilized thousands of allegedly feebleminded women in California between 1900 and 1960 the surprising political and popular support for sterilization that survived initial interest in, and then disassociation from, Nazi eugenics policies and a widely publicized court case in 1936 involving the sterilization of a wealthy young woman deemed unworthy by her mother of having children.Kline s engaging account reflects the shift from negative eugenics preventing procreation of the unfit to positive eugenics, which encouraged procreation of the fit, and it reveals that the golden age of eugenics actually occurred long after most historians claim the movement had vanished The middle class passion for parenthood in the 50s had its roots, she finds, in the positive eugenics campaign of the 30s and 40s Many issues that originated in the eugenics movement remain controversial today, such as the use of IQ testing, the medical ethics of sterilization, the moral and legal implications of cloning and genetic screening, and even the debate on family values of the 1990s Building a Better Race not only places eugenics at the center of modern reevaluations of female sexuality and morality but also acknowledges eugenics as an essential aspect of major social and cultural movements in the twentieth century.

One thought on “Building a Better Race: Gender, Sexuality, and Eugenics from the Turn of the Century to the Baby Boom”

  1. Very interesting and very informative. I have read one other book about eugenics, so some of the information contained in this book was not new to me, but still just as appalling. The author discusses negative eugenics ( the segregation and sterilization of the "unfit") and positive eugenics ( the promotion of marriage and motherhood of the white middle class for the betterment of the race).A couple of my favorite outrageous quotes:The "aggressive, overactive wife" was likely to be a discontente [...]

  2. We read this in my Gender and Science course. It is the most compelling book that I've read on eugenics -- and that's saying something! The sharper focus on gender, race, and sexuality is refreshing -- as is the stronger attention to public reactions to eugenics.Really, my only complaint about the book is that the title makes the book sound more wide-reaching than the content actually is. The book focuses mainly on California -- which, admittedly, was a major bellwether for eugenics in the US, a [...]

  3. By far my favorite book about the history of Eugenics. It is an approachable text that clearly outlines many of the factors which led to the eugenic movement in the 20th century. Further, she shows how eugenics is still alive and well in many respects with conservative organizations that push for only "fit" or "proper" families. A must read for anyone interested in history, race, sexuality, or modern politics.

  4. Contains a very useful account of the sterilization movement in California, and a thoughtful accounting of how it reflected changing sexual mores and was enabled by the advancing technology of sterilization. Not much transnational context.

  5. A rather plodding analysis of otherwise fascinating source material. Kline tends to repeat herself, making and remaking the same point ad nauseam, but the untold history of California's eugenics movement is riveting enough to make up for the shortcomings in the writing itself.

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