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Promoting involuntary sterilization: early hints of problems in the 1930s
A 1930s article published in The Journal of Heredity, “Beginnings of Sterilization in America,” is notable for the way it portrayed sterilization, particularly when it is compared to an earlier account of the same interview with Dr. Sharp that formed the basis of the article and that has been preserved in the archives of California’s Human Betterment Foundation.
February 2017 / 10 min.
Fake news, libel, and press protections against executive power
The press serves an important role in checking executive power in the American system. The first article in this series deals with libel suits against newspapers; the second will cover the publication of leaked materials (the so-called “Pentagon Papers”).
January 2017 / 4 min.
“Baloney Detection” in the era of “fake news”
In attempting to help my students (and extended family) recognize these categories more responsibly – preferably before they share them – I think it’s useful to remember Carl Sagan’s chapter on “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection” from 1996.
January 2017 / 3 min.
E. S. Gosney Papers and Records of the Human Betterment Foundation
As part of my dissertation on privacy and technology, I’m looking into sterilization in the early part of the twentieth century. The E. S. Gosney Papers and Records of the Human Betterment Foundation have a number of archival records capturing information about these patients, especially those who were institutionalized.
October 2016 / 2 min.
Privacy, autonomy, and birth control in America, 1860-1900
Access to birth control became, controversially, protected by the “right to privacy” in 1965; a hundred years before, “procreation was a matter of public concern.” Yet, contradictorily and confusingly, Victorian women – and their bodies – were protected (and limited) by a powerful social division between private and public spheres.
May 2016 / 6 min.
Victorian domestic specialization and gender roles
As the Victorian version of separate spheres solidified in the mid-nineteenth century, the “idea of wifely sainthood gained ever more credence as housewives found themselves increasingly isolated from the male-operated world.”
May 2016 / 3 min.
Justice Scalia on the Constitution, privacy, and criminality
Justice Scalia once noted that “the Constitution sometimes insulates the criminality of a few in order to protect the privacy of us all.”
April 2016 / 1 min.
Prohibition and the domestic home
The Volstead Act (implementing Prohibition), in keeping with American legal tradition, gave special recognition to the home and the private, domestic sphere.
April 2016 / 2 min.
Franz Neumann on the importance of history to freedom
Freedom, argues Franz Neumann, requires several kinds of knowledge (historical, for example), not simply the absence of state (or private) coercion – though that too is a necessary and critical element.
April 2016 / 5 min.
Eugenic sterilization in California: practicing “good medicine”
Indiana may have passed the first sterilization law in 1907, but before World War II, it was California that led the nation in eugenic sterilizations in an attempt to “apply science to social problems.” Such legislation was part of a wave of Progressive Era public health activism that encompassed pure food, vaccination, and occupational safety.
April 2016 / 5 min.