“The straights to which helpless woman has been subjected by the absence of pockets in her gowns have wrung from her many complaints that have availed her nothing.”
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.
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.
I’ve been working on my dissertation for a few months now (it looks at American privacy law over some 150 years, and investigates how technology interacts with that law). Some of that work will emerge here in draft form eventually, but for now I’ve been thinking about the theoretical/critical framework for my work. Much of this framework will be implicit — since I’m writing a dissertation in history — but it will guide me nonetheless. It will develop throughout the writing process, but here are some initial thoughts.
A “passive” version of the right to privacy — the “right to be let alone” — creates challenges for advocates against domestic violence. A more “active” version provides a viable alternative.
Technology & Science Studies
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.”
Science and technology studies (STS) is an interdisciplinary collection of analytic approaches. In his analysis of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Philip Doty pulls out four concepts from STS that he believes are particularly useful
The Supreme Court and James Q. Whitman’s “The Two Western Cultures of Privacy: Dignity Versus Liberty”
James Q. Whitmore reveals an interesting contrast: whereas American law and rhetoric is strongest when privacy is approached as a protection against state interference, privacy protections in Germany and France are at their peak when the dignity of the individual is at stake. Justice Kennedy, interestingly, emphasizes this more European approach in a number of his Supreme Court decisions.
Was President Trump right when he tweeted that “all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon“? It is true that the power of the President of the United States to issue pardons is indeed one of the president’s most powerful Article II powers — but, it is also, despite the implication of President Trump’s tweet, limited.
Within a month of taking office, President Donald Trump announced his desire to go after “leakers” who have helped embroil his administration in controversy. He also declared many traditional news outlets to be “enem[ies] of the American People!” What does this mean for those who publish such material?
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.