This web site documents the means by which eugenic goals have been introduced into the mainstream of American intellectual and political life, and the extent to which it has happened.
      Eugenics is a concept familiar to Americans in the context of Nazi Germany. "Eugenics" involves notions of racial purity, racial superiority, and the heritability of intelligence, virtue, or vice. Although Hitler is its most notorious proponent, eugenic thinking has held a prominent place in Western intellectual history since the 1860's, when Darwin's disciple, Francis Galton, began to put about the idea that the governing classes of England should consciously guide the development of the human genetic heritage.
      A comprehensive history of early eugenic thinking can be found in The Legacy of Malthus by Allen Chase. And additional background of a historical sort can be found in Aristotle to Zoos by Peter Medawar, himself a member of the English Eugenics Society. Medawar quotes Galton, as follows:

"I do not see why any insolence of caste should prevent the gifted class, when they had the power, from treating their compatriots with all kindness, so long as they maintained celibacy. But if these continued to procreate children inferior in moral, intellectual and physical qualities, it is easy to believe the time may come when such persons would be considered as enemies to the State, and to have forfeited all claims to kindness." (Fraser's Magazine 7 [1873] quoted in Aristotle to Zoos, Peter and Jean Medawar, 1983 p. 87)

      By the turn of the 20th century, such ideas were commonplace. Margaret Sanger, a member of both the American Eugenics Society and the English Eugenics Society, is a particularly well-known proponent of eugenics. This is but one of many similar comments by Sanger,

"Those least fit to carry on the race are increasing most rapidly ... Funds that should be used to raise the standard of our civilization are diverted to maintenance of those who should never have been born." (from The Pivot of Civilization quoted in Margaret Sanger. by Elsah Droghin.)

      The eugenic ideas of Sanger and her colleagues prevailed among all the major birth control groups of the early days. "Race Building in a Democracy" was the theme of the 1940 joint meeting of the Birth Control Federation of America and the Citizens Committee for Planned Parenthood. Indeed, the Federation proclaimed about Adolph Hitler:

"We, too, recognize the problem of race building, but our concern is with the quality of our people, not with their quantity alone ...
      "It is entirely fitting that 'Race Building in a Democracy' should have been chosen as the theme of the annual meeting of the Birth Control Federation of America ..." (Birth Control Review, vol. XXIV, January 1940. See also the entry in this book under Henry P. Fairchild)

      The rise of the eugenicists in Nazi Germany is widely known. Unfortunately, however, the moral generally drawn from this tale is that flaws in the German character explain the Third Reich. It all happened, supposedly, because Germans are too much in love with their own national heritage, or too sentimental, or too docile before authority. These traits, combined with antisemitism, "explain" the rise of Hitler. In other words, eugenical thinking is supposedly a menace particular to German culture.
      In truth, however, eugenical thinking has been spreading steadily in Western culture throughout this century. Even after the German embarrassment, the eugenicists kept right on pursuing the same goals they had always pursued, the same goals that Hitler pursued. But the spread of eugenics after World War II in the United States is not well studied or documented; hence this compilation of data.
      The information presented here aims to further the study of post-World War II eugenic influence in America. Earlier eugenicists, and foreign eugenicists, are studied for the sake of the light they shed on the post-War American context.

Eugenics in America

      The conclusions drawn by the author from the data she has gathered are as follows:

  1. Eugenical currents in England, America, and Germany were more similar than different in the period 1922-1939. Supporters in all three countries were allied by friendship, by organizational ties, and by mutual reference to each other's works.

  2. The American Eugenics Society database is a useful roster of U.S. eugenicists with ties the English Eugenics Society (Galton Institute), the vast English/Commonwealth/ European eugenic network. The Society survives and flourishes to the present day, although, since a name change in 1973, it has been known as the Society for the Study of Social Biology. The "modern" name does not reflect an alteration in the goals of the Society.

  3. Eugenical thinkers in democracies use different, more subtle tactics for the implementation of eugenic goals than did Hitler. However, democracy is, for eugenicists, little more than a political obstacle course. Eugenicists do not subscribe to the political culture of mutual respect which is assumed to be present in a democracy.

  4. Eugenicists were embarrassed by Hitler. After the war, they instituted various strategies to cover up the collaboration that had existed between German, American, and English eugenicists. For example, they adopted a policy of "crypto-eugenics" (or secret eugenics) and founded cover organizations like the Population Council and the International Planned Parenthood Federation to carry out their aims. There is little evidence, however, that American and English eugenicists learned any lesson from the German debacle -- except where public relations was at stake.

  5. The International Planned Parenthood Federation is one of several still-existant organizations which (a) were wholly sympathetic with eugenic goals at the time of their founding; (b) have carried out effective eugenic programs since their founding; (c) present to the world a nominal purpose which does not openly appear eugenic in nature.

  6. The eugenic agenda, in any form, is inherently dangerous. Relying on the illusion that they can (and should) control human destiny by shaping the human gene pool, they breed discrimination, trample on civil liberties, and undermine collective responsibility.

  7. Eugenic leaders need a certain amount of secrecy when it comes to their real agenda and goals, and this itself is an acknowledge of that fact that they are at odds with the "ordinary" people. This is a vulnerability that can hopefully be exploited by Eugenics Watch. Nearly everyone recoils from eugenic ideas once the ideas are clearly and accurately explained.

      The author's goal in distributing this material is to expose the institutions, associations, and intellectual disciplines which have been founded by, governed by or intellectually controlled by, members of the America Eugenics Society. The point is to encourage a healthy skepticism about the politics of these groups. For example, Planned Parenthood makes much over its program to reduce teen pregnancy, eliminate V.D., and counter AIDS. It has most notably succeeded, however, in reducing the number of births to people of color. To know that Planned Parenthood was founded by eugenicists like Margaret Sanger and Medora Bass of Philadelphia is to receive some enlightenment as to why PP continues, year after year, to fail so spectacularly at its stated goals, while producing what often passes for an "unintended consequence."
      The writer believes, too, that this database can help explain contemporary trends by revealing the influence of individuals having links to the complex global network of eugenics societies.

THE DATABASES

A brief overview of the official Goals of the American Eugenics Society is presented here. Also available is historical Background Information on the society. A Key to abbrevisations identifies sources of information in the collection and a Guide contains notes about the sources of membership lists and correspondence. There is also a Subject Index to the work of the society, and, finally, the main section of the American Eugenics Society database.