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Eugenic Nation

Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America

Alexandra Minna Stern (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 361 pages
ISBN: 9780520244443
August 2005
$34.95, £24.95
Other Formats Available:
Many people assume that eugenics all but disappeared with the fall of Nazism, but as this sweeping history demonstrates, the idea of better breeding had a wide and surprising reach in the United States throughout the twentieth century. With an original emphasis on the American West, Eugenic Nation brings to light many little-known facts—for example, that one-third of the involuntary sterilizations in this country occurred in California between 1909 and 1979—as it explores the influence of eugenics on phenomena as varied as race-based intelligence tests, school segregation, tropical medicine, the Border Patrol, and the environmental movement.

Eugenic Nation begins in the 1900s, when influential California eugenicists molded an extensive agenda of better breeding for the rest of the country. The book traces hereditarian theories of sex and gender to the culture of conformity of the 1950s and moves to the 1960s, arguing that the liberation movements of that decade emerged in part as a challenge to policies and practices informed by eugenics.
List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations\
1. Race Betterment and Tropical Medicine in Imperial San Francisco
2. Quarantine and Eugenic Gatekeeping on the U.S.-Mexican Border
3. Instituting Eugenics in California
4. California’s Eugenic Landscapes
5. Centering Eugenics on the Family
6. Contesting Hereditarianism: Reassessing the 1960s

Alexandra Minna Stern is Associate Director, Center for the History of Medicine, and Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and American Culture at the University of Michigan. She is coeditor, with Howard Markel, of Formative Years: Children's Health in the United States, 1880-2000 (2002).
"Eugenic Nation is a masterful work that offers a bold and provocative argument about the impact of eugenics on California and the nation as a whole. Stern's analyses of US-Mexico immigration policy and 'eugenic landscapes' are particularly innovative and will surely change how subsequent scholars approach these topics."—Molly Ladd-Taylor, author of Mother-Work: Women, Child Welfare and the State, 1890-1930

"At long last a book about eugenics in California, which sterilized more people than any other state. Eugenic Nation reveals what fueled the movement, including Hispanic immigration, fear of disease, and environmental preservation. In all, an important and thought-provoking book."—Daniel J. Kevles, author of In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity

"Stern brilliantly exposes the dark role that the Golden State played as a leader in the closely-linked eugenics and early conservation movements. By demonstrating how theory became practice in California's institutions and laws, and how those ideas persist today, she reveals the survival of demons we thought we had vanquished."—Gray A. Brechin, author of Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin

"Eugenic Nation examines the science of 'better breeding' in the American West, revealing the intimate relations of race science, gender, sexuality, and population policy in the twentieth century. With this important book, Stern transforms our understanding of eugenics in the US."—Warwick Anderson, author of The Cultivation of Whiteness: Science, Health, and Racial Destiny in Australia

Viseltear Book Award, American Public Health Association

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