I have found a number of archival sources/exhibits online useful for infusing HSTM content into my undergraduate courses. The history of eugenics in America is always fascinating to students since it touches on so many enduring questions about reproductive rights, scientific authority, and the proper limits of state and federal authority. In my Women in the U.S. course, the struggle to secure women's bodily autonomy is a central theme. As such, I spend considerable time on eugenics and 'race suicide' rhetoric, the birth control movement, and the complicated class and racial politics of involuntary and voluntary sterilization throughout the 20th century.
The Eugenics Archive is a good site for students to explore to get background information and exposure to images from the time period, as is this site devoted to the Buck v. Bell case. When we get to the 1970s in the course, I have found this site on the sterilization program in North Carolina to be useful. The Winston-Salem Journal has done some excellent reporting to highlight the voices of women who were sterilized and to advocate for the compensation of the surviving victims. Discussing the coercive sterilizations of poor women, and especially women of color, helps to get students thinking about how the right to have children and the right to not have children were fused under the framework of reproductive freedom in this time period through the work of feminist coalitions like CARASA (Committee for Abortion Rights and Against Sterilization Abuse). Heuristically, this is important because it helps students understand the difference between late 20th century policies rooted in population control versus approaches based on reproductive justice. The Population and Development Program at Hampshire College has an excellent digital archive available for download on population control imagery that helps to drive this point home.
Assistant Professor of History & Women's Studies
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
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