Eugenics in Oregon

Although the concepts of eugenics have existed long before, the term was first coined by Francis Galton in 1883. Galton, a half-cousin of Charles Darwin, wished to apply the principles of the theory of evolution and selective breeding to humans. In practice, eugenics sought to improve the genetic quality of the human race by restricting marriage and reproductive rights for individuals deemed degenerate.

Oregon was one of 33 states to enact eugenics law in America. Bethenia Angelina Owens-Adair, one of Oregon's first female physicians, helped write and promote the bill that was used to create the Oregon Board of Eugenics. The bill was first introduced and passed in 1909, but was vetoed by Governor George Chamberlain. The second bill was introduced, passed, and signed by Governor Oswald West in 1913. The Anti-Sterilization League, led by Lora Cornelia Little, succeeded in getting a referendum that repealed the Oregon Sterilization Act of 1913. But in 1917, the bill was re-introduced and signed into law without need for a voter-approved referendum. The 1917 statute established the Board of Eugenics, responsible for determining which individuals would be sterilized. The law was amended in 1919 to include an appeals process for patients and their families, and was codified into Oregon statute in 1920.

In 1921, the 1917 statute was deemed unconstitutional by the Circuit Court of Marion County on the grounds of some unfair proceedings. The Board of Eugenics revised their practices, and a new law was signed and passed in 1923 to bring eugenics back to Oregon. The Board of Eugenics changed its name to the Board of Social Protection in 1967, after WWII and during the Civil Rights Movement. However, their practices remained unchanged. The last known forced sterilization occurred in 1981. A subcommittee of the Oregon State Senate finally repealed the eugenics statute and abolished the board in 1983. Governor John Kitzhaber, a member of that subcommittee, issued a formal apology on December 2, 2002, and declared December 10th as Human Rights Day. In his address, he states, "as we celebrate the progress we’ve made, we must also acknowledge the realities that darken the history of our state institutions." There was a total of 2,648 individuals sterilized in Oregon.

View the full Eugenics Collection in the State Library catalog. This digital highlight was debuted in December 2017.

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Away from the public gaze: a history of the Fairview Training Center and the...
Away from the public gaze: a history of the Fairview Training Center and the...
Creator: Ferguson, Philip M, Ferguson, Dianne L, Brodsky, Meredith Morgan , 1947-, Western Oregon University Teaching Research Institute
Date: [2008], 2008
This archived document is maintained by the Oregon State Library as part of the Oregon Documents Depository Program. It is for informational purposes and may not be suitable for legal purposes., Title from cover, "February 2008.", Includes bibliographical references, Mode of access: Internet from the Oregon Government Publications Collection.
Digest of existing legislation in the various states regarding the sterilization...
Digest of existing legislation in the various states regarding the sterilization...
Creator: Society of Sanitary and Moral Prophylaxis
Date: 1916, 1916
Title from PDF cover (viewed on October 12, 2017)., This archived document is maintained by the State Library of Oregon as part of the Oregon Documents Depository Program. It is for informational purposes and may not be suitable for legal purposes., Mode of access: Internet from the Oregon Government Publications Collection., Text in English.
Dr. Owens-Adair; some of her life experiences
Dr. Owens-Adair; some of her life experiences
Date: [1906?], 1906, 1906
Title from PDF title page (viewed on November 7, 2017)., Mode of access: Internet from the Oregon Government Publications Collection., Text in English., This archived document is maintained by the Oregon State Library as part of the Oregon Documents Depository Program. It is for informational purposes and may not be suitable for legal purposes.
Education in sex and heredity: a practical program
Education in sex and heredity: a practical program
Creator: Grant, Henry M., Oregon Social Hygiene Society (publisher.)
Date: 1921, 1921
The need -- The attitude of children -- Adolescence -- Marriage -- Immigration -- Mating in relation to the offspring -- Grade school work -- The plan -- High school work -- College work., "Advance print from Social hygiene, January 1922, Vol. VIII, No. 1"--Cover., Title from PDF caption (viewed on October 10, 2017)., This archived document is maintained by the State Library of Oregon as part of the Oregon Documents Depository Program. It is for informational purposes and may not be suitable for legal purposes., Mode of access: Internet from the Oregon Government Publications Collection., Text in English.
Education in sex and heredity: a practical program for preparing men and women...
Education in sex and heredity: a practical program for preparing men and women...
Creator: Grant, Henry M. (author.), Oregon Social Hygiene Society (issuing body.)
Date: 1922, 1922
Revision of an article originally appearing in Social hygiene, January, 1922, v. 8, no. 1., Title from PDF cover (viewed on October 10, 2017)., This archived document is maintained by the State Library of Oregon as part of the Oregon Documents Depository Program. It is for informational purposes and may not be suitable for legal purposes., Mode of access: Internet from the Oregon Government Publications Collection., Text in English.
Eugenical sterilization in the United States
Eugenical sterilization in the United States
Date: 1922, 1922
Title from PDF title page (viewed on October 12, 2017)., This archived document is maintained by the State Library of Oregon as part of the Oregon Documents Depository Program. It is for informational purposes and may not be suitable for legal purposes., Mode of access: Internet from the Oregon Government Publications Collection., Text in English.
Eugenics in relations to the new family and the law on racial integrity including...
Eugenics in relations to the new family and the law on racial integrity including...
Creator: Virginia Bureau of Vital Statistics.
Date: 1924, 1924
Title from PDF cover (viewed on October 10, 2017)., This archived document is maintained by the State Library of Oregon as part of the Oregon Documents Depository Program. It is for informational purposes and may not be suitable for legal purposes., Mode of access: Internet from the Oregon Government Publications Collection., Text in English.
Heredity of feeble-mindedness
Heredity of feeble-mindedness
Date: 1911
Title from PDF title page (viewed on November 7, 2017)., Mode of access: Internet from the Oregon Government Publications Collection., Text in English., This archived document is maintained by the Oregon State Library as part of the Oregon Documents Depository Program. It is for informational purposes and may not be suitable for legal purposes.
Human sterilization
Human sterilization
Creator: Owens-Adair, Bethenia , 1840-1926
Date: 1910?, 1910
This archived document is maintained by the Oregon State Library as part of the Oregon Documents Depository Program. It is for informational purposes and may not be suitable for legal purposes., "A bill for an act entitled An act to prevent procreation of confirmed criminals, insane persons, idiots, imbeciles, and rapists": p.28-29, Mode of access: Internet from the Oregon Government Publications Collection.
Human sterilization: its social and legislative aspects, Lecture on hygienic...
Human sterilization: its social and legislative aspects, Lecture on hygienic...
Date: 1922, 1922
Includes index., Includes "Lecture on hygienic and pre-natal influences delivered before the Woman's Christian Temperance Union" by Mrs. Dr. B.A. Owens (1884)., Title from PDF title page (viewed on November 7, 2017)., Mode of access: Internet from the Oregon Government Publications Collection., Text in English., This archived document is maintained by the Oregon State Library as part of the Oregon Documents Depository Program. It is for informational purposes and may not be suitable for legal purposes.
Mental health in Oregon
Mental health in Oregon
Creator: Oregon State Board of Health, (issuing body.)
Date: 1960, 1960
Includes Actions of Oregon State Board of Eugenics for the Biennium July 1, 1958 - June 30, 1960., Reproduced from typescript., Title from PDF caption (viewed on August 22, 2017)., This archived document is maintained by the State Library of Oregon as part of the Oregon Documents Depository Program. It is for informational purposes and may not be suitable for legal purposes., Mode of access: Internet from the Oregon Government Publications Collection., Text in English.
Message of James Withycombe, Governor of Oregon, to the twenty-ninth Legislative...
Message of James Withycombe, Governor of Oregon, to the twenty-ninth Legislative...
Date: 1917, [1916]
This archived document is maintained by the Oregon State Library as part of the Oregon Documents Depository Program. It is for informational purposes and may not be suitable for legal purposes., Title from source, Mode of access: Internet from the Oregon Government Publications Collection., Text in English

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