Eugenics and Sterilization victim fears she’ll die before state helps her

Sterilization victim fears she’ll die before state helps her
By John Railey | Winston-Salem Journal
Published: April 03, 2011

She’s elderly now, one more victim of North Carolina’s forced sterilization program. One more victim who thinks the state may be waiting for her to die so it won’t have to compensate her for the wrong it did her.

“I’m 81 now and don’t have any idea how long I will be here on earth,” the woman, who was sterilized in Guilford County when she was 14, told me last week. “I feel like they did me wrong. I know it ruined my life. I don’t have a family or anything. Now I’m here all by myself,” said the woman, a widow who lives alone in a Virginia mountain town.

The woman, who asked that her name not been used on this painful, personal issue, was one of more than 7,600 victims sterilized from 1929 through 1974 by the program, which was as much about reducing the welfare rolls as it was about “bettering” society by rendering barren people who included the blind, the epileptic and the “feeble-minded” (which was often categorized based upon flawed intelligence testing). The Journal finally exposed the many wrongs of this program in a 2002 series, “Against Their Will,” of which I was part. Since then, politicians have been promising in vain to help the victims. Rep. Paul Stam, the House majority leader, wants to see it happen this legislative session in the form of $20,000 for each living victim.

It’s about time. And Gov. Bev Perdue should live up to her 2008 campaign promise to help the victims. She should secure health-care and education benefits for them.

I met the woman in this column through a letter she wrote me in 2003. “Mr. Railey, I think I should be compensated for all the grief & sorrow they caused me. Also they left a metal clip in my stomach. I’ve had nothing but stomach pains over the years. I think the state of North Carolina should be made to pay. … Most of this stuff in these records are lies.”

Her anger and hurt burned through every line of her neat cursive on blue-lined notebook paper.

She enclosed the petition to sterilize her. The operation happened in Guilford County at the close of World War II, when she was 14. She’d been sent to the Samarcand Manor Reform School for alleged “sex delinquencies.” The sterilization program often targeted reform-school residents. Although the program would later concentrate on black women of modest means, this woman, like most of the victims in the first part of the program, is white and was from a poor background.
According to the woman’s “pre-parole review” from the school, she had moved to High Point to live with an uncle and find a job. She was working “in a hosiery mill until she gave trouble by getting in with a soldier. … She started staying up town at night and in this way met the soldier. Her mother does not have any influence over [her] and carried her to the Juvenile Court. The court tried her and placed her on probation in custody of her mother. [She] began hanging around the bus station, left home and was found in company with a 16 year old girl of very bad reputation.”

The form listed a few “assets” the girl had: Vocational training at the reform school, “neat in appearance” and a “fair worker.” But her “liabilities” outweighed those: “untruthful,” “low mental capacity,” “very poor family background,” “little education,” “has a sneaking [sic] disposition,” and “seems resentful towards mother.” On the petition to sterilize, someone checked off two “defects”: “feeble-mindedness” and “sexual promiscuity.” Petitions to sterilize often read more like gossip than government documents.

The woman, who has worked as a cashier and as an inspector in a factory, is clearly not “feeble-minded.” Nor was she promiscuous, she said. The petition, she said, had a lot of exaggeration. “I had never had sex or anything like that,” she said. “I didn’t know that much about it, really.”

Her mother consented to her having the operation, the woman said, but “I know she was sorry later on about it.”

Back in 2004, the woman had written me a follow-up letter, telling me that the state officials I suggested she get in touch with “gave me the runaround & would not talk to me. So I was wondering how things were coming along.”

Seven years later, all I can tell her is, “Not too good, ma’am. Not too good at all.”

We should all be ashamed.


Clarence Gamble, funded the North Carolina Eugenics Society which sterilized this woman and many black women as well. Click Here : Clarence Gamble. Gamble also supported Margaret Sanger’s Birth Control Movement. Sanger was the founder of Planned Parenthood and she had many of her board members and presidents were members of the American Eugenics Society.

Listen to what the State of North Carolina’s Eugenic Board (Funded by Sanger supporter- Clarence Gamble) did to this “African American woman” : Elaine Riddick
( Interview From the film: Maafa21)

More on eugenics in the film Maafa21 (trailer below)

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