An excerpt from a book about eugenics laws in the United States, 1930.
This book, The Legal Status of Eugenical Sterilization, was written in 1930 by Dr. Harry Laughlin. It describes the legal decision leading up to the Supreme Court decision in Buck v. Bell (1927). Ms. Carrie Buck, declared feeble-minded by the state of Virginia, was ordered sterilized in 1924, but refused and appealed to the court system. Once the case reached the Supreme Court, the Court upheld the Virginia sterilization statute. Ms. Buck was sterilized after the decision.
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., writing for the majority in Buck v. Bell (1927) infamously stated that “three generations of imbeciles are enough.” In this specific case, “imbeciles” refers to Carrie Buck, a poor white woman who became pregnant as a result of being raped. At this time, the term “imbecile” also referred to a woman accused of promiscuity, a non-white poor person, a physically-disabled person, a mentally-disabled person, or a social “deviant.” The excerpt from the book discusses the state eugenical sterilization laws and why some were deemed unconstitutional. It also includes the legal rationale for why the Supreme Court upheld the Virginia eugenical sterilization law.