Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > "A Great Blessing to Defective Humanity": Women and the Eugenics Movement in North Carolina, 1910-1940

This thesis examines the various ways that white middle-class women in early twentieth-century North Carolina drew on eugenics ideology as part of broad social reform efforts. Several groups of women--clubwomen, female state welfare officials, and female social workers--had divergent goals in their appropriation of eugenics principles, but nevertheless cooperated to create state-run custodial institutions and a sterilization program. I analyze how female reformers' individual circumstances and identities tinged their political stances and forays into eugenics and progressivism, emphasizing the diversity of viewpoints among women reformers in North Carolina. I argue that examining the way individuals interpreted and employed eugenics principles is critical to understanding the eugenics movement generally, as it provides a nuanced view of the impact of eugenics on the lives of both reformers and targets--their fellow citizens.