By Darryl Nelson
As an adopted person born in the 1960s, I undertook this research in order to understand how, in a so-called ‘civilised’ society, to forcibly remove a baby from its mother and supply to another family was deemed acceptable.
As Australia is a relatively new country in world discovery, it was curious to me how our laws against a single mother and its baby were so exacting; they created so many barriers with so few escape clauses. Either those that wrote these laws were geniuses, which I wasn’t prepared to accept, or the laws were developed elsewhere and modified over time. Even today we continue separation and adoption as a practice, ignoring its long-term mental effects on the victims, and denying adoptees access to their history, their true identity, their ancestry… forever.
Having read about adoption practices around the world which were remarkably similar in process,
I picked up on certain language that paralleled that used in Australia. This led me first to the USA and the pseudo-science and dangerous notions of Eugenics. And before that, back to Britain, where many of these laws originated.
Adoption is often promoted as a benevolent gesture. Yet I found entirely different motives at the heart of its genesis; greed and power. A need to control others; Rich vs Poor. The idea of supremacy, colonisation and eradication; White vs Coloured.
The forced removal of a baby from its mother started as an economic activity – by bearing a child, a poor nursing mother had interrupted the process of making money for her Rich master, so at first children, and then newborn babies were removed and institutionalised, to be trained as an industrial labour force.
Later in history, the Poor were seen as a cancer, to be eradicated. More controls were introduced to impair their breeding. Laws were created that ensured the mother was not supported if unmarried, including laws that purposely apportioned fathers no legal responsibility for their child. The idea being that if the Poor were unsupported, they would not breed. Governments then demonstrably didn’t see equality and human rights as a goal, and didn’t see the Poor as a purely social problem, which could be fixed with education.
Darwin’s theories of ‘survival of the fittest’ was corrupted into a pseudo-science called ‘Eugenics’.
In a ‘progressive’, industrialised world, everything it seemed could be fixed by those in power to suit themselves. Steps were taken to control the danger to humanity’s “ennoblement,” to ensure that the ‘inferior’ would not ‘gain power’. ‘Superior’, rich, white men were then able to categorise humans into those fit to live, obviously themselves, and those less fit, that should not breed.
Eugenicists evangelised that poor genes were at the root of many issues, so they created classes of people: the mentally-disabled, the deaf, dumb and blind, criminals, alcoholics or the drug-addicted, the sickly, the poor and uneducated, and those of course deemed to be from ‘primitive’ races (measured by the colour of their skin or dimensions of their skull). Laws were introduced that targeted these groups for sterilisation, whilst white middle-class families competed for who had the best ‘Nordic’ bloodlines (those inherited from white northern European ancestry).
Why didn’t society speak out at this outrage? It brings to mind a quote from a German pastor, about the cowardice of German intellectuals and certain clergy during the Nazis’ rise to power and subsequent incremental purging of their chosen targets, group after group:
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me”.
Because Eugenic classifications were purposely malleable, levels of mental disability were also created, and ranked in accordance with an ‘intelligence’ scale of what they called ‘feeblemindedness’. Designations such as “idiot,” “imbecile” (low/ medium/ high grade), and “moron” were introduced for those who outwardly displayed certain characteristics, and the scale allocated what level of thought they were capable of, and the types work these people could be used to perform. The highest level, the “moron,” comprised those persons who to the superficial view were often considered normal, but were somewhat backward or dull. The definition outlined two characteristics of this group. The first was that they were unable to compete on equal terms with their fellows; and the second, they were unable to manage their affairs with ordinary prudence.
The term ‘feeble-minded’ was then also applied to unwed mothers. The mere state of being an unwed mother provided the evidence for the classification, even if she had been raped.
Feeblemindedness was assumed through pseudo-science to be passed on genetically, so entire families were able to be classified in this way, and sterilised.
Many people were institutionalised. Sterilisation laws were upheld. Laws were introduced to prohibit inter-racial marriage. It was perhaps the minor moral dilemma for US Eugenicists that stopped the movement short of introducing laws authorising the killing of newborns, although some Doctors did euthanise babies with an evident disability, or indirectly kill them from neglect, as policy.
It was thought that a white child born to an unwed (therefore feeble-minded) mother might have its inherited low-grade intelligence corrected if it was taken and given to a white middle-class family.
Therefore we see an evolving change in the traditional parameters of adoption. Children that weren’t white, or had some ‘imperfection’, were less desirable however, so their fate was often institutionalisation or as a source of labour to white families, and in the case of native peoples, to be assimilated into a white culture so the savage would be ‘bred out’.
Nazi Germany took Eugenic ideas to the next step, and those not of the Aryan master race were sterilised, and many were eradicated through industrialised mass-murder, known as the Holocaust.
After the horrors of WWII, eugenics became less popular, its theories disproven, and it was transformed by renaming the movement to ‘genetics’. Laws however were slow to change, so its impact on sterilisation, marriage and child care remained for many decades. The eugenicists had succeeded in embedding their notions into social and cultural norms.
Social work became a new profession in the US, and many of the policies around adoption in Australia were taken from the US. Whilst ‘feeblemindedness’ was now stated less overtly, it was still applied to an unwed mother to justify the treatment of her during the forced removal of her child.
In the UK, Australia was seen as their model state, for its forced institutional ‘care’ (imprisonment) of children considered as unsupported, deferred or unfit for adoption, rejected, inferior or of mixed race. Often the social workers and doctors making these classifications relied on poor evidence and backward thinking. These orphanages were mostly run by religious organisations, and most children were not orphans. Australia in fact had the highest rate of institutionalisation of children than any country in the world in the 20th century. Many stories of those that survived these places tell of systematic physical, mental and sexual abuse, nutritional and medical neglect, by the ‘care-givers’, that negatively affects them to this day. Most inmates were used as child labour. Some children were used as the human subjects of experimental medical vaccines (some since found to be
carcinogenic) by universities and pharmaceutical companies, conjuring up memories of Nazism. 50 years ago, Australia.
Originally it was legally deemed to be ‘in the child’s best interests’ to remove a child from its poor mother precisely b ecause she was poor, so that the child be educated to be industrious and to fit with its ‘station in life’, that is, for economic reasons.
Later, it was justified to be in the ‘child’s best interests’ in order to ‘breed-out’ feeble-minded genes, as long as the child was desirable – white and blue-eyed, or Aryan.
After that period, the child’s so-called ‘best-interests’ was promoted via a religious notion that the mother being ‘unwed’ was enough of a societal sin that she be punished by the removal of her child, and that in turn, the child be ‘saved’ from this original sin by being declared a legal orphan, and adopted out to a married couple so that it be made ‘legitimate’. These were relatively new notions in human history, and when traced back, children by unwed mothers was commonplace. The stigma was actually created then promoted as one of the methods used to ensure an unwed mother would be isolated from support and therefore could be controlled.
A child’s best interests were legally flexible, they were changed over time to suit political agendas, yet the separation trauma remained constant.
It was not in m
y best interests to be removed from my natural family. I have a fundamental human
right to my true identity, my history, my ancestry. I was affected mentally by this separation, and the resultant pain and suffering continues to this day. I should not have been made a commodity to be taken and traded under a contract I had no party to. My birth documents should not have been falsified and the truth hidden. The right the government had to do this to me was derived from unjust and immoral laws created centuries ago and modified over time to suit the designs of the Government of the day. Governments still rely on these laws today to justify their practices.
‘There was different thinking in times past’, they say, to excuse historical policies.
When therefore did morality actually start? Don’t we, as humans, have an intrinsic morality?
Names have been made up to try and encompass Australia’s victims. The Stolen Generation. The Forgotten Australians. Victims of Forced Adoption. Although some governments, religious organisations, and child welfare groups, have apologised for past policies, some laws remain intact, and there is no compensation offered. After all, what indeed could compensate for separation of mother and baby? The closest bond of all.
I am a white man, and I indeed have ‘Nordic’ bloodlines. My ancestry is tied to the UK. However I can see through the racial practices of colonisation, assimilation, extermination by other whites through history. I can try to understand the injustices done to indigenous peoples and their cultures. I feel for the families that have been lost forever. I feel I’m bound to a brotherhood with those nations, more than to a white culture that has a history associated with dealing persecution without shame.
All I can hope is that we learn from our history. We don’t hide the truth. We question governments and hold them to account. We understand the origin of unjust laws and we no longer propagate these ideas. We treat each other as equal, one race, one humanity.
Timeline of adoption influence
- Ancient adoption practices put emphasis on the political and economic interests of the adopter, providing a legal tool that strengthened political ties between wealthy families and created male heirs to manage estates. The use of adoption by the aristocracy is well- documented: many of Rome’s emperors were adopted sons. Adrogation was a kind of Roman adoption in which the person adopted consented to be adopted by another.
Infant adoption during Antiquity appears rare. Abandoned children were often picked up for slavery and composed a significant percentage of the Roman Empire’s slave supply. Roman legal records indicate that foundlings were occasionally taken in by families and raised as a son or daughter. Although not normally adopted under Roman Law, the children, called alumni, were reared in an arrangement similar to guardianship, being considered the property of the father who abandoned them.
- Roman law 449BC – Law of the twelve tables “An obviously deformed child must be put to death”.
- Plato – Selective breeding concept in humans – 400BC
- Aristotle – defended the ethics of slavery. Aristotle’s defence starts with the idea that in order to be just, social norms must reflect what is natural. Accordingly, society may practice slavery if there are some people who are naturally suited to be slaves, because they ‘lack the capacity to be deliberate’.
- Christian theologians such as St Augustine (400 AD) said that slavery was inevitable, and that slavery was the consequence of sin and the ‘fall of man’. He quoted ‘righteous’ Noah, who established the principle that the good were entitled to use the sinful.
- Catholic Priest Thomas Aquinas (1250) largely agreed with St Augustine, and he justified this by pointing out the hierarchical nature of heaven, where some angels were superior to others. In the old testament, Leviticus 25: 44-46 stated that ‘you may buy slaves and they become your property’, although the new testament said in Galatians 3:28 ‘…there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
- Various Popes, however, over time, tolerated slavery. Some Popes had their own slaves. No pope or council ever made a sweeping condemnation of slavery as such. Institutions in the Catholic Church continued to be linked with forced labour even throughout the 20th century.
- The nobility of the Germanic, Celtic, and Slavic cultures that dominated Europe after the decline of the Roman Empire denounced the practice of adoption. In medieval society, bloodlines were paramount; a ruling dynasty lacking a “natural-born” heir apparent was replaced, a stark contrast to Roman traditions. The evolution of European law reflects this aversion to adoption.
English common law, for instance, did not permit adoption since it contradicted the customary rules of inheritance. In the same vein, France’s Napoleonic Code made adoption difficult, requiring adopters to be over the age of 50, sterile, older than the adopted person by at least 15 years, and to have fostered the adoptee for at least six years. Some adoptions continued to occur, however, but became informal, based on ad hoc contracts. For example, in the year 737, in a charter from the town of Lucca, three adoptees were made heirs to an estate. Like other contemporary arrangements, the agreement stressed the responsibility of the adopted rather than adopter, focusing on the fact that, under the contract, the adoptive
father was meant to be cared for in his old age; an idea that is similar to the conceptions of adoption under Roman law.
- 14th century Britain – the Poor Laws created (justifying the removal of children from the poor). The framework was created that it was in a ‘child’s best interests’ to be cut off from all association with, and knowledge of, its kin. A parent was only deemed fit if they could raise their child to be an efficient and industrious citizen. If they were poor, unemployed,
a single mother, or in some way deemed to be defective, they did not have equal status with other members of their own race and did not have the automatic right to rear their child.
The discourses that preceded the development of the Poor laws came about in response to several forces, the demise of feudalism which was slowly being replaced by capitalism, the Black Plague and famine, where people were economically displaced and had to roam and search for employment, or were forced to beg and became vagrants. Vagrants were seen as the public face of leprosy.
- 16th Century Britain. Vagrancy and Apprenticeship legislation was created which allowed for the removal of children as young as 6 and 7 to be indentured, where they were often cruelly treated and used as a source of slave labour. Vagrant children were considered dangerous, and a threat to the moral and social order. The ruling ‘elite’ considered themselves to be a ‘superior race’ not only over ‘native peoples of conquered nations’ (through colonisation), but over ‘their own working poor.’
The ‘Civic Fathers’ acted on behalf of the State, then over time the State gained control and interference in the private sphere of family life. Eventually the children of poor parents and
single mothers were placed under its regulation and control.
- 16th and 17th century Britain, after the plagues had ended, the rise of Puritanism added an extra dimension. The poor were poor, not because of unemployment or misfortune, but because they were immoral, idle, debauched and viscous, and it was believed these traits would be t ransmitted to their children who would then become h ereditary paupers.
The vagrant class ‘had to be stemmed’, and one way was removing children from this ‘viscous’ environment.
- John Lewis Vives’ book 1526 ‘On Assistance to the Poor’ has a profound effect on the formulation of the Tudor Poor Laws. Vives did not believe the poor should rear their own children, and his scheme included removing the children out of sight to institutions, to be trained, moralised and prepared for industry. He encouraged the wealthy and powerful to heed the warning, “when ignored the poor generally rise up to demand satisfaction of their needs”.
- 1552-1598 Christ’s Foundling Hospital practiced a system of boarding-out that pre-empted 20th Century adoption by 200 years. Impoverished mothers who bought their infants to the hospital were expected to r elinquish all rights over their children. The mothers were not told where the children would go.
The injury done to infants separated from their mother was acknowledged as early as 1759 by Jonas Hanway.
- The Poor Laws from 1572 and the Vagrant Child Act 1576 broadened over time to include the power of authorities to remove infants and newborns, not just children 5 to 14. Children were often harshly treated and abused. It included the f irst regulations regarding the maintenance of illegitimate children. Where parental rights clashed with the security of the State and with their definition of ‘welfare of the child’, they were overridden.
- These laws remained the basis of the poor law administration until 1834, effectively promoting child labour. The forced removal was justified on 3 grounds:
1.The parents were viscous and profligate (wasteful,decadent).
- The children needed to be educated to ensure they were moral and industrious.
- They needed to be trained in a form of labour that would suit their station in life to ensure they would not swell the ranks of vagrants.
These 3 principles were all touted as being in the c hild’s best interests.
- Slavery as we recently know it – commences 1619 in USA (1500s Portuguese, Spanish, French). One of the arguments put forward to justify slavery was that slaves were ‘inferior beings’, so their suffering is as ethically unimportant as the suffering of domestic animals. Some people took the argument further to say that slaves are beings who are so inferior that they deserve to be enslaved. This recalls the argument that Aristotle put forward.
This argument has often developed into racism to justify the enslavement of certain population groups – some of the defenders of the Atlantic slave trade argued that slavery was the proper place for people of African descent. A number of past industries have depended on slave labour, and the employers claimed that abolishing slavery would be economically disastrous.
- 1753 Britain. Lord Hardwick’s Clandestine Marriage Act was devised to protect the wealth of the gentry as daughters of wealthy families were forced into marriages because of a supposed promise, and to protect their family’s fortunes. The poor were also affected by this Act, so now were forced to participate in Church weddings when prior, they were often considered married and their subsequent children legitimate through a simple commitment ceremony in front of relatives and friends.
- Craniometry (measurement of skull size) now defunct science as an intelligence measure. –
- 1798 – The Malthusian Doctrine was developed by Dr Thomas Malthus, a p olitical economist that believed unless family size was regulated, global famine would ensue. Charles Darwin stated it was Malthus’ theory that commenced his work. Darwin and his cousin Francis Galton influenced Herbert Spencer who coined the term ‘Survival of the fittest’ in 1864 and was labelled the father of Social Darwinism, all of whom set the ideological foundation for the pseudo-science of Eugenics, so named by Galton in 1883. Darwin was a fan.
- In Britain, slavery was abolished in 1807.
- 1835 – Some clergyman noted that before the laws it was not unusual for a bride to be pregnant and without shame. 19 out of 20 were pregnant in fact. Some parents arranged intercourse with the expectation that marriage would follow. There was no societal stigma against this practice. Nor was having an illegitimate child a deterrent to potential husbands. After the New Poor Laws were created, testifiers boasted that pregnancy was ‘no longer a passport to marriage’.
Testifiers reported that “the remedy against the fathers for support should be abolished altogether, although it has been partially achieved by making proceedings against the father expensive and difficult, deliberately”. The express intention was that these laws would substantially decrease marriages between the poor.
- 1837 Britain – the clergy and Civic Fathers that testified at the Inquiry into the Poor Laws provided evidence of institutional discourse: they described the sexual habits of the poor as viscous, immoral and in need of rehabilitation. The custom of sex before marriage was described as an impending burden on the ratepayers and the reproduction of more paupers. The New Poor Law introduced the b astardy clauses, and classified new mothers as able- bodied, expecting to support themselves and their infants, while nursing, without help from the father.
• 1838. The elite construed pauperism as a disease in need of eradication, therefore f orcibly
taking a child from its poor unwed mother was justified on the grounds that it would no longer be an outcast, despised, contaminated and contaminating. Removing a child was no longer about training it to be an industrious citizen, but about ridding society of a particular class of persons by a ssimilating them into another.
- 1851 USA – first adoption law created. Massachusetts State passed the nation’s first adoption statute. It required that judges determine if adoptive parents had consent from the adoptee’s guardian or parent, sufficient ability to bring up the child, and that it was fit and proper that such adoption should take effect.
- Darwin – Origin of the species 1859.
- 1860s Germany. The father of racial anthropology was the zoologist and eugenicist Ernst Haeckel, and he published phylogenetic trees, classifying the hierarchy of humans based on features (skull structure, hair and eye colour) which were considered by him as ‘better’ or ‘worse’, ‘higher’ or ‘lower’. For example, the course hair of Papuan people was ranked at the lower end of the table, next was the Mediterraneans, then Europeans. The Caucasians were on top of the table.
- 1860s US – The Ku Klux Klan (KKK), is an American white supremacist terrorist hate group whose primary targets are African Americans as well as Jews, immigrants, leftists, homosexuals, Catholics, Muslims, and atheists. The Klan has existed in three distinct eras at different points in time during the history of the US. Each has advocated extremist reactionary positions such as white nationalism, anti-immigration and – especially in later iterations – Nordicism, antisemitism, anti-Catholicism, Prohibition, right-wing populism, anti- communism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-atheism. Historically, the first Klan used terrorism – both physical assault and murder – against politically active blacks and their allies in the Southern United States in the late 1860s. All three movements have called for the “purification” of American society and all are considered “right-wing extremist” organizations. In each era, membership was secret and estimates of the total were highly exaggerated by both friends and enemies.
The first Klan was established in the wake of the Civil War and was a defining organization of the Reconstruction era. Organized entirely in the Southern United States, it was suppressed through federal intervention in the early 1870s. It sought to overthrow the Republican state governments in the South, especially by using voter intimidation and targeted violence against African-American leaders.
- DNA – discovered 1860s, progressed over time until real use emerged mid-1900s.
- 1861-1865 – American Civil War.
- The number of orphans in the United States exploded amid the Civil War and as immigration increased in the 19th century. Homeless children crowded city streets, particularly in New York. Charles Loring Brace, a protestant minister who founded the Children’s Aid Society of New York in 1853, conceived the idea to relocate and find homes for the orphans. Between 1859 and 1929 some 200,000 orphaned children were transported from coastal cities to rural areas in the Midwest. They travelled on what were called ‘Orphan Trains’. The outcome of this controversial social experiment was mixed. Some say the orphans became indentured servants; others say the children were spared a life on the streets. Nevertheless, the program ushered in America’s foster care system.
- 1870 US – Alexander Graham Bell, one of the primary inventors of the telephone, was also interested in the study of heredity and animal breeding and was an early supporter of the eugenics movement, and was heavily involved in Eugenics at an international level. He
emphasized the need for legislation to prevent the entry of what he termed “undesirable ethnical elements” and in order to encourage the “evolution of a higher and nobler type of man in America”.
- 1870 UK – The creation of the Education Act UK boarding out system for its created de-facto orphans. School managers had the power to license-out children without parental consent. Although many children were abused through the Mundella Inquiry, although reported, no action was taken. Authorities were aware that boarding out of infants was a source of great horror to parents. But the Mundella report suggested this was the ‘surest means of social control’. Australian examples of boarding out were used as examples of reforming success of children, hidden away from their mothers. It was suggested that taking infants from their unwed mothers and hiding them was a very effective way to regulate and control their unworthy mothers. The State’s preferred child care measure was through adoption, because it:
- provided more secrecy
- was considered to cause even g reater savings because adopters took charge of an infant without payment.
- “Social Darwinism” theory is invented late 1800s.
- Eugenics – Scientific racism and white supremacy – Started late 1800s by Darwin’s 2nd cousin. 1900s becomes widely accepted as ‘solid science’ yet is unproven theory.
From its foundation, in 1907, the Eugenics Education Society made no secret of its ambition to orchestrate the reorientation of ethics according to biological laws. The first issue of its journal explained the objectives of the organisation as follows:
- Persistently to set forth the National Importance of Eugenics in order to modify public opinion, and create a sense of responsibility in the respect of bringing all matters pertaining to h uman parenthood under the domination of Eugenic Ideals.
- To spread a knowledge of the Laws of heredity so far as they are surely known, and so far as that knowledge might affect the i mprovement of the race.
- To further Eugenic Teaching, at home, in the schools, and elsewhere.
- 1865 USA. Official end to Slavery after the passage of the 13th Amendment. There were those slave-owners who wanted to ship the slaves back to Africa. Other racists, however, just wanted to ‘make it so they won’t reproduce’. So they set out to force-sterilise the black population, using Eugenics’ theories of so-called ‘f eeble-minded’ people, and later using ‘family planning’ especially located in black neighbourhoods to control their birth rate.
- “Gilded Age” (rapid economic growth and class divide in USA) 1870-1900.
- Late 1800s – British Government eugenic texts indicated that unwed mothers could be divided into 2 groupings; those which had family support and those without family or financial support. This second group was classed as vicious, immoral, racially inferior, and were denigrated by being accused of wanting to ‘rid herself of the burden of her unwanted baby’ as a method of propaganda to justify the theories. No facts supported these notions.
- 1871 – Charles Darwin’s ‘The Decent of Man’ published, where he said “Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to a degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed”. Interestingly, Darwin was sickly through his life and one of the classifications eugenicists used later would have seen Darwin as one of those unfit for life.
• 1899 – Reverend W R Inge provided a much more detailed analysis of the ethical aspects of eugenics in an article titled ‘Some Moral Aspects of Eugenics’. Inge’s contribution to the first issue of The Eugenics Review endorsed the potential power of eugenics; he argued that the challenge was not the technical aspect of eugenics, but rather the difficulty of deciding which traits would be most socially advantageous. He attacked ‘any supposed interests of Christian morality’ which failed to challenge ‘degeneration’, and said the height of Christian ethics was found in Christ’s command “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect”’. With eugenics thus given the sanction of Christ, Inge looked to Christian history to develop his argument in a more disturbing manner:
“Christian ethics does not (as is often supposed) teach the duty of preserving and multiplying life at all hazards. Once convinced that so-and-so was an undesirable citizen, the Church … lost no time in hurrying him out of the world. No doubt they usually burnt the wrong people, which was very unfortunate; and you must not suppose that I want to see autos da fè even of our most degraded specimens; but my point is that there is nothing inconsistent with Christianity in imposing as well as enduring personal sacrifice where the highest welfare of the community is at stake”.
- Late 1800s- early 1900s Dr Thomas Mathius (Britain) studied population growth in the US and advocated welfare reform so that the underclass would be prevented in ‘devouring all resources’, and that their reproduction must be controlled. Modelling on native Americans who were ‘kept in check’ through hardship and suffering of their women who live in slave- like conditions, he advised introducing measures to stop or delay marriages between the poor and to create hardships for poor women (1834 Report of the Inquiry).
The report claimed single mothers were abusing the system of poor relief and that providing assistance only encouraged more burden to the taxpayer. This doctrine influenced the New Poor Law.
The report had a section on Bastardy, which was explained as the support of illegitimate children in the relief afforded to their mothers, and the attempts to obtain repayment of expenses from the putative fathers. This section had the most direct impact on the lives of the poor. Mothers who had solid family support were not relegated to the workhouse, hence it was e conomics not morality that was at the heart of the New Poor Laws.
1839 – Act modified due to civil unrest.
1844 – the Act modified again to allow a mother to apply for financial relief (maintenance) from the purported father.
- 1880 – 1990 “Human Zoos’ were created for mass entertainment in fairs, pubs and theatres, exhibiting native peoples from different parts of the world as ‘real wild savages’. In the US, and in European shows, the king of human exhibitions was Phineas Taylor Barnum. Barnum had earned a fortune since 1841 with his ‘freak shows’, and he wanted to expand his exhibition of ‘freaks’.
(Earlier, since the 16th Century, human exhibitions had been reserved only for the elite, as Europeans imported ‘strange savages’ from far flung lands for the enjoyment of rich aristocrats at royal courts).
Many of the human ‘specimens’ in these exhibitions were victims of colonisation, who’s lands had been stolen though they had been living there for countless of generations; thousands and thousands of years. They had been deprived of their most basic rights, were made victims of violence and racial segregation, stripped of their self-worth and humiliated, and were considered little more than a part of the indigenous Fauna and Flora. Eugenics pseudo-scientific theories had rated aboriginal peoples at the lowest among the hierarchy of human races. They were considered unsuited to modern life and facing extinction. These
human exhibits had often been captured and stolen from their own lands and taken away to be put on display, often caged or put in compounds, and treated like zoo animals. Their names were changed, and they were given roles to play in the circus. If a subject died, because these people had never been exposed to the viruses and diseases which existed in foreign counties, their body was likely to be mummified and sold on to other fairs or used in museums. Many never returned to their homelands, and their tribes and decedents could never mourn their loss, inheriting their trauma.
Often these native people were also subject to racist, scientific studies during their time in the zoos.
- 1882 -1912 – The world was gradually appropriated and a second-wave of ‘modern’ colonisation by those that saw themselves as uniquely civilized; the European powers (Britain, Spain, Portugal, France, Netherlands, Prussia), and also the US and Japan. They grabbed lands in the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania. Colonization was a method of absorbing and assimilating foreign people into the culture of the imperial country, and thus destroying any remnants of the cultures that might threaten the imperial territory over the long term by inspiring reform.
The whites brutally forced their will over native people and exploited them and their natural resources.
At the same time, human zoos proliferated, for propaganda purposes, to justify colonial domination of the world and alleged white superiority, and to show the native people as ‘sub-human’. Black people were considered ‘proof’ of Darwin’s theory of a so-called ‘missing link’ between man and animal.
In fact, one Pygmy, Ota Benga, after his use in the 1904 St Louis World Fair in the US that attracted 20 million visitors, was sent to New York’s Bronx Zoo and kept in a small cage with a chimpanzee. 40 thousand people came to see him in his enclosure over a few years. A so- called ‘civilised’ society had degraded him and treated him with such disrespect. Later, after being placed in an orphanage and given a western Christian education. In Virginia, when it became evident when WWI broke out, that he could not return to his home in the Congo, he took his own life, 12 years after his kidnapping.
- 1891 Britain – ‘Mother and Baby Homes’ first appeared in England under the guidance of the Salvation Army in London. By 1968 there were 172 known homes for unmarried mothers, the majority run by religious bodies. A Royal Commission “On the Care and Control of the Feeble-Minded” reported in 1908, recommended c ompulsory detention of the ‘mentally inadequate’, as well as ‘sterilisation of the unfit’, so that it would be impossible for them to have children and thus perpetuate what were seen as inherited characteristics. Detention of the ‘feeble-minded’ – for life – was considered by the Royal Commission to be vital for the health of the wider society.
- 1896 – The US Massachusetts system, similar to the Australian model, was devised to hide children from their parents as a p unitive measure designed to control and regulate them. The Australian and New Zealand systems were strongly in favour of giving power to Guardians to board-out all children over whom they are legally entitled to assume control. The recommendations of the Mundella report includes greater control by Guardians over children whose parent’s “c haracter or mental deficiency may render them unfit to have
control of their offspring”. In the Adoption Acts 1939, 1965 NSW it was made a criminal offense for parents to try and locate their taken children. Malthus provided the social space for the eugenic movement to emerge.
- Toward the end of the 19th century, the US took thousands of Native American children and enrolled them in off-reservation boarding schools, stripping them of their cultures and
In 1881 the ‘Board of Indian Commissioners’ reported that ‘instead of dying out under the light and contact of civilisation, as has been greatly supposed, the most reliable statistics prove conclusively that the Indian population taken as a whole, is steadily increasing. The Indian is evidently destined to live as long as the white race, or until he becomes absorbed and assimilated with his pale brethren.” This was an obstacle to total American white expansion.
An experiment by Richard Henry Pratt, who had in his military charge several native American prisoners of war, and taught these men how to speak English and read and write, how to perform labour. Because Pratt showed the men were ‘capable of being civilised’, in 1879 the US Government funded Pratt to establish an off-reservation Industrial boarding school for Indian children, which expanded to boarding schools. His motto was ‘let us kill the Indian and save the man’.
Native American children were forcibly taken from reservations and placed into 350 boarding schools, hundreds or thousands of miles away from their families. The children were indoctrinated. They were stripped of their traditional clothing, and their hair was cut short. They tribal identity was taken away, they were given new names and forbidden from speaking their native language. There was mental, physical and sexual abuse to the children. There was starvation, neglect, forced labour, and death. This was genocide in an insidious way, it was disguised as American education.
Native American families that refused to relinquish their children into this process faced consequences, such as the withholding of food rations or their incarceration in Alcatraz prison. The result was children could no longer communicate with their own parents, they were disconnected from their culture, and their traditional lands.
During the same era, the US Government designed and enacted policies which infringed upon, and then took away the lands of the traditional peoples.
These same tactics were used in New Zealand, Australia and Canada.
Decades later the US phased out the schools, following years of indigenous activism highlighting the brutality and horrific conditions, yet it found a new way to assimilate and eradicate Native American children: promoting their adoption into white families.
To justify the ‘Indian Adoption Project’, they called the Indian child the “’forgotten child’, left unloved and uncared for on the reservation, without a home or parents he can call his own.” Some of these children had been forced to live in foster homes and institutions, so the strategy came with a financial advantage for the government; adoption would ease the burden on the public purse as it was cheaper than running boarding schools.
To sell the idea to white families, articles in magazines such as ‘Good Housekeeping’ provided the propaganda needed. Children were described as ‘unwanted’ ‘orphans’ and that ‘adoption could give them the chance at new lives’.
However the children were not orphans, often they had been ripped apart from families who wanted to keep them, by social workers. These social workers justified their behaviour by using catch-all phrases like ‘child neglect’ or ‘parents unfit’ as evidence for removal. Other reasons cited as grounds for beginning custody cases included ‘Overcrowding’ (children living within a larger family, which is seen by native American people as positive), ‘Poverty’, ‘Poor Housing’ with a ‘Lack of Modern Plumbing’ – the irony that reservation conditions had been designed and imposed by Government was lost on the proponents of adoption. ‘Whiteness’ was the benchmark standard to be measured against for child safety. Indian mothers that resisted were told by social workers that if they did not relinquish their baby, they would never see their other children again.
Many Indian children were bullied spiritually, physically, sexually and mentally in their white adoptive families. The effect was that some as young adults became alcoholics or drug- addicted to numb pain, or attempted suicide. They believed there was something inherently wrong in themselves, vs something wrong with the system.
In 1963, the project was reported a success by the people that set it in place, the Bureau of Indian Affairs. However, after a 1972 Senate enquiry heard direct testimonials by victims, the ‘Indian Child Welfare Act 1977’ was passed, which shifted the bias from child removal, towards the prevention of native family break up.
In a Vox documentary called ‘Missing Chapter’, a First Nation woman stated their cultural belief as, “without our relatives we cease to exist.”
- Late 19th Century Britain – The Malthusian Doctrine influenced the British elite’s attitude towards single motherhood and the development of punitive legislation and social policy. This similarly influenced development in Britain’s colonies. The poor were perceived as a ‘depraved race’ separate from the rest of English society. The Doctrine provided e conomic j ustification for treating u nwed mothers punitively. The intention was to keep mothers working by separating them from their babies, to reduce the population of the poor and to be a saving to rate payers. This purposeful stigmatisation of unwed motherhood not for moral, but economic benefit to the upper class, strengthened the discourse that unwed
mothers were ‘contaminating’ and ‘unfit’ to rear their infants, both in Britain and Australia.
- Statistics record 60-70,000 people being forcibly sterilized in the USA between 1900 and 1970.
- 1900 – New wave of immigrants to USA arriving destitute, creating slums, in contrast to the so-called ‘robber barons’ who had vast wealth.
A robber baron was a term used frequently in the 19th century during America’s Gilded Age to describe successful industrialists whose business practices were often considered ruthless or unethical.
- Massive demonstrations and general strikes in USA against ‘laissez-faire” capitalism which promoted rich-poor divide in 1900s, demanding better working and living conditions.
- 1909 – ‘Gene’ (in heredity) abstract concept/ theory created. It is still not scientifically proven to exist.
- Early 1900s – Wealthy family institutes (Kellogg, Rockerfeller, Carnegie, Harriman) funded scientific research endeavours to create biological explanation of ‘defective genetics’ to resist change in capitalism status quo against social problems. Did not want to pay higher wages or fund social support. Social support in fact had a legion of critics, who blatantly said it was keeping inferior humans alive, when according to Darwinian theory, they otherwise would have perished. Although Darwinian theory considered traits in animals developed over eons, the eugenicists considered their quasi-science could be applied within three generations or less.
- Eugenics leaders declare social problems have a basis in heredity (defective genetics). Harry Laughlin (Animal Breeder) of Coldspring Harbour Laboratory claimed they could predict good or bad traits by using mathematical formula from Mendl. Applied Darwin’s ‘natural selection’ to human society. Laughlin organised exhibits across the country to educate the public. Families underwent physical and mental testing to compete for ‘best heredity’ medals. The science remained unproven.
- “Feeble-minded’ mental health theory becomes part of Eugenics evaluation (definition includes promiscuous women and s ingle mothers).
• 1896 – 1916 The US eugenics movement, which sought to encourage the “wellborn” to have children and actively discourage and even prohibit the “unfit” from having children, became increasingly popular and influential during the Progressive Era, shaping public discourse, emerging social work practice approaches, and state and federal public policy.
- Eugenics argued that the lassaiz-faire policies that kept people poor and destitute were effective enough to maintain status levels and to i ndirectly eliminate them from the gene pool. “Don’t coddle or help the poor” through charity or legislation. Social Darwinists believed helping them just enabled them to reproduce more, to promote ‘survival of the fittest’.
- Eugenics movement considered euthanasia, some calling for lethal neglect or outright execution of unfit newborns. But agreed that it was too dear a moral price to pay. Instead, sterilisation was favoured.
- Biologist Harry Laughlin wrote the model law of sterilisation for North Carolina state, against the “socially inadequate classes (generationally poor/ disabled/ diseased/ drug and alcoholic/ blue collar crime/ mental health, blind, deaf, mute, deformed, dependent including homeless, tramps, ne’er do-wells) carrying ‘recessive genes’.
- The ‘ten groups of socially unfit’ humans created by Henry Laughlin and other eugenicists above, also included the feeble-minded, any pauper, epileptics (anyone that had migraines, seizures, fainting spells), the constitutionally weak (sickly people), and those predisposed to specific diseases, and those with venereal disease. Those races that were not Caucasian would automatically be placed into one or more of these categories on the basis of race alone.
Each of these are b road categories with n o degrees placed within. Those applying these categories had, in many cases, within their power, the freedom of a subjective analysis of a case. Therefore the control was assigned to people who had their own backgrounds and experiences, each of whom carried their own individual prejudices, around race, social hierarchy, religious morals, etc.
- Eugenicist theories restricted ‘mixed-race’ marriages in order to keep Caucasian race ‘pure’ and so limit the number of defectives, which were introduced into US ‘Anti-Miscegenation’ laws, which most state introduced, and which were not repealed until 1948 or after.
- Forced sterilisation laws in effect across many states in the USA– 1890 into 20th century – based on Eugenics theories and unproven gene science. 30 states enact these laws.
- US early 1900s – many administrators, alumni and faculty members from American universities were at the forefront of the eugenics movement. The movement was led by presidents of elite private institutions like Harvard, Yale and Stanford, and also at public universities like Michigan and Wisconsin.
“The Nordic race will vanish or lose its dominance,” renowned Yale professor and economist Irving Fisher warned in 1921. Eugenicists were anti-diversity. They considered immigration and racial mixing a threat. They spoke of the “yellow peril,” the “flooding of the nation with foreign scum” and the arrival of “defectives, delinquents and dependents.”
376 American colleges were offering courses on Eugenics by the late 1920s.
- 1900s Ireland – Some 9,000 children died in Ireland’s church-run homes for unwed mothers and were buried in unmarked graves. This was equivalent to 15 percent of all children who were born or lived in the 18 institutions investigated over 80 years. A 3,000-page report in 2020 described the emotional and physical abuse some of the 56,000 unmarried mothers were subjected to in the so-called mother-and-baby homes. The homes, many run by nuns and members of the Roman Catholic Church, operated in Ireland for most of the 20th
century, with the last home closing as recently as 1998. They received state funding and also acted as adoption agencies. The report noted the “appalling” rate of infant mortality in the homes, calling it “probably the most disquieting feature of these institutions.” In the years before 1960, it said, mother-and-baby homes did not save the lives of “illegitimate” children
- instead, through neglect, they significantly reduced prospects of their survival. The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, which carried out a five-year inquiry, also looked at allegations that some children in the homes were used in vaccine trials with no parental consent for their participation. Nuns told mothers daily that they were to atone for their sins by ‘working for our keep and surrendering our children to the nuns for forced adoption.’
Susan Lohan, co-founder of the Adoption Rights Alliance and a member of a dedicated survivors group appointed to advise the government, said that the institutions were a “form of social engineering,” and that the “state and church worked in concert to ensure that women – unmarried mothers and girls who were deemed to be a threat to the moral tone of the country” were “incarcerated behind these very high walls to ensure that they would not impact or offend public morality.”
Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman said: “The report makes clear that for decades, Ireland had a stifling, oppressive and brutally misogynistic culture, where a pervasive stigmatisation of unmarried mothers and their children robbed those individuals of their agency and sometimes their future.” The report did not appear to address the allegations of forced or illegal adoptions, or allegations that large sums of money were given to the institutions and agencies in Ireland that arranged foreign adoptions.
The commission also found that between 1920 and 1977, the bodies of more than 950 children who had died in some of the homes were sent to university medical schools for ‘anatomical studies.’
- Australia 1901 the Immigration Restriction Act came into law. It had been among the first pieces of legislation introduced to the newly formed federal parliament. The legislation was specifically designed to limit non-British migration to Australia. It represented the formal establishment of the racist White Australia policy.
- Australia 1905 – 1967 – The Stolen Generations where the children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent were forcibly removed from their families by the Australian federal and state government agencies and church missions, under acts of their respective parliaments. It was believed that through the removal of “half-caste” children, breeding out the ‘black’ could be completed within 2 generations. The intention was to educate them for a different future and to prevent their being socialised in Aboriginal cultures. The belief was that they were heathens and were better off in non-indigenous households. These children were taught servitude to whites, and often abused. Over time, at least 100,000 children were removed from their parents.
- In Australia, between 1908 and 1919, more than 800 Aboriginal men, women and children were removed from their homelands across Western Australia, separated, and taken to ‘lock hospitals’ on Bernier and Dorre Islands for treatment for suspected venereal diseases.
After being diagnosed by p olicemen as having suspected venereal diseases, people were rounded up, many placed in chains, and taken to the islands. The islands’ facilities were inadequate, people had no contact with their families back home, and they were made to undergo experimental medical treatments. Academics have said about 40 per cent of those confined never returned home, and more than 100 people died on the islands and were buried in unmarked graves.
Many of the people taken didn’t even have STIs [sexually transmitted infections].
Archaeologist Jade Pervan said the lock hospitals were established with racial motives; “We know that these lock hospitals were set up after the 1905 Aboriginal Act, which was where they didn’t want supposed diseases that Aboriginal people had, being passed on to the Europeans.”
Lock hospitals and variants of hospitalised incarceration existed in Australia until 1982.
- 1910 – 1930s in Australia Eugenics ideas were readily accepted because of the fears about the declining white Australian birth-rate and the threats of Asian invasion.
- US 1910 – Early social workers replaced previous moralising arguments with a belief that single mothers were somehow deviant – suffering from mental illness or of below-average intelligence. In her book, “Fallen women, problem girls: unmarried mothers and the professionalization of social work, 1890-1945” Regina Kunzel states that ‘Feeblemindedness’ was a diagnostic that enjoyed enormous popularity beginning in the 1910s, which seemed to social workers to provide a useful explanation for out-of-wedlock pregnancy. She noted that ‘In some ways, the conceptualization of unmarried mothers as feeble-minded overlapped with the evangelical understanding of them as victims of seduction’. For example, in 1917 it was claimed that only 14 of 138 unmarried mothers in Canada’s Toronto General Hospital could be regarded as normal. At around this time a Canadian commission that investigated the care of the ‘feeble-minded’ and ‘mentally defective’ included unmarried mothers within its remit; it concluded that ‘feeble-minded’ women should be placed in institutions ‘to prevent them from producing other feeble-minded citizens’.
- US 1910 – Dr Albert Priddy, founder of Virginia Colony for Epileptics and the Feeble-minded, started sterilising people in 1916-18, prior to sterilization laws being passed. His classification was that these people were ‘poor’ (picked up off the streets) and ‘sexually immoral’. He escaped a legal case with a warning from the judge, so he asked his lawyer to draft a law which would prevent him from being sued in the future.
- 1912 – the Australian Prime Minister Andrew Fisher sent top-ranking representatives to attend the First International Eugenics Congress in London.
- Young unmarried mothers in group homes were evaluated for feeblemindedness as social workers became increasingly convinced that non-marital childbearing and mental degeneracy were inextricably linked. In 1912, the annual report of the Boston Children’s Aid Society proposed “proper institutional restraint” of feeble-minded girls and women in an attempt to reduce the costs to the community of “allowing low-grade defective girls and women to bring into the world equally defective children”.
- 1914 – Illegitimacy conference in Cleveland USA recommended IQ tests in unwed mothers’ homes. The belief expanded to Great Britain and Australia. Social workers in Australia etc continued to uphold the notion of moral culpability and its relationship to low mental capacity, therefore an unwed mother was feeble-minded and neurotic because she was immoral. NSW Child Welfare Dept noted that they were moral delinquents with a low mental capacity (1956).
- 1914 – 1918 – World War I. 32 nations participate, 20 million killed.
- WWI reset attitudes to colonial operations, as the two great powers, Britain and France, chose out of economic and military opportunism, to enrol people from their colonies in 1914. The now believed native peoples could be civilised and put into useful service if kept under supervision. Yesterday’s savages were today’s brave soldiers or workers. But they were still considered ‘natives’ and not ‘equals’. The message remains the same, whites are the ‘masters’. The master race.
• US 1914 – Dr Henry Goddard, a well-known and influential hard-line Eugenicist, adapted the Binet-Simon method of IQ testing, to measure human intelligence and ‘scientifically’ classify them as normal or ‘feeble-minded’. He studied children of a biologically inferior genetic line that were adopted out to normal families, and then turned out ‘normal’, particularly when those children were taken very young. He believed then that given the right environmental conditions, a child of a (eugenically-classified) moron could be ‘cured’.
- These studies influenced Australian Child welfare departments. The problem of the moron is largely economic, stated another eugenicist, Fernald in 1924. Gesell, 1939 said “Practical people point out that every good adoption saves the state many thousands of dollars in sheer maintenance expenses”. Eugenicists were emphatic that only infants free of defects should be adopted out, those with defects should be institutionalised. This was back-door segregation and population control. It could be regarded as offering a sanitised version of the push generally by eugenicists to separate the so-called ‘feeble-minded’ from the rest of society, because it was closed in the lexicon of adoption.
Popenhoe (US, 1929) advised American adoption agencies that adoptive parents had to be protected from adopting ‘defective children’. This ‘advice’ was followed in Australia – infants designated ‘imperfect’ were labelled as ‘Deferred Adoptions’ and adoption would only proceed if a paediatrician cleared the infant ‘fit’ to be adopted. Popenhoe was a colleague of eugenicist Dr Arnold Gesell, a nationally-known physician and psychologist who used adoption as a method of social engineering.
- US. The second KKK started small in Georgia in 1915. It grew after 1920 and flourished nationwide in the early and mid-1920s, including urban areas of the Midwest and West. Taking inspiration from D. W. Griffith’s 1915 silent film The Birth of a Nation, which mythologized the founding of the first Klan, it employed marketing techniques and a popular fraternal organization structure. It was rooted in local Protestant communities, and it sought to maintain white supremacy, often took a pro-Prohibition stance, and it opposed Catholics and Jews, while also stressing its opposition to the alleged political power of the pope and the Catholic Church. This second Klan flourished both in the south and northern states.
- 1916 US – New York lawyer Madison Grant, a graduate of Yale and Columbia, was a prominent eugenicist and friend of President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1916 he published “The Passing of the Great Race,” widely considered the most influential eugenics book. Grant attempted to use science to justify racism. The book was translated to German, and after he became Fürher, Adolf Hitler wrote a fan letter to Grant thanking him and praising the book as “his Bible.”
- Following the end of World War I in 1918, the demand for babies began to grow. Three major factors that contributed to the new adoption trend included the sharp drop in population caused by the war, the influenza epidemic of 1918, and the development of a successful feeding formula. The number of adoptions exploded, and ‘closed’ adoptions became the norm. In closed adoptions, the identities of the birth parents and adoptive parents were kept a secret because, it was thought, this helped the child bond to his or her new family and avoid the stigma of ‘illegitimacy’. It has been shown previously that this term and its shame was invented by Rich authoring The Poor Laws in Britain as a way to subjugate the Poor class, and later embraced by puritans and The Church.
- At the end of WWI in 1918, the ‘Treaty of Versailles’ created an allied occupation of Germany along the Rhine river. The idea that those of ‘impure’ races (such as ‘coloured’ French-African soldiers) could hold power over Germans after WWI was seen as extreme humiliation.
Much State propaganda was spun to depict black colonial soldiers as rapists of German women in order to influence post-war conditions in favour of Germany after WWI. The State used the US example of how black slaves were hung if they had relations with while women, and the notion that blacks were an inferior race, yet now had power over white superiors due to the treaty. Many posters and articles were written. Yet the nationalists, revolutionists and racists were unable to prevent the cultures from mixing. The propaganda however had succeeded in creating an environment where these families and their children were socially ostracised.
One article, by physician Franz Rosenberger wrote, “Should we silently tolerate this fact, that instead of the light songs of white beautiful, well-bred, intellectually superior, lively young Germans on the banks of the Rhine, we will hear the cawing sound of dappled grey, low- browed, wide-nosed, course half-animal syphilitic mulattos.”
The mixed-race German children were seen as a potential threat to a ‘pure’ Germany. Sterilisation was proposed for the children of the occupation, as a solution to kill off the family tree, yet the laws would need to be changed to accommodate this.
- Included in the list of so-called robber barons is Henry Ford, a noted eugenicist. In 1918, Ford purchased his hometown newspaper, The Dearborn Independent. He began publishing a series of articles that claimed a vast Jewish conspiracy was infecting America. Ford bound the articles into four volumes titled “The International Jew,” and distributed half a million copies to his vast network of dealerships and subscribers. As one of the most famous men in America, Henry Ford legitimized ideas that otherwise may have been given little authority.
- 1921 – As in the EES, religion was recognised as an issue that required sensitive handling from the very beginning. The AES grew out of and replaced the Eugenics Committee of the United States of America, which in turn had been formed in response to the Second International Congress of Eugenics held in New York City in 1921. Henry Fairfield Osborn, who had secured the American Museum of Natural History as the venue of the 1921 Congress, wrote to Leonard Darwin of the EES less than three months after the Congress to state:
“I have the best possible news for you, namely, the hearty endorsement of the Eugenics Congress by the leading Roman Catholic prelate in America, Archbishop Hayes of the Diocese of New York. … On every side there is evidence that the eugenics propaganda has taken a firm root in this country. For the first time people understand what we are driving at and sympathize with the movement.”
- In the early 20th century, part of US President Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Movement was aimed at improving child welfare. At the First White House Conference on the Care of Dependent Children in 1909, Roosevelt recommended moving away from institutional orphanages and toward placing children in family homes. Consequently, other states followed Massachusetts and passed legislation governing adoption, but the consent provision was loosely implemented. In 1917, Minnesota passed a law mandating that a child welfare agency investigate all placements.
- 1922, Margaret Sanger, creator of the American Birth Control league a year earlier (now the group Planned Parenthood), publishes her book “ The Pivot of Civilisation” where she states “The emergency problem of segregation and sterilization must be faced immediately. The
feeble-minded girl or woman of the hereditary type especially of the moron class should be segregated during the reproductive period. Otherwise, she is almost certain to bear imbecile children, who in turn are just as certain to breed other defectives…” She said, “Moreover, when we realize that each feeble-minded person is a potential source of an endless progeny
or defect, we prefer the policy of immediate sterilization, of making sure that parenthood is absolutely prohibited to the feeble-minded.”
Sanger later advanced a ‘Negro project’ and even spoke to a Ku Klux Klan group, advocating a eugenics approach to breeding, for “the gradual suppression, elimination and eventual extinction of defective stocks – the human weaks which threaten the blooming of the finest flowers of American civilisation”. In a 1939 letter to Dr. C. J. Gamble, Sanger urged him to enlist the help of negro spiritual leaders to justify their deadly work, writing, “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”
In an article titled “A Better Race Through Birth Control,” Sanger wrote, “Given Birth Control, the unfit will voluntarily eliminate their kind.”
- Many US doctors euthanised newborns who they subjectively considered had defects.
US courts upheld their rights to do this. In 1924 the Buck Vs Bell case formally challenged the laws ‘against the socially inadequate’ which was upheld by the US Supreme Court. Carrie Buck stated that she had been sexually assaulted which resulted in the pregnancy, and that she was not by their definitions ‘feeble-minded’ or morally-deficient. Yet she was sterilised nevertheless. The man who assaulted her got away scot-free.
Interestingly, her daughter, raised by a foster parent, became an honour-roll student. The genetic theories used to win the court case had not proven true.
Carrie Buck’s lawyer Irving Whitehead had in fact, lobbied for and promoted the sterilisation of the feeble-minded, so although there was an inherent conflict of interest in him defending this case, this was undeclared or ignored. He did not challenge the determination that Carrie Buck was feeble-minded, but purely an individual’s rights to have children (under due process of the law, and the right provided under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment). When his challenges to sterilisation law lost, twice, in lower courts, the case went before the supreme court; it was his intention to have the sterilisation law ratified by the highest court in the land.
- US 1920s, at the height of the racial caste system known as “Jim Crow,” the US government embraced new policies promoted by eugenicists. Those policies included new anti- miscegenation laws that criminalized interracial marriage. The programs affected all racial groups but especially targeted women, minorities and the poor.
- 1925 – The Gesell Maturity Scale, a Yale and Gesell Developmental Observation Test of Child Development, proposed that mental maturation and development would be exhibited through certain milestones. This original scale is generally now considered not to satisfy the standards of rigor currently accepted in the field of psychometrics and is no longer used as an evaluative rubric in the clinical context.
However at the time, so important was Gesell’s scale of mental testing through photography, that Brooks and Brooks, in one of the first text books on adoption, introduced the idea of testing during a foster period prior to adoption. This neutralised the prospect that a potential adopter could receive a ‘defective’ baby. Clearly, social engineering. If an adopter took a defective child, they had to promise to ensure it would not breed.
- Gesell did not consider single mothers fit to raise their infants and concluded the idea to keep them together was a ‘sentimental idea’. Gesell worked with many American adoption institutions, advising on policy. Maternal instinct, the eugenicists said, is nothing more or less than the acceptance of parental responsibility (Brooks and Brooks 1937). Gesell collaborated with the Children’s Bureau (1926) and Child Welfare League of America (1927) on pamphlets promoting eugenic adoption, and used a publication called ‘The Terrifying
Ordeal” to state the notion of unwed pregnancy was something so terrible as to be unspeakable”.
- G Stanley Hall was an American psychologist and founder of the Child Study Movement. He taught and influenced many leading eugenicists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Hall’s theories were well received in Australia. Hall developed a theory, while experimenting on ‘savages’ that they functioned normally at the level of moral insanity. Hall’s theory stated that when a civilised person was supposedly morally insane, he suffered not from an acquired disease, but of incomplete maturity. Unwed mothers were frequently referred to as ‘immature’ by reason of their unwed status, and this precluded them from making any decisions regarding their children. Gesell, Goddard and Hall argued that an unwed mother had a primitive, undeveloped mindset, which had not yet reached a stage of evolution where the mind was strong enough to resist antisocial impulses.
This notion of immature ‘girls’ was still being used in adoption in Australia as late as 1967. (‘Girl’ was a code often written by social workers to describe the natural mother. A ‘nice girl’ was notation code for one complying with their adoption processes).
Hall’s notion of ‘social deviance’ was cited as evidence of mental deficiency, and if they were seen to violate the moral codes of the upper-middle class they were classed as ‘moral imbeciles’, ‘feeble-minded or morons’.
- Early 20th century social workers, such as Elizabeth Kite, collected data for the study conducted by Goddard. The purpose of the study was to prove that immorality/ feeblemindedness was inherited and to therefore justify segregation and/ or sterilisation. Kite viewed the working-class poor and said, “the poor who lacked such a domestic sphere, lacked the rights of other citizens particularly as it related to being considered fit to parent their children”.
- Master Race ideal imported into Germany (Eugenics taken from USA to Nazi Germany under Hitler). “I have studied with great interest the laws of several American states concerning prevention of reproduction”, said Adolf Hitler.
- 1920s, US Congress debated how to strictly control immigration, whether to impose racial quotas, and hired Laughlin as a special agent to investigate and provide recommendations. Immigrants were considered ‘low-level, dregs of humanity’. Laughlin attempted to show Congress how the Arians were superior to other races, using IQ data from arrival data on Ellis Island (people who took these tests were affected by the long journey at the time, from sickness, sleeplessness and hunger, and often times did not speak English, yet these factors were not considered in the tests, nor reported by Laughlin). In 1924 Congress passed legislation that meant immigrants that didn’t do well on the IQ tests were marked as ‘feeble- minded’ and deported.
- By 1920, social work professionals worked in a wide variety of settings and took part in the major social reform efforts of the day, such as the child-saving movement and the social purity/social hygiene reform movement, which initially focused on eradicating urban vice and impurity but, by the early 1900s, had shifted to a more scientific, medical approach that emphasized mental and social hygiene and eugenic concerns. Social work leaders like Richmond, Addams, Breckinridge, and Abbott embraced the language, methods, and public policy solutions of eugenics. In her ground-breaking and widely influential book Social Diagnosis, Richmond (1917) discussed morality, degenerate families, and feeblemindedness at length. In her introduction, she championed new treatment methods developed by the mental hygiene movement and by social reformers who advocated diagnosis and care of the feebleminded, suggesting that social casework should make use of these new scientific approaches. She recommended that while conducting assessments, social workers should
evaluate the moral and physical qualities of the family. In her diagnosis questionnaire for
feebleminded children, she placed m conditions.
oral behaviour in the category of a long list of i nherited
- 1920s Australia – the Worker’s Educational Association sponsored Eugenics tutorials and ran sex education classes by Marion Piddington. Eugenics played a central role in the Australian Council for Educational Research which was founded in 1930.
- 1920s – Social Workers such as Norma Parker and Constance Moffit studied in the USA at the American Catholic University. Parker worked with Dr Ethel Stoneman at Uni of West Australia and wanted to work in the child guidance field with Stoneman in Perth. Stoneman was a hereditarian eugenicist. Stoneman claimed that ‘the backward’ were more dangerous than ‘imbeciles’ and ‘morons’ because they appeared normal and were free to produce large families. She advocated segregation and sterilisation as a means of control over mental ‘deficients’. Stoneman had studied under David Starr Jordan in the US who was a leading advocate of eugenic sterilisation and established the American Breeders Association. Parker brought out ‘distinguished American social workers’ for periods to join Australian social workers and she encouraged Australian social workers to learn overseas. Parker was intimately involved in the development of the fledgling social work profession in Australia, working in Melbourne (St Vincent’s Almoner Dept 1932), Sydney (1936) and was the driving force behind the development of Catholic Social Work (1935 Melbourne, Sydney 1941, Adelaide 1942). She was the first president of the Social Workers Association of NSW (1946- 1953) and she helped establish the national association. She reformed the NSW Child Welfare Dept through the Child Welfare Advisory Council in the early 1940s. She lectured at the University of Sydney and had primary responsibility for the course of social work for 25 years! A eugenic evangelist, one might say, with the power to influence practices across the country.
- 1927 USA Supreme court upheld Laughlin’s model law was constitutional. “The principal that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the fallopian tubes”, was the court’s decision. “Three generations of imbeciles are enough”, said Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes from the opinion of the court. In the decision, he also stated, “ It is better off for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind”.
- 1927. The Keiser Willhelm Institute for Anthropology was founded in Berlin Darlem. Its director was anthropologist Eugen Fischer, a member of the Nazi party. Fisher became the intellectual father of the draft law that the German national socialists aimed to use to implement their racial hygiene policies, which laid down that “anyone posing a threat to the health of the German race should not be permitted to reproduce”. This law was called “the law for the prevention of offspring with hereditary diseases”, and was issued in July 1933, published by SS-preferred publisher Lehmann’s, in 1934. This new law provided a basis for the involuntary sterilization of people with physical and mental disabilities or mental illness, Roma (Gypsies), “asocial elements,” and Afro-Germans, as determined in eugenic theory.
- A member of Eugen Fischer’s staff, Anthropologist Wolfgang Abel, studied anthropological data on the so-called Rhineland Bastards’ (mixed-race children of post WWI occupied Germany), photographing and categorising features of 33 children ranging from 5-11 years old, without consent. He published his findings in a scientific journal.
But this was pseudo-science; race is nothing more than a societal construct, a political classification.
• 1930s there was a broader acceptance of social work theory, with its epidemiological base in Freudian psychiatric and psychological psychoanalysis, ‘mental deficiency’ became ‘neuroticism’. British and American eugenics provided a modern ‘scientific’ basis for child removal that reinforced practice and policy already established in Australia. Unmarried mothers were considered in need of strong social controls. If a single mother did not want to give up their baby, she was deemed neurotic in social work practice, which in turn reinforced the need for her to give up her baby. A closed cycle designed by social workers using psychological theory.
- In ‘Mein Kampf’, Hitler states, “It was and is the Jews who bring the negroes into the Rhineland, always with the same secret thought and clear aim of ruining the hated white race by the necessarily resulting bastardisation, throwing it down from its cultural and political height and himself rising to be its master”.
- 1933 Hitler elected. One of his slogans was “all politics is applied biology”.
- 1933 Germany introduces Eugenics Laws under Hitler. Sterilisation laws modelled on Laughlin’s classifications, and Germany even awarded him an honorary medical degree from Heidelberg in 1936 for ‘research on purifying the germplasm of the human population’. Laughlin was an enthusiastic supporter of the 3rd Reich, and he edited the “Eugenical News” publication, fawning over Germany’s progressive policies, hoping the USA would not get ‘left behind’ in applying the conclusions of science to the structure of society through forced sterilisation, and the emphasis on racial purity.
- When Jewish people were being persecuted by the Nazis, they were a seen as a central target of the racial quotas, and denied entry to the USA. Up to 2 million Jews may have survived the war if not for the racist laws of the US. The widespread rejection of Jews convinced the Nazis their policies were correct. Because being Jewish has inherited and could not be ‘corrected’ the logic said that extermination was justifiable.
- April 1937 – Order ‘Special Commission #3’ from Hitler for the forced-sterilisation of the children of “Black Shame” – German children of mixed race (typically the mother was German and the other was another race) borne after WWI’s Treaty of Versailles during allied occupation of Germany. The operations were performed in Protestant hospitals.
- World War II (1939-45), 184 nations participate, 60 million killed, including genocide of Jews.
- 1941-1945 systemic murder of 6 million Jews, Gypsies, sick and mental patients, the Disabled, homosexuals, etc in the Holocaust, under German laws based on US Eugenics theory. Recalcitrant people were also eliminated (rejecting Hitler’s theories was a criminal offense, punishable by death).
- Medical experiments on 7,000 prisoners, including gays, prisoners of war, Jehovah’s witnesses, political dissidents, blacks, twins, most resulting in death. Experiments included the sterilization of men and women, including the deaf and blind, treatment of war wounds, ways to counteract chemical weapons, research into new vaccines and drugs, and survival of harsh conditions.
- The Nazis didn’t just persecute these peoples. Also during WW2, so-called ‘Aryan’ children were s tolen from their families and placed into Nazi foster families or interned into institutional care such as orphanages and youth detention camps, for ‘reprogramming’ to fit the German Nazi ideology of the ‘master race’. Often these children’s parents had been executed by the Nazis because they were resistance fighters, or because they had given safe haven to or were sympathisers with the peoples the Nazis wanted to eradicate. Original birth certificates of these children were systematically replaced by new ones with false histories, the names were changed, and the original identities deliberately concealed, similar
to ‘closed’ adoption practices in Britain, the US and Australia.
During the war SS Reichsfurer Heinrich Himmler, in a speech justifying the programme said, “Obviously, in a mixture of peoples, there will always be some types that are racially superior. Therefore, I believe we have a duty to take their children, to remove them from their surroundings, even if we have to abduct these children and steal them.” He said, “Either we gather the good blood that we can utilize and make it part of us. Or, gentlemen – and you may call this cruel, but nature is cruel – we exterminate this blood. But leaving it over there, to enable our enemies to develop competent leaders and commanders, no, we cannot answer for that before our ancestors and our sons.”
Research by Isabel Heinemann, Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Munster, shows approximately 20,000 Polish children, for example, were stolen under Himmler’s racial cleansing policies under ‘Directive 67/1’. The despotic policy was also applied to other occupied and annexed regions of Europe under Nazi control, experts believe this number to be another approximately 30,000.
Officials examined children against 21 racially-suitable characteristics they had deemed to be Aryan qualities. Precise guidelines were created, and children measured by child welfare workers for such features as growth patterns, the back of the head, the bridge of the nose, and body hair. The Nazis did not want unbalanced, hybrid types of features.
Many children did not survive the camps within time enough to be placed.
- After the WWII, 23 senior physicians and other medical personnel were charged at Nuremberg with crimes against humanity.
Dr Joseph Mengele was known as the Angel of Death, who was an SS officer and physician during World War II. His actions at the Auschwitz concentration camp included performing sadistic, deadly experiments on prisoners, and was a member of the team of doctors who selected victims to be killed in the gas chambers and was one of the doctors who administered the gas. Mengele escaped punishment by fleeing to South America.
One of Dr Mengele’s assistants said in 1946 that he was told to send organs of interest to the directors of the “Anthropological Institute in Berlin-Dahlem” which was Mengele’s academic supervisor, Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, director from October 1942 of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics in Berlin-Dahlem. US rich families like Rockefeller and Carnegie had funded Nazi Doctors in the 3rd Reich, including specialised Eugenic twin research that might enable mass multiplication of their ‘master race’, mass subtraction of inferior races, and funding directly went to Otmar Verschuer, who was Mengeler’s boss. This twin research was carried out in Auschwitz.
- Also at the Nuremberg trials, prosecutors tried to press charges for ‘the kidnapping of alien children for purposes of Germanisation’. But defendants were acquitted, because the Lebensborn organisation, which ran these children’s homes, was described as ‘a welfare institution’. The tragic legal mistake was this classification as a purely charitable organisation, which was a blatant judicial error.
- Catholic Pope Pius 12th remained silent as millions of Jews were killed by the Nazi regime. The Vatican had received thousands of letters during WWII from Jews, describing atrocities committed by the Nazi regime. In Vatican archives, historians uncovered one such letter to the Pope Pius 11th from nun Edith Stein, a German Jew who had converted to Catholicism, and wrote to the Pope when the persecution of Jews began in 1933, asking him to speak out publicly and loudly against this. The Pope blessed the letter, but there was no reply, no action. For the Vatican, Jewish problems were not a priority. In the 1930s, there were many anti-Semitics in the Catholic clergy.
The Catholic church as the ultimate moral majority (called the ‘Holy See’) signed the first
treaty with Hitler, which was called the Concordant – this was signed by the Pope-in-waiting, Pacelli . 4 years earlier in 1929 the Vatican had already signed a treaty with Fascist Italy’s Dictator Benito Mussolini. They had preferred fascists to communists, because communism took away the power of the church.
During the war, Local Catholic Bishops in Germany denounced Nazi violations of the treaty, and there were protests against racism, euthanasia, and the attempt to build a new Nazi religion. They asked the Vatican for an official protest. In 1937 Pope Pius 11th wrote an encyclical saying the Vatican was concerned. This had no lasting effect.
In 1939 Pacelli became Pope Pius 12th. When WW2 was underway, in 1942 The US President received information about mass executions of Jews in ghettos and camps.
A White House envoy reached out to the Pope for support for a joint protest. By then the Holy See already had first-hand accounts of the horrors of the Nazi racial cleansing and the murders of Jews (from Count Malvezzi who had been travelling in the Ukraine, and from a Catholic archbishop from Lviv). However the Vatican declined, saying they could not verify the facts. Internally, the Vatican had decided they should be ‘non-partisan’; Pope Pius 12th knew of the Holocaust but remained silent on the matter.
In 1943, Rome fell under Nazi occupation. In that same year, 1024 Roman Jews were deported to Auschwitz. Only 16 survived. The Pope did not utter a word of public protest. There were about 10,000 Roman Jews at that time. The seemed to be a silent agreement that the Nazis would not carry out a similar operation again in the heart of Papal power. After the first pictures of the German death camps were published in 1945, even then, Pope Pius was silent about the Holocaust.
As for what happened to the nun Edith Stein, who had appealed to the Pope in vain in 1933, she became another Jewish victim of Auschwitz. She was made a Saint by Pope John Paul 2nd in 1998. Some consolation.
- By the end of WW2 80,000 Americans had undergone forced sterilisation in many US states.
- After the war, organisations and journals changed the name from Eugenics to Genetics, to avoid association with the groups. Yet the ideals remained. Many prominent scientists, encouraged by the discovery of DNA, continued to believe in the Gene concept.
In a speech to scientists, DNA co-discoverer and Nobel laureate Francis Crick offered his own Eugenic vision, saying, “We have to ask, ‘Do people have a right to have children?’ Or to have at least as many children as they please? And it seems to me we have to begin to consider the answer to this question might be ‘no’. They don’t have a right. If a child is handicapped, wouldn’t it be better to let that child die, and have another one. What about a child born incurably blind, is there any reason nowadays for keeping such a child alive? In other words, should we not have an ‘acceptance test’ for children!” His speech was played on BBC radio in 1969.
- Even after WWII in the UK, academics from Cambridge, Oxford and Glasgow remained part of the “Eugenics Education Society”.
- 1945 Australia – Leotine Young’s book, Out of Wedlock, was considered the Australian social worker’s bible. It concerned personality patterns in unmarried mothers, stating they were given to ‘violent neurotic conflicts which are unhelpful ingredients in creating a good mother’. She counselled social workers should take note of these unconscious compulsions when ‘counselling’ and must ‘know how to utilise them… in the best interests of the child.’ This meant, to promote adoption as the solution.
- From 1945, after WWII, Neo-Nazism ideology created militant, social, and political movements seeking to revive and implement Nazi ideology. Neo-Nazis seek to employ their
ideology to promote hatred and white supremacy, attack racial and ethnic minorities, and in some cases to create a fascist state.
Neo-Nazism is a global phenomenon, with organized representation in many countries and international networks. It borrows elements from Nazi doctrine, including ultranationalism, racism, xenophobia, ableism, homophobia, anti-Romanyism, antisemitism, anti-communism, and creating a “Fourth Reich”. Holocaust denial is common in neo-Nazi circles.
- USA. The third and current manifestation of the KKK emerged after 1950, in the form of localized and isolated groups that use the KKK name. They have focused on opposition to the civil rights movement, often using violence and murder to suppress activists. It is classified as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center. As of 2016, KKK membership nationwide is estimated at between 3,000 – 6,000.
- 1950 – 1998 – Australia. According a report by NSW Legislative Council, by the Standing Committee on Social Issues, called ‘Releasing the Past Adoption Practices 1950 – 1998’, released 8/12/2000, Adoption in the 1950s and 1960s was generally perceived to be the ideal solution to the problem of ex-nuptial pregnancy. It provided the h ealthy white child taken from unmarried the birth mother (who lacked the support of family, society, the Church, or support legally or from government), to an infertile married couple. The underlying thrust of adoption practice during this period was primarily about ‘finding children for parents, rather than parents for children’. Legally, although the condition that the ‘bests interest of the child’ be the primary consideration for an adoption, keeping a child with its natural family was not considered by social workers.
By 1975 there was a rapid reduction of the number of “healthy white babies” as social welfare was introduced by the Whitlam federal government, demonstrating that women with support preferred to keep their babies. This was referred to as the ‘adoption crisis’ by social workers who could not feed market demand.
As supply waned, other ‘types’ of children were then released into the adoption system, such as those classified ‘imperfect’ or branded ‘unadoptable’, whose adoptions had been labelled ‘deferred’. For example children of mixed race, or with darker skin, or those with minor medical issues such as cleft palates, children deemed to have a ‘problematic’ familial history, and children that had previously institutionalised by default as wards of the state. Often in the past, the mother of a baby classified as ‘unadoptable’ was expected or encouraged to keep her child, again demonstrating that only certain types of babies were wanted by the industry. The ‘best interests of the child’ therefore seemed to be what the market dictated at the time.
The preference for ‘healthy’, ‘white’, ‘blue-eyed’ babies in adoption practices carried on the eugenics notions that only these types could be considered perfect and worthy, and that only their inherited ‘feeble-mindedness’ could be corrected through placement and adoption.
- 1951 genocide becomes a crime under international law (UN); genocide events over the next 50 years kill more than 12 million civilians.
- 1951 John Bowlby wrote a book for the WHO called ‘Maternal Care and Mental Health’, which he developed his ‘maternal deprivation hypothesis’. He stated that ‘essential for mental health is that the young child should experience a warm, intimate and continuous relationship with his mother (or permanent mother substitute). If not, the child would grow up with anxiety, depression, and an enduring difficulty in creating health relationships with others. This deprivation may be ‘considerable, if the foster mother, even though loving, is a stranger’. The book was translated into 14 languages and had English sales totalling 400,000. Bowlby in later decades developed the idea of ‘attachment theory’. Bowlby’s studies were
directly at odds with social work practice, where the idea of the ‘best interests of the child’ was primarily to be considered to be adoption. Yet Bowlby contradicted himself and said that a child did not belong with its mother if she was unmarried, because he equated this with neglect. Bowlby refers to Young’s theories, and states the ‘unacceptable illegitimate baby’ is a ‘symptom’ of the neurotic girl who comes from an ‘unsatisfactory family’. It is not an accident, but a result of the mother’s neurosis.
- 1952 – The concept of ‘Genealogical bewilderment’ is a term referring to potential identity problems that could be experienced by a child who was either fostered, adopted, or conceived via an assisted reproductive technology procedure such as surrogacy or gamete donation (egg or sperm donation). It was first introduced in a 1952 letter to the Journal of Mental Health by psychiatrist E Wellisch. The term “genealogical bewilderment” was coined in 1964 by psychologist H J Sants, a colleague of Wellisch, referring to the plight of children who have uncertain, little, or no knowledge of one or both of their natural parents. Sants argued that genealogical bewilderment constituted a large part of the additional stress that adoptees experienced that is not experienced by children being raised by their natural parents. In the 1970s, researchers Sorosky, Pannor and Baran drew upon the work of Sants to explore the concept in a number of publications, including a book titled The Adoption Triangle, thus bringing “genealogical bewilderment” to a larger audience.
- 1956 Australia. A single mother and her child were not considered a family, and social work theory constructed the unwed mother as a non-mother, later labelled a birth mother. A feeble-minded, licentious, fallen woman. The birth father, under law, was not considered a father and so conveniently could not be considered at all.
- 1960 – Gynaecologist and eugenicist Dr Lawson delivers a lecture at the Royal Women’s Hospital Melbourne, urging that obstetricians needed to be active in promoting adoption. He said, “I believe that a good environment will make a better job of bad genes than a bad environment will make of good genes.”
- 1960 – first government-approval of oral contraceptives for use by the public (US FDA).
- 1962 – Australian social work practice followed that of the US as its model of intervention. This results in “choiceless choices” for single mothers, unsupported by their family, the government, the laws, Religious entities, and manipulated by social workers into a system of forced child relinquishment.
- 1960-70s USA – Recalling Nazi experiments on twins, clinical psychiatrists Peter Neubauer and Viola Bernard, and New York adoption agency Louise Wise Services, arranged to separate at least eight sets of twins and one set of triplets at birth and place in different homes. This was in aid of a psychological study of their lives, relevant to questions of ‘nature versus nurture’ and the ‘twinning reaction’. The natural mother, the children, and the adoptive parents did not know about the experiment. Assistants were sent to test (and film) the children’s mental development as they grew up, telling the adoptive parents they were doing a routine study on adopted children. Although morally perverted, the separations were legal, and no consent was required. No findings ended up being published and the study has not been released since Neubauer’s death. The Child Development Center of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services arranged to house the locked records at Yale. The Jewish Board set forth terms that sealed access, and gave the organization the power deny any requests to access the records for 75 years.
As adults, the triplets and two sets of twins by coincidence found each other, living relatively close to each other. None of the children knew they were a twin/ triplet, yet they stated
they always felt growing up as if part of them was missing. In 1995, following hospitalization for manic depression, one of the triplets Eddy Galland committed suicide in 1995.
- 1967 USA – Supreme Court decision that deemed anti-miscegenation state laws unconstitutional, legalising Interracial marriage in all U.S. states.
- 1967 – Aborigines designated as legal citizens of Australia after a referendum. This enabled them to live or work outside locked reserves (virtual concentration camps) without the need for ‘dog tags’, allowed them to travel, to be educated beyond Year 4, to get paid in currency (rather than meat and salt), be counted in the national census, to access heath services.
- 1970s USA – The Indian Health Service (IHS), was formed in 1955 within the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW). The IHS forcibly sterilized as many as 70,000 Native American women during the 1970s, often without their consent or knowledge. Across the entire country, an estimated 25 percent of Native women of childbearing age had been sterilized by 1976.
- 1972 – USA “War on Poverty” became part of the Civil Rights movement. Yet the government continued policies of social depression. Social support funding was cut by 50%. However, president Nixon did expand funding for ‘birth control for the poor’. He said, “the people in what we call our class control, their populations… the people who don’t control their families are the people that shouldn’t have kids”.
- The US Administration stated that ‘war on poverty’ funds could be used to cover the cost of sterilisations, a programme that resulted in forced sterilisations. In 1973, Joseph Levin created a legal case against the Nixon administration for sterilisation of 2 under-aged black sisters in Alabama without informed consent, because the government had supressed guidelines. 500 clinics were functioning at that time throughout the US. Another suit in 1975 Madrigal v Quilligan. American Indian movement discusses genocide of population through sterilisation (42% sterilised between 1971-1975). 400,000 poor people found to have been sterilised through the Nixon administration without being fully informed, and under threat that welfare benefits would be withdrawn unless they submitted. Litigation was successful, which stopped a second wave of sterilisation in the USA.
- 1978 – first human born from in vitro fertilisation (IVF, UK)
- 1989 – UN Convention of rights of a child created, which includes statements:
- Parties shall respect the rights of the child irrespective of the child’s or its parent’s race, religion, political or other opinion, ethnic or social origin, birth or other status, including beliefs of the child’s parents or family members.
- In all actions concerning children, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.
- Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life.
- The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.
- Parties undertake to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations. Where a child is illegally deprived of some or all of the elements of his or her identity, States Parties shall provide appropriate assistance and protection, with a view to re-establishing speedily his or her identity.
- Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will.
• From 1991 Australia – Laws changed progressively to allow the release of identifying information to adoptive people about their birth history. Yet laws allow access to be vetoed by a birth mother or an adoptive person.
- 1992 Australia – the High Court of Australia decided that terra nullius should not have been applied to Australia. This decision – known as the Mabo decision – recognised that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have rights to the land – rights that existed before the British arrived and can still exist today.
- 1998 – UN Article 7 Crimes against Humanity include: murder, extermination, enslavement, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty, enforced sterilisation, persecution against any identifiable group on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender, etc. Crimes against humanity can exist in peacetime, so the article states.
- 2000 – Stephen Hawking, in a series of essays and articles, suggested a new race of superhumans could develop from wealthy people choosing to edit their children’s DNA. Hawking, famous for numerous scientific theories about the universe, was disabled and suffered from motor neuron disease. At the turn of the century, he and eleven other humanitarians signed the Charter for the Third Millennium on Disability, which called on governments to prevent disability and protect the rights of the disabled.
- 2002 USA – Plaque erected in Virginia stating there was ‘no evidence that Carrie Buck had any hereditary defects’.
- 2003, Psychologists such as Nancy Verrier (in her US book The Primal Wound) recognise life- long issues created for adoptees and their birth families by the forced separation of children from their mothers, such as depression, complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, separation anxieties, issues forming relationships, addictions, etc.
- 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd presented an apology to Indigenous Australians for the Stolen Generations.
- 2009 Australia – Max Dulumunmun Harrison writes, “As an aboriginal elder I fully understand the pain and suffering that has been done to my people in the past, and the traumatic times we have endured. I applaud the prime minister’s apology to our mob. But what about the white stolen generations that suffered the same fate. I know many white people who went through the same pain. So why can’t this government do its healing again, and apologise to the white stolen generation to bring closure to all this suffering. As we walk the same land, breathe the same air, drink the same water.”
- 2011 – Human genome sequenced utilising DNA. There was a supposition that faulty gene sequences led to disease, comparing rates in identical vs non-identical twins. In 2009, one of the few remaining scientifically active leaders of the original genome project, Francis Collins, published a review paper in the scientific journal Nature, along with 26 other prominent geneticists. It was titled Finding the Missing Heritability of Complex Diseases. In it, the authors acknowledged that, despite more than 700 genome-scanning publications and nearly $100bn spent, geneticists still had not found more than a fractional genetic basis for human disease. The human genome sequence, postulated to be self-evidently the most complex of all living things, actually turned out to be less complex than a tomato.
No gene could be isolated in DNA sequencing that determined race, let alone intelligence, poverty, criminality, athleticism or other positive or negative categories postulated by the social Darwinists and expounded by the Eugenicists.
- 2012 Australia – ongoing practices of sterilisation of girls and women with intellectual disabilities.
• 2012 Australia. Forced adoption in Australia was the practice of taking babies from unmarried mothers, against their will, and placing them for adoption. In 2012 the Australian Senate Inquiry Report into Forced Adoption Practices found that babies were taken illegally by doctors, nurses, social workers and religious figures, sometimes with the assistance of adoption agencies or other authorities, and adopted to married couples. Some mothers were coerced, drugged and illegally had their consent taken. Many of these adoptions occurred after the mothers were sent away by their families ‘due to the stigma associated with being pregnant and unmarried’. The removals occurred predominantly in the second half of the twentieth century. It was a practice which has been described as ‘institutionalised baby farming’. There are no precise estimates of the number of adoptions that took place in Australia, with estimates of around 250,000 being feasible. An unknown proportion of these adoptions involved the placement of the babies of single mothers.
- 2013 – National Apology for forced adoptions made by Australian prime minister Gillard, as well as states, territories and various religious groups.
- 2015 – Aboriginal elder, Patrick Dodson, as part of a Sacred Land Film Project, says “I think with the Western, Christian views, it’s more about morality. It’s more about moral codes. It’s more about relationships to power and authority. And it’s very much linked to exploitation of resources, and control and domination of people of difference. And subjugating people to a way of life that’s alien. That’s been the history in Australia; still an ongoing history.
- 2019 – A study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) found that children living in households with members of the Stolen Generations are more likely “to experience a range of adverse outcomes”, including poor health, especially mental health, missing school and living in poverty. There are high incidences of anxiety, depression, PTSD and suicide, along with alcohol abuse, among the Stolen Generations, with this resulting in unstable parenting and family situations.
- 2016 – Donald Trump achieves the office of President in the US. Many of his racist comments seem rooted in the ideas of Eugenics. Trump’s father instilled in him the idea that their family’s success was genetic, according to Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio.
“The family subscribes to a racehorse theory of human development,” D’Antonio said, “They believe that there are superior people and that if you put together the genes of a superior woman and a superior man, you get a superior offspring.” The Huffington Post found numerous examples of Trump suggesting that intellect and success are purely genetic qualities and that having “the right genes” gave him his “very good brain.”
In 2020, on a visit to a Ford factory Trump praised Henry Ford, saying “Good blood lines, good blood lines, if you believe in that stuff, you’ve got good blood.”
At a rally in Minnesota (a US state that’s 84% white, where German and Scandinavian ancestry dominates), Trump said to the crowd, “You have good genes, you know that, right? “A lot of it is about the genes, isn’t it, don’t you believe?” he added. “The racehorse theory. You think we’re so different? You have good genes in Minnesota.”
In an anti-immigration speech about building a wall between Mexico and the US, Trump generalised Mexicans, calling them “drug dealers, criminals, rapists.” Trump’s policies from 2017 forced the separation of 4,368 children from parents with whom they had entered the US seeking asylum (data from SPLC), as a means to deter immigration.
- In 2021, The University College London acknowledged “with deep regret, that it had played a fundamental role in the development, propagation and legitimisation of eugenics”. In 2018 it emerged that an honorary lecturer at the university had been secretly hosting a private conference on eugenics with speakers including white supremacists.
To those Rich, who maintained their status by designing laws to rule over the poor and keep them subservient to them, and economically productive in the Rich’s own interests;
To those self-proclaimed intellectually and morally superior ‘super-humans’ who invented unfounded ways to judge and eradicate or socially-alter the lives of those they considered less worthy to life than themselves;
To the religious groups who stood by, or supported, or actively participated in these moral outrages in the distorted name of their God, sustained and amplified by their own prejudices and religious doctrines;
To the governments who wrote these unjust laws, in so-called ‘free democracies’, designing systems that robbed a mother of their child, and those politicians that endorsed these laws. Who spoke for those powerless with no voice? Who stood in defence of the weak, the poor, the under-educated, the disabled… the most vulnerable… to highlight the immorality of these laws and their utmost offense to basic human rights?
To the inventors of the legal systems that gave no legal voice to the mothers, setting financial barriers and other burdens to block access, such as imposing the duty on a mother to challenge laws, instead of creating morally-just laws in the first place;
To those police, that showed no compassion;
To the Judges that couldn’t recognise when natural mothers had the right to their own child, and were blind to the true best interests of the child;
To those that upheld sterilization laws, and those that had knowledge but did nothing with the evidence at hand to prove the laws wrong;
To the social workers who systemically devised ways to coerce or force mothers to consent, and to those that arranged illegal adoptions;
To the professionals; the scientists, theologians, philosophers, psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors, nurses, lawyers that stood by and did nothing, who did not speak out for the rights of others, or who actively played a part in what was clearly a morally wrong system based on false doctrines linked to poor unscientific evidence;
To the Nazis, who went a step further, sadistically killing millions in death camps and medical experiments, stealing and reprogramming children;
To those forcibly sterilising people even now, and to those defending and continuing the practice of uninformed consent and adoptions, ignoring the proven effects on victims;
To those that were involved in practices that directly or indirectly supported genocide, slavery, racism and racial-cleansing or racial assimilation, white-supremacy, colonisation;
To those apologists that continue to hide behind the ‘legalities’ within these past unjust laws and systems, and so seemingly lack any duty of understanding to the basic foundation of human morality that disprove these laws;
To those that offer no restitution for these acts and live off what they have taken from others:
You are all culpable
For the past lives lost, for the punishments given, for the families ended;
For the ongoing pain and suffering felt by the victims and their families of those still living. Shame on you for eternity for your crimes against humanity.
May karma deliver you and your progeny never-ending lessons of the loss you designed or distributed to others.
May humanity learn from the past and not be destined to repeat these offenses. May we learn that the individual in all society has the right to exist in equal human terms.
To the victims
May you receive recognition, justice, reconciliation and peace.