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Eugenicists Would Improve Human Stock By Blotting Out Blood Taints

Creator: n/a
Date: February 18, 1912
Publication: New-York Daily Tribune
Source: Library of Congress
Figures From This Artifact: Figure 2  Figure 3

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Scientists Are Studying How to Cut Down the Awful Cost to Mankind of Bad Heredity, Which Often Swells from a Tiny Pool to a Black Ocean of Mental Defectiveness.


In a certain school in a South New Jersey town is a young woman, not unattractive in appearance, the story of whose ancestry when it is published in book form -- and it is to be -- is likely to create a great deal of interest where it is read. The contour and pigmentation of her features and the dark color of her hair, which she ties with a pink ribbon, are sufficiently Italian to warrant one in assuming that she was of that nationality if one met her in Mulberry Bend Park. Her progenitors, however, lived in New Jersey long before the American Revolution, and their descendants comprise a family well known in that state.


The girl herself, or perhaps one should call her a woman, for she is twenty-three years old, has the appearance of a well-behaved person, and, indeed she is. Of medium height, she does not look age her and if one were guessing it she would be put down as in her early teens. Physically she is a woman, however. Unfortunately, mentally she is not. Physically she is equipped with all the normal instincts of womanhood: mentally, nature has left their control in the hands of a child of ten years. In other words she is not fitted to take care of herself in the average environment which the world offers. Many persons would find it difficult to believe that at first glance, and not a few would be inclined to put her down as a woman of bad instincts if she chanced to go wrong while dependent upon her own resources.




Her training in this school, which, it must be said, is the New Jersey Training School at Vineland, began twelve or thirteen years ago. She was born in an almshouse, the fourth illegitimate child of a feeble-minded mother, who was one of a family of nine and a servant. Her father was normal physically and mentally. Although she has been in school many years, she can read only elementary books, being unable to do more than pick out words in a third reader. She can write a child's letter, but does not find pleasure either in reading or writing. She is, however, practically self-supporting in the school, as she is one of the best workers among the pupils. While she cannot plan her work, she can cut a dress, run an electric sewing machine, take care of children and set a table. Curiously, however, in order to know how many plates to put upon the table it is necessary for her to know the persons who are to use them. She does not count the plates, but names them. The placing of a given number, if they be for strangers, is beyond her.


This unfortunate girl does not realize what she owes to her Revolutionary ancestors, what their legacy was to her was. Patient investigation of over a year duration, including the examination of records and talks with persons who possessed clews to the trail of the protoplasm which segmented into this girl and more than 750 other persons forming this remarkable illustration of a Jekyll and Hyde inheritance, have led back to a New Jersey soldier of a good family. He met a young woman of the woods near the camp. He had, perhaps, never seen her before, and it is believed he never did again. The woman, who has been proven to have been feeble-minded, went her way and he, the normal son of normal ancestry went his. In due course a son was born.




The lad, when he grew up, was also subnormal in mental capacity. He married a normal woman and had nineteen children, the oldest of whom had seventeen offspring. The taint was in the blood. From one of these the zealous but defective girl at Vineland is descended. To make a long story short, the soldier's wild oats have borne fruit through descending generations to the extent of 381 persons, of whom 143 were feeble-minded, 36 born illegitimately, 24 alcoholics, 3 epileptics, 3 criminals and 8 keepers of houses of ill fame. Of the number, 82 providentially died in infancy and 26 were socially unfit owing to disease and other causes. There were only 46 normal persons in the whole progeny.


This is only half the story, however. The soldier afterward married a good, normal Quaker woman of her own "set" and had five daughters and two sons. Five of these heirs in turn had children and their descendants have married into the very best families of New Jersey. Of the 384 heirs of his blood in this branch 365 are known to have been normal and fifteen died in infancy. Although there is a love of alcoholic beverages inherent in the Dr. Jekyll branch, it has been fought successfully by all except two of the 884 persons comprising it. One, through the introduction of a strain of insanity by marriage, was insane and one was socially unfit.


The story which lies behind the girl at Vineland, who needs to be protected through a considerable portion of her life for her own good as well as that of society, points several "morals." A certain well known publicist of this country has had a great deal to say about "race suicide" and the need for large families. In this family one feeble-minded boy had as many descendants as seven normal sons and daughters on the other side. The country would have been much better off without his progeny. Investigation tends to prove that the feeble-minded have larger families than normal-minded persons. If the sterilization law, which was recently adopted in New Jersey, had been in the statute books in the days of the Revolution and applied in the case of the woman of the woods or her feeble-minded son the saving to the state and to society would have been very great. Neither the woman nor her son would have suffered as a consequence.

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