book cover titled eugenics with background image of a large tree

The leading proponent of sterilization in the United States was Harry Hamilton Laughlin, superintendent of the Eugenics Record Office (ERO) at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Long Island, N.Y. Those states that adopted sterilization laws usually modeled them after Laughlin’s conceptual framework.

Laughlin’s list of “socially inadequate classes” included “the deaf” as a target for sterilization. Yet none of the states that adopted sterilization laws in the United States included deaf people. What was the rationale for leaving deaf people out of state eugenic programs?

This research project seeks to answer questions critical to U.S. history:

  • Why did states not include deafness as a trigger for sterilization?
  • What was the impact of eugenic studies on deaf individuals?

Examining these questions, the Center will develop a virtual exhibit that maps the emergence of eugenic laws in the United States.


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Eugenics and the American Experience

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