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Child Welfare and Social Action in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: International Perspectives$
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Jon Lawrence and Pat Starkey

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780853236764

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.5949/UPO9781846312816

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‘Fixing’ Mothers: Child Welfare and Compulsory Sterilisation in the American Midwest 1925–1945

‘Fixing’ Mothers: Child Welfare and Compulsory Sterilisation in the American Midwest 1925–1945

Chapter:
(p.219) 10 ‘Fixing’ Mothers: Child Welfare and Compulsory Sterilisation in the American Midwest 1925–1945
Source:
Child Welfare and Social Action in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: International Perspectives
Author(s):

Molly Ladd-Taylor

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9780853236764.003.0011

This chapter illustrates the prevalence of a view which sees the parent, and especially the ‘bad mother’, as the enemy of the child, arguing that United States welfare policy has viewed family problems as the consequence of parental, most often maternal, failure. It concentrates on the state of Minnesota to explore the place of ‘eugenic’ sterilisation in the history of American welfare. Surgical sterilisation grew as a critical part of the welfare system in Minnesota, which ordained its sterilisation law in 1925, after intensive lobbying by the state Eugenics Society. Its sterilisation programme could only be realised in the context of the ‘child protection’ and guardianship systems that developed out of the 1909 White House Conference on Children. Eugenic sterilisation served many functions within the welfare system of Minnesota, and became a form of birth control at a time when other types of contraception were unavailable.

Keywords:   bad mother, welfare policy, Minnesota, welfare system, surgical sterilisation, sterilisation law, Eugenics Society, Conference on Children, eugenic sterilisation

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