House concurrent resolution expressing regret for the sterilization of Vermonters pursuant to the Sterilization Act of 1931 Offered by: Representative Donahue of Northfield
Whereas, the state-sponsored sterilization of many Vermonters, based upon the false science and misguided social judgment that they were genetically inadequate and of poor heredity stock, is one of the most unfortunate chapters in our state’s history, and
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Whereas, in 1912, the General Assembly passed legislation to “authorize and provide for the sterilization of imbeciles, feeble-minded and insane persons, rapists, confirmed criminals and other defectives” which Governor John Mead vetoed on the advice of Attorney General R.E. Brown that the measure was unconstitutional in part due to its discriminatory intent and lack of due process, and
Whereas, the Senate overrode the governor, and although the House of Representatives upheld his veto after a successful Senate override, the idea of broadly based sterilization legislation was not permanently defeated, and
Whereas, Francis Galton, the cousin of Charles Darwin, coined the term “eugenics” meaning “the science of improving the genetic condition of the human race,” and
Whereas, in 1925, UVM zoology professor Henry F. Perkins established the Eugenics Survey of Vermont with a stated mission to determine the extent of defective behavior and depraved immorality in the state by combining biology, education, and social work, and
Whereas, in 1927, when addressing a conference of social workers in Montpelier, Perkins reported his purportedly highly academic findings proving a blood or heredity foundation in the mental degeneration in classes of families he defined as pirate, gypsy, and chorea, and Whereas, Perkins predicted that legislation, which he had assisted in
drafting, providing for sterilizing the “socially inadequate” individuals would be introduced, and
Whereas, in Buck v. Bell, 274 US 200 (1927), U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes held that Virginia’s sterilization law was neither unconstitutional nor a denial of due process, and
Whereas, in 1931, as a result of the pseudoscience and hearsay that permeated the reports of the Vermont Eugenics Survey, as well as the establishment of the Vermont Commission on Country Life, that in part was an expansion of the survey’s activities, the General Assembly adopted Act No. 174, “An Act for Human Betterment By Voluntary Sterilization,” which was intended: to prevent the procreation of idiots, imbeciles, feebleminded or insane persons, when the public welfare of idiots, imbeciles, feeble-minded or insane persons likely to procreate, can be improved by voluntary
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Whereas, as a result of this legislation, a large number of individuals were subjected to this state-sponsored sterilization program, many without their knowledge or consent, and
Whereas, although the Eugenics Survey was ended in 1936, and the forced sterilizations (and yet NO DOCUEMNTARY EVIDENCE has ever been located that the Eugenics Program ever sterlized a single person) ultimately halted, the damage to many Vermont families was widespread, and poor Irish and Italian immigrants, along with other persons in poverty, were among those targeted, and
Whereas, individuals diagnosed with mental disabilities and persons of French Canadian and Abenaki ancestry (yet nowhere in the Eugenics TOTAL MATERIAL is a single person identifying as or identified by others as being "Abenaki") were disproportionately affected and harmed, and
Whereas, it is impossible for the General Assembly to undo the grievous damage that was inflicted on these persons and their families, but it can issue a strong statement denouncing this dark chapter in Vermont’s history to demonstrate the legislature’s resolve to guard against such events occurring in the future, now therefore be it
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives:
That the General Assembly expresses its profound sorrow and sincere regret that such a program of sterilizations was sanctioned under an act of this legislative body. Which was read and, in the Speaker’s discretion, treated as a bill and referred to the committee on Rules.
Committee Relieved of Consideration and Bill Committed to Other Committee
On Another More Recent Note:
115 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05633-5301
Tel: (802) 828-2228
Fax: (802) 828-2424
STATE OF VERMONT
House of Representatives
Rep. Ann Pugh, Chair
Rep. Michael Fisher, Vice Chair
Rep. Anne B. Donahue, Ranking Member
Rep. Margaret Andrews
Rep. Bill Frank, Clerk
Rep. Patsy French
Rep. Sandy Haas
Rep. Francis "Topper" McFaun
Rep. Michael Mrowicki
Rep. Patty O'Donnell
Rep. Scott A. Orr
House Committee on Human Services
House Committee on Human Services
January 31, 2010 - February 6, 2010
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
10:00 AM FLOOR
11:15 am or 15 MINUTES AFTER HOUSE ADJOURNMENT J.R.H. 32 - Joint resolution expressing regret for the sterilization of Vermonters pursuant to the Sterilization Act of 1931
Committee Discussion, Markup, and Vote
Rep. Anne Donahue, Sponsor
Michael Chernick, Legislative Counsel, Legislative Council
Nancy L. Gallagher, Author of "Breeding Better Vermonters"
April Merrill, Chief, St. Francis Sokoki Band (Missisquoi)
Thomas Phillips, Tribal Council Member
I would say more on a personal level, but I am a little "hot-under-the-collar" presently, having the awareness that I do. about my own Woodward relatives being targets of the Children's Aide Society and subsequently the Eugenics Survey of Vermont from 1914 to 1938.
This attempt at being sorrowful and regretful by the State of Vermont/ and the fact that April St. Francis-Merrill and Thomas Phillips assume to know the dynamics/intent of the Eugenics Survey/Program of Vermont, claiming stupidly that Harriett Abbott was targeting their families "because they were alleged Abenakis" just pisses me off, since it is such an untruth.
It's a MYTH perpetuated by John Moody and these people, to ply "sympathies" and manipulate the generational historical guilt of the Euro-American People's in Vermont/New Hampshire.
What this is, that is happening in Vermont is a crock of shit. It's a blatant re-writing of Abenaki historical record in N'dakinna by people who are not Abenakis, nor who can even prove from a historical, social, or genealogical perspective that they are Abenakis!
Some day, I will share the Eugenics Era Reality for what it really was....
from my own ancestors blood, sweat and tears.
IF the State of Vermont is honestly all-of-a-sudden and seemingly "so sorrowful and regretful", then why not name the people they targeted and subsequently sterilized allegedly via the Eugenics Program of Vermont?! Why hasn't the State of Vermont Historical Preservation people microfilmed all of the Eugenics Program Survey documents, instead of letting those documents turn into a pile of paper dust over time?! Why has the State of Vermont "closed" the Eugenics Records and placed these under the HIPPA Laws (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)? Why no mention of the Children's Aide Society who were in collusion and supporting the Eugenic's Program of Vermont within this H.C.R. 195?!Does anyone thing for one minute that this H.C.R. 195 will assauge the pain, the internal guilt, the sorrow and regret of those women and men who loved one another in life, but could never have children of their own? Does anyone think that for one minute, that April St. Francis-Merrill and this so-called Wobanaki Inc Board of Director Thomas Phillips, in their ignorance and arrogance of the Eugenics Progam Survey, are doing what they are doing today, is respectful of those women or men who could not have children, in their tatics to gain recognition-through-sympathy.
I am for TRUTH, not some PITY PARTY and the perpetuation of some half baked myth that the Eugenics was targeting "Abenakis" or that these people claiming to being Abenaki, had ancestor-relatives who were sterilized simply and solely "because they were Abenakis". Dollars to donuts, the bet is that the persons and families in the Eugenics materials were targeted because they were identified as being misfits, truants from school, gallivanting around being criminally minded, or doing activities deemed socially unacceptable in that era, such as being youthful runaway's.
The Phillips Family nor the St. Francis Family (as a whole or in part, in the Eugenics material documents) were NEVER identifying as Abenakis while in Jail, in Institutions, to Harriett Abbott, or to anyone associated with the Eugenics. Harriett Abbott never once, identified one single person in these many families she documented/investigated (including the Woodward's) as "being Abenaki" or "of Abenaki descent".
Neither did these familes neighbors, teachers, mental evaluators, etc., identify these persons and or families as being Abenakis, of whom Miss Abbott spoke to about these numerous families in and around Vermont?!
So, THOUSANDS of descendants of Vermont Abenaki were silent, quiet, and "hiding in plain sight" amongst their neighbors, like Church mice on a Sunday morning? NOT one single ancestor of these descendants documentarily stated verbally and/ or in writing that they were "Abenaki" throughout the Eugenic's Era? What about BEFORE the Eugenics Survey?
THINK ABOUT IT.