Certifying Eugenic Purity in the Churches
Certifying Eugenic Purity in the Churches
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter further places religious leaders’ enthusiasm for eugenics in the context of both Progressivism and the Social Gospel movement. As eugenic ideas gained in popularity, religious leaders such as Rev. Walter Taylor Sumner, a Protestant Episcopal Dean in Chicago, began crafting their own eugenic proposals, which they administered in their churches. Dean Sumner’s eugenic “marriage health certificate” plan garnered publicity and many imitators. This chapter describes such proposals and places them in the context of the growing social service movement in the Protestant churches in particular, and the public’s increasing interest in eugenics in general. It also discusses the many “eugenic family studies” published in the 1910s.
Defraud ye not one the other.
—I Corinthians 7:5
It was not unheard of in 1912 for a wedding announcement to grace the front page of the New York Times, but it was unusual for a humble police telegraph operator and his bride to be the objects of such attention. On the evening of 11 April 1912, Albertus W. Bode married Ruth Palmer in the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Chicago. It was the dean of the Cathedral who sparked controversy over their union and generated headlines. Less than one month before the couple exchanged vows, the Very Rev. Walter Taylor Sumner decreed that, beginning at Easter, no couple could be married in the church without first presenting a “certificate of health” from a reputable physician. Ruth Palmer and Albertus Bode were the first couple to comply with this new church regulation.1
The eugenic intentions of Dean Sumner's decree were clear. Prospective couples had to pass the inspection of a physician who could attest that they were “normal physically and mentally, and have neither an incurable nor communicable disease.” No longer could he rely on civil authorities to monitor a man's fitness for marriage, Sumner said, noting the appalling ease with which even the most diseased and feebleminded person could acquire a marriage license. In Chicago, “all the man has to do is to visit the office of the clerk, and poke through the window a slip of paper with the name of a female written alongside his own.” By adding to this meager (p.54)
That a traditional arbiter of marriage was moved to take such an unconventional public stand in its defense suggests the extent to which the clergy felt the institution in jeopardy. That Dean Sumner and many of his fellow churchmen chose eugenics as their buttress reveals how quickly liberal religious leaders moderated their theologies to fit the tenor of the times. Sumner's (p.55) activities were the logical outgrowth of his church's pursuit of social reform—a pursuit amenable to race improvement as much as to traditional revival. It was also indicative of the growing popularity and scope of eugenics; Sumner and his ilk collapsed under the rubric “social evil” their many fears about changing mores, venereal disease, and the challenges associated with urban growth, and turned to eugenics as their solution.
Walter Taylor Sumner was born in New Hampshire in 1873. After graduating from Dartmouth College in 1898, he headed for Chicago, where he went to work for the Western Electric Company, sharing “bachelor's quarters” with a dozen other young men. Almost immediately, he threw himself into the city's web of social reform organizations, and in time met and gained the respect of Jane Addams at Hull House, who recommended him to the dean of Chicago's Protestant Episcopal Cathedral. Sumner's enthusiasm and skill so impressed the city's Episcopal leadership that they offered to sponsor his theological training if he had even a glimmer of interest in the ministry. He did, reasoning that he could best fulfill his reforming zeal in the church. He graduated from Chicago's Western Theological Seminary in 1904 and soon became secretary to Bishop Charles P. Anderson of the Chicago Diocese. His rise through the church leadership was rapid; by 1906 he was dean of the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Chicago.3
From the beginning of his clerical career, Sumner made social reform his priority. The city of Chicago was a good proving ground for this impulse. One of the fastest-growing urban areas in the United States during the late nineteenth century and a center for railroads, stockyards, and other industry, Chicago was a hotbed of Progressive Era reform activities. The city served as the political backdrop for William Jennings Bryan's 1896 “Cross of Gold” speech at the Democratic Convention and the cultural landscape for Upton Sinclair's 1905 novel about the stockyards, The Jungle. Sumner's own reform efforts included continued work with Hull House, six years on the Chicago Board of Education, and numerous hours devoted to the Juvenile Protective Association, the United Charities, and the Wendell Phillips Social Settlement for Colored Persons. One historian of the Chicago diocese later claimed, “Never before had any of our clergy risen to such prominence and usefulness in the public life of our great city.”4
Small of stature (he was called, affectionately, “the little father” by local bartenders), Sumner had an earnest, kindly countenance and wore his thinning hair smoothed back neatly from his high forehead. His unassuming appearance belied his reputation as a rousing speaker. One newspaper described him as “young, strong, perspicacious,” and another dubbed him an “ecclesiastical Rock of Gibraltar” amid the city's “seething sea of evil.” Sumner navigated that sea well. The Chicago Tribune recounted one yuletide pilgrimage made by the dean to the “darkest places” of Chicago's West Side, where he moved the assembled audience of prostitutes to paroxysms of emotion: “Tears (p.56) plowed furrows through the rouge and powder on the painted cheeks,” the Tribune reported, and “one girl burst out sobbing as if her heart would break.”5
Dean Sumner's interest in the city's prostitutes was practical, not prurient. In 1910, he urged the mayor of Chicago to appoint a Municipal Vice Commission to study the problem of the “social evil in Chicago,” broadly defined to include prostitution, drug use, massage houses, Turkish baths, dance halls, venereal disease, and numerous other expressions of crime and avarice. The mayor agreed, Sumner was named chairman of the Commission, and in 1911 he and the other commissioners released a report, The Social Evil in Chicago, which drew nationwide praise from reformers for its vehement opposition to the segregation (and de facto toleration) of vice in certain city districts in Chicago. Survey, a magazine of social reform, called The Social Evil in Chicago an “epoch-making” report, whose “influence is being registered, far and wide, in other cities throughout the entire country and abroad.”6
The report was in keeping with the moralizing tone of late nineteenth-century urban exposés such as William T. Stead's If Christ Came to Chicago (1894) and Edward Everett Hale's If Jesus Came to Boston (1894). New York City's Committee of Fifteen report on prostitution, The Social Evil (1902), and a 1907 portrait of Windy City immorality by George Kibbe Turner in McClure's magazine were similar in spirit. These studies were a departure from the previous generation's techniques of moral reform. In the mid–nineteenth century, members of the New York Moral Reform Society were known to station themselves outside the city's houses of ill-repute, where they would loudly recite Bible passages and serenade with hymns the hapless customers who crossed their path. By the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, reformers were indicting municipal rather than individual hypocrisy, issuing calls for vice control by professional morals managers—although their reports still retained a whiff of that old-fashioned voyeuristic seaminess. Worries about the erosion of old-fashioned courtship rituals contributed to the general sense of connubial decay. As the movie theater replaced the Chautauqua tent as the preferred venue for an evening's entertainment, especially among the younger set, tradition-minded Americans fretted over the implications. Marriage was the pivotal institution, its rites deemed a bulwark against the growing scourge of social evil.
The “social evil” was the star of secular as well as spiritual exposés in this period, as the arrival on Broadway in 1913 of French playwright Eugene Brieux's Damaged Goods attested. The play, a dysfunctional domestic tableau about syphilis, tweaked sensibilities about scientific solutions and moral responsibilities, and its popular reception suggested growing public interest in both. American novelist Winston Churchill published in serial form The Inside of the Cup, a story about the awakening of a young minister's social conscience and the effect this “modern Savonarola” has on his prosperously staid, urban congre (p.57) gation. The story implied that it was not unusual for men of the cloth to spearhead municipal vice crusades.7
But a jurisdictional battle was brewing. The morality-based efforts of the churches were giving way to the scientific, professional efforts of the physician.8 Some observers applauded the shift to secular oversight, seeing in it the death knell of a hectoring, Victorian judgmentalism. Walter Lippmann attacked Dean Sumner's Vice Commission report as blind moralism rather than sound scientific management. “The commission did not face the sexual impulse squarely,” Lippmann wrote in A Preface to Politics. “The report is an attempt to deal with a sexual problem by disregarding its source.”9 But, as Sumner's actions demonstrate, this shift did not entirely eliminate religious leaders from these reform campaigns. Sumner and the clerics who followed his example employed the tactics of modern, scientific reformers while still retaining the cultural and moral authority of their pulpits.
Sumner's eugenic health certificate decree, though boldly stated, was not made without forethought or vetting. He told the press that he took this step “only after months of study of the situation and deliberations as to its advisability.” He discussed the proposition at length with his superior, Bishop Anderson, who gave his approval to the plan before Sumner's public announcement. Anderson's approval was no small thing. Having served as Protestant Episcopal bishop of Chicago since 1905, Anderson was a “forceful personality” who often spoke on social and economic themes at the Church's General Conventions. His opinion carried weight both within the church and without in the secular world of reform, and he was not known as a man to succumb to the whims of public opinion. When a wealthy parishioner who had taken offense at some of the bishop's economic arguments threatened to withdraw his financial contribution to the church, Anderson responded with a brief letter: “Dear Sir: Your money be damned. C. P. Anderson.” The bishop's support gave Sumner's health certificate plan legitimacy.10
From his experience on the Chicago Vice Commission, Sumner had learned the value of publicizing his reform message, and with this in mind he made the second half of his health certificate announcement a plea for clergymen of all denominations and creeds to make their own commitments to eugenic marriages. “We do not expect to bring about great good at once by this plan of ours,” he said, “but we are hopeful that, standing as a protest [against lax marriage laws], it may encourage other clergy to take a similar stand.”11 Like the physician in Brieux's play, who upbraids the legislator-patriarch for failing to attend to the scourge of venereal disease—and whose own daughter contracts syphilis from her ne'er-do-well mate as a result—Sumner urged the clergy to show lawmakers the costs of their laissez-faire attitude toward marriage.
Dean Sumner's fellow clergymen needed little encouragement. Reaction (p.58) from other liberal religious leaders was swift and largely supportive, revealing the breadth of support for reforms bearing the imprint of science in American churches in the 1910s. To the extent that Sumner's plan met clerical resistance from his fellow liberal Protestants, it was largely due to disagreement over strategy, not goals.12 Bishop Samuel Fallows, of the Reformed Episcopal Church, Chicago, agreed with Sumner that “there is a great need for some step in the direction of purifying the marriage ceremony,” but he placed his faith in the state to achieve this.13 Others were less equivocal. Rt. Rev. Cortlandt Whitehead, bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh, said, “No degenerates or those physically unfit in other ways should be allowed to marry and the step taken by Dr. Sumner is in line with what should have been done years ago.” Interest in the proposal was not confined to the churches. The New York Times solicited opinions from a broad range of religious leaders and published the results in a feature story that ran in June 1913.14
When offering his endorsement of Sumner's proposal, Rev. John Haynes Holmes, the well-known liberal reformer and Unitarian minister at New York's Church of the Messiah, argued, “Nothing is more important, to my mind, in our modern treatment of the question of marriage, than to use our powers of social control to prevent many people from marrying—those, namely, whose marriage, for one reason or another, can be nothing but a tragedy.” Later that month, Holmes and several other members of the Liberal Ministers' Association in New York (a group of Unitarian and Universalist ministers and Reform rabbis) formed a Eugenics Committee to study the issue further. Holmes hoped the Committee would agree “to perform nothing but health marriages” in their churches and synagogues. “Dean Sumner and the Chicago Cathedral have shown us the way,” he said. It was now the “moral responsibility” of the rest of the religious community to follow. Another prominent American clergyman, Rev. Russell H. Conwell of Grace Baptist Church in Philadelphia, declared, “The stand so bravely taken by Dean Sumner commands the respect of all who believe that the way to serve God is to serve one's fellow men.” Conwell, famous nationwide for the “Acres of Diamonds” sermon he claimed to have delivered more than six thousand times, went on to urge cooperation among clergymen in furthering Sumner's project for health marriages.15
Health certificates also earned the attention, if not the wholesale approval, of Reform rabbis. Rabbi Emil G. Hirsch of Sinai Congregation, Chicago, well-known for his own liberal championing of social causes (many of which he promoted in the pages of his periodical, the Reform Advocate), reminded the public that “the spirit of Dean Sumner's regulation has been observed in Jewry from time immemorial” through the disciplined and serious approach to marriage taken by Jewish rabbis and Jewish parents. Without invoking the “jargon of eugenics,” Hirsch said, rabbis had done and continued to do their part to prevent unwise marriages.16 In Pittsburgh, Rabbi Rudolph Coffee of the Tree of Life Synagogue was more enthusiastic about Sumner's plan. Like Sumner, (p.59) Coffee was an urban antivice crusader and a member of his city's Morals Efficiency Commission. He urged clergy of all creeds to unite in “refusing to marry persons who cannot bring a certificate of good health” to validate their marriage vows. In 1913, Coffee and the Pittsburgh Morals Efficiency Commission lobbied the Pennsylvania legislature for enactment of health certificate legislation. The language of these eugenic antivice crusades transcended denominational and theological boundaries; Rabbi Coffee wrote that tackling the social evil had “done more to batter down theological fences” in his own Pittsburgh religious community than any other issue.17
Just two months after Sumner issued his decree, two hundred ministers of the Federated Churches of Chicago adopted a resolution formally endorsing the eugenic health certificate plan.18 As one national periodical described the situation, Sumner's plan was “exciting nation-wide controversy.”19 It did spark considerable debate in the press: the New York Times featured a steady stream of stories and editorials about Sumner, including several lengthy forums culling religious and medical opinion of his proposal. Asked to explicate his views in one of these forums, Sumner did not shrink from emphasizing the eugenic purpose of his proposal: “We seek to protect the integrity, sanctity and future health of the home by joining in matrimony only those who are fit to propagate a normal race.” Sumner's listeners responded to his tone: “Mawkish sentiment must unquestionably yield to the high issues involved in eugenics,” declared Rev. George C. Peck of St. Andrew's Methodist Episcopal Church, New York.20
While rhetorical support for Sumner's plan was plentiful, so was practical action. Many ministers crafted eugenic health certificate requirements for their own churches. With the blessings of their congregations, two Montclair, New Jersey, ministers, Rev. Henry E. Jackson of the Christian Union Congregational Church and Rev. Edgar S. Weirs of the Unity Church, announced in May 1913 that they would perform no marriages without receiving eugenic health certificates from all potential grooms.21 At the New Jersey Baptist Convention in 1913, Rev. Robert Chipman Hull of the First Baptist Church in Summit introduced a resolution, which the Convention promptly passed, that read: “The Baptists should be the pioneers in eugenics, as they have been in other movements for social reform. We therefore recommend to the Board of Managers of the New Jersey Baptist Convention that it urge all our churches to give to this matter most careful consideration, looking toward the eventual requirement of a physician's certificate of good health from all those applying for marriage licenses.”22
Individual Protestant religious leaders organized local, ecumenical campaigns to convert their communities to health certificates. Rev. C. Thurston Chase of the Central Congregational Church in Lynn, Massachusetts, persuaded the Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal, and Congregationalist clergy in the city to refuse to marry couples who could not produce evidence of physical and mental fitness.23 And in New York City, in what was said to be the “first official (p.60) action by the officers of a church in this country in practically applying eugenics to marriage,” the officers of the Fort Washington Reformed Church passed a resolution requiring couples to present health certificates before marriage. The minister of the church, Rev. Abraham J. Muste, declared himself pleased with the church officers' action and “glad that this church has the honor of starting a movement in this city that is sure to be widespread.”24
So great was the accumulated evidence for liberal clergy's support for health certificates that the New York Times anointed ministers and rabbis the new leaders of the eugenics movement. “It is a notable fact,” one editorialist said, “that clergymen are the leaders in proving sincere belief in the principles which have developed from the observations of the Galton school and the more definite and accurate deductions of the Mendelians.” Hardly a week passes, the editorialist stated, that a prominent minister does not announce his intention to solemnize only eugenically healthy marriages in his church.25 One reporter was more effusive, gushing, “Sir Francis Galton, could he return to the world he left only two years ago, would find that the light he lighted in his youth had grown into a great flame.”26
With this assessment Dean Sumner surely agreed. One year after issuing his new marriage requirement, he declared victory for his health certificate campaign. Despite the gloomy predictions of his critics, who expected a sharp drop in the number of couples marrying at the Chicago Cathedral, Sumner claimed to have performed twice as many marriages since his Easter 1912 edict.27 In the process he had raised his own visibility in the Protestant Episcopal Church considerably.28 In a widely attended speech on “The Church and Moral Progress” which he presented at the Protestant Episcopal Church's General Convention in 1913, Sumner expanded on his marriage message to urge his fellow clerics to broaden the church's reform horizon. We need “to take up the questions and problems, not only of local needs,” he said, “but of needs nationwide in their importance—questions which involved the integrity of the race, physical, social, and moral.” He reminded his listeners that control of marriage was the crux of this effort. The marriages of those who “pass on to succeeding generations in an increasing geometric ratio the physical, mental, and moral deficiencies which they possess” remained a serious barrier to maintaining the integrity of the race.29 In their self-styled modernism, Greenwich Village radicals might attack marriage as the last bastion of stifling bourgeois morality, but ministers could not. Instead, Sumner said, they must incorporate modern, scientific reforms while continuing to burnish their image as traditional arbiters of the institution.
Why did Sumner's plan excite such interest among liberal clergymen? What did they find appealing in his calls for the clergy to exercise greater control over marriage? A closer examination of Protestant liberalism in these years, particularly the development of organized social service movements in many denominations, reveals a climate of opinion openly eager to testing new (p.61) reform techniques. The social service movement in Sumner's own denomination, the Protestant Episcopal Church, offers a revealing case study of the way internal church institutions encouraged the exploration of new reform ideas and the embrace of modern scientific methods, including eugenics.
Dean Sumner made his health certificate decree in the years when the Social Gospel dominated the Protestant landscape; its message of ushering in the Kingdom of God on earth through reform and service permeated the rhetoric of liberal leaders. In 1911, two years before the General Convention at which Sumner delivered his health certificate speech, Rev. Charles Williams, Protestant Episcopal bishop of Michigan, leveled an “indictment against present-day Christianity” which accused the Church of dealing in “canned goods, stereotyped plans of salvation,” and “crystallized and petrified orthodoxies.” These methods had left the church ineffectual in the face of new social problems. It was time, Williams argued, for religious leaders to attack the roots of social problems and not waste energy on merely alleviating their symptoms.30
The Protestant Episcopal General Convention of 1913 answered this call with a large-scale mobilization of social service work. Reports from the Convention described an “awakened Church” that embraced “vital matters of the day” and appeared eager to follow the exhortation of their bishop that they “throw themselves into the living, breathing world” around them.31 Other denominations engaged in similar undertakings. The Methodist Federation for Social Service, formed in 1907, was a voluntary organization whose members were occupied in fields that formed the Progressive Era's list of usual suspects: clergy, social workers, progressive educators, and businessmen.32 The Protestant Episcopal periodical, The Churchman, claimed, “There is much to indicate that the Church is acquiring a new social vision” and an “awakening social conscience.”33
This conscience, once awakened, required organized means for its expression. The Protestant Episcopal conscience had realized its earliest organizational impulse in local diocesan social service commissions, the first of which was formed on Long Island, New York, in 1903. By 1914, there were sixty such commissions, and many more parish-level organizations, with New York and Chicago boasting the largest and best-organized groups. The mission of these diocesan commissions—“investigating and taking measures” of their communities' reform needs—served as a model for the Protestant Episcopal Church's denominationwide campaigns. In 1911, the Church appointed a Joint Commission on Social Service to oversee the diocesan commissions, and in 1913 (the year Sumner delivered his marriage health certificate speech) the General Convention expanded the Joint Commission's membership and made it a permanent church institution. Among the clerical members of the Joint Commission were Dean Sumner and his superior, Bishop Anderson.34
The central features of the social service campaign, as described in an (p.62) exhibit at the 1913 Convention, were “collective, preventive, and constructive” activities “aimed at social justice,” which employed “methods based on modern social science.” The latter required education, and through church-sponsored forums and “study classes,” parishioners were expected to explore solutions to social questions under the guidance of their ministers.35 It was this exploration of secular issues that provided an entry point for eugenic ideas. In Chicago, the Social Service Committee for the city's parishes organized a speakers series in 1913 that engaged a range of social questions, including “Social Ethics and Eugenics.”36
Eugenics ideas were appealing to social service enthusiasts because they seemed to answer the charges leveled by Bishop Williams. Eugenics was a modern, scientific way of thinking about social problems, not the ineffectual methods of old. “Like secular agencies of social reform,” one observer noted, “the church is beginning to recognize that something more than charity is necessary” to solve social problems. Just as their colleagues in professional charity organizations turned to science for guidance in modernizing their best philanthropic tendencies, so, too, church institutions began to model themselves after secular groups. This turn was, in some ways, a reactive rather than a proactive move on the part of the churches. Social settlements and related professional, secular reform movements, which directly tackled the new problems of the heterogeneous cities, forced the churches to change their message and tactics. To successfully pursue a social mission, the churches had to learn how to cope with the new problems in their communities.37 And they had to do so in a way that rendered their efforts as relevant as those of their professional secular counterparts.
Marriage and the health of the family were central concerns in this context, and they became key issues for the social service commissions. As Rt. Rev. Thomas F. Gailor, Protestant Episcopal bishop of Tennessee, noted, marriage was “the fundamental social relation” because it served as the gateway to family life. “When the family fails and the home declines,” he warned, “the Nation and the race are doomed to perish.”38 That the feebleminded posed a serious challenge to the health of the race was an assumption made even by religious leaders who had little direct connection to the eugenics movement or knowledge of its teachings on heredity.
John M. Glenn, director of the Russell Sage Foundation and a lay member of the Protestant Episcopal Church's Joint Commission on Social Service, outlined this connection between the health of the family and the fate of the race explicitly in a speech he gave just after the Church's General Convention in 1913. Glenn expressed concern over the rapid increase of the feebleminded population, whom he described as “the begetters of numerous degenerate children,” and reminded his audience that it was the Church's duty to “consider the physical, as well as the spiritual well-being” of its members and of society. To this end he endorsed state-sponsored segregation of feebleminded men and (p.63) women. “Should not the churches arouse themselves and their States to the horrors of this evil [feeblemindedness] and seek its prompt abolition by the Legislature?” he asked.39
Glenn's rhetoric soon had the force of an organized movement behind it. By the 1910s, liberal Protestants' socially minded, reforming zeal had generated an institutional structure of commissions, ecumenical organizations, and church programs that represented the high-water mark of the Social Gospel movement. With their emphasis on cooperation with secular reform organizations, these institutions were fertile ground for scientific reform ideas like eugenics. Indeed, in this context, it would have been surprising had the eugenics movement not garnered a significant number of Protestant sympathizers; a survey taken in these years by the American Institute of Social Service found that 85 percent of the country's social workers had ties to Protestantism.40 In this context it is easy to see how the institutional framework of the Protestant churches, particularly the liberal, reforming bent of social service campaigns, could provide the structure for promoting eugenic solutions to social problems.
The social service movement's concern with the problems of marriage and feeblemindedness became clear at the Protestant Episcopal General Convention in 1913. There, the Diocesan Conventions from New York, Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, Kentucky, Oregon, and Pennsylvania reported to the General Convention resolutions they had drafted and passed in their annual diocesan meetings; appropriating the language of the eugenics movement, the resolutions required the presentation of health certificates before marriage.41 The Virginia Diocesan resolution, for example, claimed that the churches could no longer ignore the “menace” to the race; the Maryland Convention endorsed “the movement for social and moral betterment” and encouraged the General Convention to craft “carefully drawn rules” and encourage legislation “to prevent the securing of licenses by those who are morally and physically unfit” to marry.42 Rev. Dr. Tatlock, a delegate from Michigan, even asked the Convention to consider amending Canon 39 to require health certificates for marriage.43 A survey conducted in the New York Diocese of the Protestant Episcopal Church by Rev. Charles K. Gilbert revealed additional Protestant Episcopal support for measures to control marriage. In 1913, the New York State legislature considered passage of a measure called the Duhamel Domestic Relations Bill, which would require health certificates of all couples before marriage—in effect, making Dean Sumner's plan the law in New York. Rev. Gilbert, the executive secretary of the New York Diocesan Social Service Commission, sent out a questionnaire soliciting clerical opinion of the pending bill. He received sixty-six replies, which he claimed represented the views of the rectors of the most important Protestant Episcopal parishes in the diocese. The results were revealing (see table 2.1).
In addition to the overwhelming support religious leaders offered for the (p.64)
TABLE 2.1 Results of Questionnaire on the Marriage Health Certificate Requirement
Do you regard this as a matter for legislative regulation? [66 responding]
Do you regard the provisions of the Duhamel Bill as practicable and desirable? [55 responding]
The eagerness with which the social service commissions in Sumner's own denomination and religious leaders outside of it embraced his health certificate idea demonstrates just how amenable their Social Gospel philosophy was to hereditarian thinking about the control of marriage.45 Theologically, liberal Protestants' support for health certificates was tenable because they believed that it did not significantly alter or challenge the sacredness of marriage as an institution. In fact, the favorable arguments made by many ministers reveals that, for them, the health certificate plan strengthened the sacredness of the institution by guarding it against anything that might lead to its degeneration, such as feeblemindedness and venereal disease. They still viewed themselves as society's best arbiters of marriage, and in their minds, support for health certificates offered them another means of monitoring the institution. Moreover, liberal ministers and rabbis easily incorporated eugenic health certificate proposals into their larger social service efforts because many of them were already actively involved in and familiar with a wide range of Progressive Era secular reforms. Eugenic proposals (or at least, popular conceptions of eugenic proposals) were neither alien nor unwelcome to religious leaders who read social work publications, sat on the boards of charity organizations, and grafted secular social services onto their churches and synagogues. Support for eugenic health certificates became another, logical building block in their Social Gospel fortresses.
Praise for eugenic health certificates did not come from all religious quarters, however. Catholics were the most vocal opponents. In the Catholic Church, marriage is a sacrament, whose regulation is the function solely of the Church. Cardinal Gibbons declared unstinting opposition to any proposals (p.65) such as health certificates that tried to interfere with the Church's duties in this regard. “Marriage is a divinely ordered institution,” he said. “It is a relation too personal and intimate to be interfered with” in this manner. He decried the “inquisitorial methods” proposed by Protestant and Jewish supporters of health certificates, arguing that they interfered with personal liberty.46 Remarking on Cardinal Gibbons's opposition, the Catholic weekly America accused health certificate supporters of disregarding the “human soul, with its marvelous powers of intellect and free will,” and treating conjugal relations as they would the “breeding on the stud-farm.” The editorial ended with a cry of “Halt! to the ill-advised enthusiasts [who tampered with marriage] in violation of the laws of nature and of nature's God.”47
Catholic opposition to health certificates stemmed not only from a belief in personal freedom and the sacredness of marriage; it was also an assertion of the Church's authority to regulate the institution. “The Church will not delegate its powers to medical practitioners or amateur dabblers in eugenics,” one Catholic writer averred. Catholics were concerned with the considerable expansion of medical authority occurring at the time, particularly the “medicalization” of the home, and they did not believe that physicians or eugenicists should have the power to interfere with or prevent marriage.48 Liberal Protestants might throw wide the doors to scientific and medical experts, but Catholics were more wary.
Catholic leaders leveled strong criticism against Protestant ministers for their embrace of eugenic health certificates. Jesuit Henry Woods penned a caustic denunciation in America in which he deplored the seemingly blind eagerness of the Protestant clergy who were following Dean Sumner's lead. “Ministers, like children, are always ready for a new toy,” he observed. Questioning the validity of the eugenic science behind the certificate proposal, he offered the following warning to the Protestant clergy: Even if every minister followed Sumner's example by establishing this impediment to marriage, “the great Catholic Church, the mother of the weak as well as the strong, is ready to protect the former in their natural right, to make children, whatever the constitution of these may be.”49
Contrary to Woods's suggestion, though, not all Protestant ministers approved of Sumner's actions. In fact, the social service impulse (and outgrowths of it such as health certificate proposals) was a serious point of contention within American Protestantism in these years. Rev. A. F. Campbell, a Methodist minister from Brooklyn, accused ministers of “running riot” with eugenic theories and declared the debate over health certificates notable for its lack of “sober thought.” Like Catholic critics, Rev. Campbell believed that relinquishing control of marriage to physicians was a slippery slope; soon “every Tom, Dick and Harry” would have the power to regulate the institution, he said. For that reason, the churches should not allow marriage to be taken out of their “exclusive hands.”50
(p.66) Many Protestant ministers (especially those who did not embrace the liberal Social Gospel) were not pleased with the churches' seemingly overwhelming emphasis on social reform in the 1910s, of which the health certificate crusade was a part. These evangelical Protestants decried the churches' “dilettante concern with sociological minutiae” and the resulting neglect of spiritual concerns among the clergy. They worried that the Social Gospel emphasized social reform to the exclusion of all else, including the message of personal salvation. In exasperation, Rev. Bernard Iddings Bell, dean of St. Paul's (Protestant Episcopal) Cathedral in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, noted the churches' misplaced priorities: “One might as well admire the spectacle of Joan of Arc forsaking her place at the head of France's armies while she devoted her time to mending her soldiers' hosiery!” Christians, especially Christian ministers, should concern themselves with the task of salvation, not solving social problems.51 The Chicago White Stockings outfielder-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday criticized Social Gospel efforts as “godless social service nonsense” and told audiences at his revival meetings that they could “get right with God” only by establishing a personal relationship with Christ, not by becoming amateur sociologists.52
Although evangelical Protestants did not wholly reject social service (conservative denominations such as the Southern Methodists and Southern Presbyterians adopted social creeds in the 1910s, and the Southern Baptists created a Social Service Commission that investigated social problems in this period), between 1900 and 1930 a “Great Reversal” occurred among Protestants. Social reform, especially the zealous pursuit of social reform that characterized the Social Gospel, came under suspicion from evangelicals.53 In their view, liberal ministers who devoted their ministries to social concerns neglected what the Bible instructed Christians to do: Save souls. What for liberal Protestants was a reasonable adaptation to new social conditions and recent discoveries of science was for evangelical Protestants a sure path toward heresy. In this context, health certificates represented Christian social service run amok.
The conservative publication The Presbyterian said as much in a July 1913 editorial. The editors declared marriage health certificates “an outrage upon decency and modesty” and argued that “there is no justice in forcibly subjecting decent people to any such ordeal” as the exams proposed by certificate supporters. Like some Catholic critics, they also saw health certificates as a threat to the sanctity of the institution of marriage. “The physical examination theory has a tendency to reduce the conception of marriage to a physical or animal basis,” they said, and they “hoped that this well-meant delusion will proceed no further.” In the 1920s, Rev. Phillips Osgood of Minneapolis would preach eugenics; his predecessor in the pulpit at St. Mark's Protestant Episcopal Cathedral, Rev. James E. Freeman, was wary of such movements. In 1913, he voiced caution against “worshipping as a fad the popular movement in behalf of social betterment.” It should not be made “the whole end of religion,” he (p.67) said. Rt. Rev. David Greer echoed these sentiments at the New York Diocesan Convention in 1913, warning that social service of this sort lacked “spiritual vision” and seemed too concerned with “material aims.” Similarly, in a discussion of “Heredity and Environment” at the Protestant Episcopal Church Congress in Charleston, South Carolina, another minister warned, “We are all in danger of attaching too much importance to outward cleansing” and not enough to inward spiritual growth.54 Such sentiments reveal that the religious leaders who did embrace Sumner's eugenic health certificate plan were part of the more daring end of the liberal Protestant spectrum. They were eager to incorporate the discoveries of science and social science into their ministries. In the decades to come, as evangelical Protestants moved further away from the liberal Social Gospel, they would offer more pointed rebukes of the eugenics movement.
The zeal with which social service groups in the Protestant churches were pursuing marriage regulation in 1912 and early 1913 prompted one newspaper to point out that “the State is lagging behind the Church in its recognition of eugenic truths.”55 In fact, before Sumner's declaration, a number of states had laws on the books prohibiting or regulating the marriage of the insane, feebleminded, and epileptic. The clear intent of these statutes was not to prevent the marriage of these groups, but to thwart their reproduction; a few of the laws allowed marriage of a feebleminded woman if she was over the age of 45 on the presumption that she was past childbearing age and hence no longer a threat to society. States rarely enforced these laws, however, and with new evidence from eugenics studies showing a supposedly rapid increase in feeblemindedness, state legislators began turning their attention to strengthening and updating these marriage regulations.56
The United States was not the first nation to turn to health certificate legislation as a solution to the growing “menace of the feebleminded.” As Dr. A. J. Mjoen reported in the British periodical Eugenics Review, the Women's Association of Stavanger, Norway, in 1908 proposed a waiting period and health certificate prior to marriage. Their suggestions, announced at a meeting of the League of Norwegian Women's Clubs, were heartily endorsed by Dr. Mjoen, who discussed them in public lectures in the United States over the course of the next few years. Unlike later U.S. proposals, however, Norwegian plans for health certificates made them a voluntary rather than a compulsory measure.57
A number of U.S. states proposed and passed legislation on marriage health certificates in the years immediately following Dean Sumner's decree. One such law in Wisconsin generated a controversy that revealed the contested meaning of eugenics among scientific eugenicists, legislators, public health advocates, and religious leaders in the 1910s. In 1913, state Sen. William L. Richards introduced a bill requiring medical certification of marriage for Wisconsin residents. The bill, clearly eugenic in intent, became law in 1913 and (p.68) required that “all male persons making application for license to marry shall at any time within fifteen days prior to such application, be examined as to the existence or non-existence in such person of any venereal disease” and issued a physician's health certificate before being granted a marriage license.58 The celebrations of reformers who had lobbied for passage of the law ended quickly, however. Just twenty days after the law went into effect, it was challenged; a state court declared it unconstitutional on the grounds that the tests required for assessing a man's health were expensive and technical and created an undue restriction on marriage.59 To compound the problem, from the law's inception many physicians in the state refused to perform the “eugenic exams” for the maximum allowable fee of $3, insisting instead on charging upward of $25 to cover the costs of procedures such as the new Wassermann test for syphilis. “Although the theory of the eugenic marriage bill might well receive our hearty endorsement,” the Wisconsin Medical Journal editorialized, “in its present form the act asks impossibilities of the medical profession.”60
Supporters appealed their case to the State Supreme Court, though with little hope for success; even the law's defenders predicted defeat. Newspapers reported that popular opinion in the state assumed the law would either be declared unconstitutional by the high court or repealed by the state legislature. Rumors circulated that the governor might even call a special session of the legislature to discuss repeal. No special session materialized, however, and on 17 June 1914, in a surprise decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court sustained the eugenics marriage law, stating that “the state may require of applicants for license to marry the submission of recognized tests to ascertain freedom from disease.” “Wisconsin Ousts Cupid!” the New York Times front-page headline blared, in a story describing the victory for health certificate proponents.61
In the wake of the Wisconsin victory, supporters of health certificates in other states initiated their own legislation. Pennsylvania passed a similar law, although in place of a physician's health certificate the state required a sworn affidavit attesting to the applicant's freedom from imbecility, epilepsy, and transmissible diseases. In 1915, the Vermont legislature passed “an act providing for eugenic marriages” that included a fine of $500 for any person who wed without proof of physical and mental fitness. State activity on marriage regulation prompted a writer in The Nation to conclude that, “as embodied in a marriage license law, like those of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, eugenics ceases to be a fantasy of magazine science and becomes an issue of distinct appeal to the minds and consciences of reasonable men.”62
The appeal of eugenic marriage legislation was strong enough that in states where legislators did not immediately act, governors and local public health officials took up the cause. In New Jersey, health officials from the town of Paterson endorsed a model eugenic marriage law; at a meeting of the nation's governors in 1912 (the same year Sumner proposed the health certificates), (p.69) Idaho's Gov. Hawley called on all states to adopt health certificates as a requirement for marriage. Two years later, Gov. Mann of Virginia made a similar request in his message to the state legislature.63 In Chicago, Judge Joseph Sabath of the Municipal Court refused to marry two couples in the Court of Domestic Relations because he deemed the prospective brides incompetent, with the mentality of children. In a similar vein, his colleague, Morals Court Judge Charles Goodnow, spoke frequently about the problem of “delinquent girls,” telling the Woman's City Club, “The marriage license window is an open way to the destruction of the national health and morals, with the ultimate certainty of irreparable race degeneracy.”64
The flurry of legislative activity on behalf of eugenic marriage demonstrates the idea's appeal in the 1910s. But the pace of action also blurred the distinction between eugenic and social hygiene campaigns. Supporters of health certificate legislation spoke in terms of “safeguarding” marriage, emphasizing their larger commitment to the preservation of race health. In much the way that eugenicists did, they viewed marriage as something people would approach intelligently, scientifically. But they often focused more on nonhereditary venereal diseases as the most important evil to expunge.65
Health certificate legislation did not meet with unmitigated success. In 1914 alone, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, and Louisiana all failed to pass proposed eugenic marriage legislation, though New Jersey eventually did so in 1919.66 Supporters of eugenic marriage legislation in Louisiana credited Catholic opposition with ensuring the bill's defeat, and Catholics were as vehement in their opposition to legislative health certificate proposals as they had been to Dean Sumner's nonlegislative efforts. Cardinal Gibbons directly attacked the 1913 Wisconsin marriage law and predicted, “Eugenics is a fad that is bound to pass with the rest of the fads.” Catholic Thomas Gerrard, who had written extensively about eugenics, was also critical of health certificate legislation. Although recognizing that marriage was the medium through which the eugenic fate of the race was determined, Gerrard could not condone interference with a sacrament. “By the action of God's will moving man's will” (and not through legislation), Gerrard said, “man is able to resist and control his passions.”67
During the debate following Sumner's Easter decree in 1912 and in the ensuing wave of legislative efforts on behalf of eugenic health certificates, the public paid little attention to leaders of the “official” eugenics movement. Though Charles Davenport and his colleagues received occasional mention in popular newspaper and magazine stories on the subject, they were by no means prominent in the early months of this debate. So forgotten were they that the New York Times could claim that Dean Sumner's actions were the “beginning of a great campaign for human betterment,” an assessment that eugenicists (p.70) who had labored for more than a decade to educate the public likely found galling.68 However, it is powerful evidence of the important position religious leaders such as Sumner had achieved in popularizing eugenic ideas.
Eugenicists' absence from popular discussions of health certificates was due in part to their skepticism about the efficacy of health certificate legislation. Though admitting that legislators were “well-meaning” in their intentions, eugenicists such as Davenport felt that the proposals, “at this stage of science, do more harm than good.”69 Likely informed by a degree of disdain for the churches' powers of moral suasion, Davenport followed the health certificate debate from its inception and knew of Sumner's proposal. At the First International Eugenics Congress, convened in London in July 1912, Davenport conceded that the physician's certificate, “which some clergymen are requiring in the States,” had “eugenical bearings.” But he believed that such proposals were ultimately futile, “for so long as a feebleminded person is at large he will find another feebleminded person who will live with him and have children by him. The reproduction of the feeble-minded will not be diminished by laws forbidding the issuing to them of marriage licenses.” He pessimistically concluded that, given the “weak sex-control” of the feebleminded, “it would be as sensible to hope to control by legislation the mating of rabbits.”70
Prof. Samuel G. Smith, a sociologist from Minnesota University also in attendance at the Congress, agreed with Davenport, arguing that although the intent of health certificates was good, the consequences could be disastrous. “Whenever marriage is made more difficult, either by law or by a high standard of living,” he said, “immorality increases.” Eugenicist Caleb Saleeby echoed these sentiments, raising the specter of illegitimacy in The Method of Race Regeneration. Far from preventing dysgenic marriages, Saleeby said, health certificates would prove so burdensome that the feebleminded would simply avoid the institution of marriage altogether. Eugenicist Edwin Grant Conklin of Princeton also urged caution. Noting that eugenics was still an “infant industry,” he warned readers of Science in 1913 that “giving advice regarding matrimony is proverbially a hazardous performance, and it is not much safer for the biologist than for others.” All three eugenicists called for more public education about eugenic science and for the segregation of the feebleminded.71
Dean Sumner's plan and proposed state legislation received warmer treatment from eugenicists at the American Breeders' Magazine. During the early years of the eugenics movement, the editors of the magazine had decried society's lack of attention to marriage. In one lamentation they noted their anticipation of the day when “society and the church would increase their approval of good marriages” and, through the “possession of facts” about heredity, discourage dysgenic unions.72 Just a few years after publishing this hopeful statement, Sumner made his announcement, and although the editors confessed that his proposal had taken them by surprise, they credited him with having “broken the ice so far as cooperation of the church with other social agencies (p.71) is concerned.” In this spirit, the ABA issued an invitation to “all clergymen to become members of this organization.”73
This initial burst of enthusiasm from the ABA was replaced by a strong dose of skepticism after the Association reorganized in 1913 to become the American Genetic Association (AGA).74 The primary reason for this shift was the AGA's concern that popular measures deemed “eugenic” in fact flouted science and misinformed the public, a sentiment shared by eugenicists like Davenport. Over the course of several months in 1914, readers of the AGA's new periodical, the Journal of Heredity, saw criticism from the medical community (“The provisions of the law have far outrun the results of scientific investigation”), the professional charity community (“The popular conception, formed through flippant references to eugenic marriages, eugenic babesand eugenic novels, has resulted in its falling into more or less disrepute”), and from the scientific community, who claimed that eugenic marriage proposals “prostituted” their science and misled the public.75
One of the most fervent rebukes came from Dr. W. C. Rucker, the assistant surgeon general of the U.S. Public Health Service and an outspoken eugenicist. In an article in the Journal of Heredity in 1915, Rucker complained that “most of the measures which the public hails as eugenic have nothing to do with eugenics.” Rucker, who was also the secretary of the AGA's Committee on Education, denounced eugenic marriage laws. “Eugenics is a science,” he said. “It is a fact, not a fadAt present, it cannot countenance any attempt to interfere with marriage by law.”76 Most eugenicists agreed with Rucker that state laws were premature and ill-advised. Davenport lost his temper over the issue: “Oh, fie on legislators who spend thousands of dollars on drastic action and refuse a dollar for an inquiry as to the desirability of such action!”77
Eugenicists' objections were not merely a rearguard effort to protect their own intellectual terrain; they also identified several real weaknesses in eugenic marriage statutes. One problem was that most states did not require women to receive the health examinations. This was a real dilemma in the reasoning of health certificate supporters. Men like Dean Sumner, who cut their reforming teeth on antivice crusades, often linked their support of eugenic marriage to an attack on the moral double standard that allowed men to “sow wild oats” and, hence, contract disease, without public censure. Their eugenic marriage proposals excluded women on the assumption that they were pure and free from disease. The “new woman” might flirt with convention, but Sumner and his colleagues assumed she didn't fornicate. Eugenicists had no such illusions; because they were concerned with all hereditary traits, not just venereal disease, they believed that health certificate legislation had to cover all forms of hereditary feeblemindedness and had to include both men and women.78
Another concern was that people who could not fulfill the requirements for gaining a health certificate would either procreate without the benefit of marriage (“like rabbits,” as Davenport had fretted) or simply avoid the regu (p.72) lation altogether by getting married in a state that did not have a health certificate requirement. Evidently the latter had become a serious problem in Wisconsin. After passage of the 1913 eugenic marriage law, the nearby city of Waukegan, Illinois, became a boom town for marriages, with local officials and ministers reaping substantial profits by marrying out-of-state couples. States such as Illinois, which did not have health certificate requirements, became the preferred place for the nuptials of couples who feared they could not obtain a clean bill of health in their own state. Legislators condemned these “marriage mills,” and some states (including Wisconsin) amended their marriage laws to declare null and void these unions.79
By far the most frequently made criticism of health certificate laws was that prospective brides and grooms could go to “unscrupulous quacks” who would willingly exchange a health certificate for cash, regardless of the candidate's fitness. Eugenicists suspected that even legitimate physicians did not always perform thorough, “eugenic” examinations. Their suspicions gained sanction soon after the passage of Wisconsin's marriage law. In what became known in eugenics circles as the “infamous Ralph Kirwinio episode,” a physician in Milwaukee examined and found fit prospective groom Ralph Kirwinio. He received his health certificate, his marriage license, and Miss Dorothy Klinowski's hand in matrimony—only to be revealed soon thereafter to be a woman (Miss Cora Anderson) masquerading as a man.80 News of this blunder traveled quickly through eugenics circles, providing more evidence of the weakness of marriage examinations. Indeed, such occurrences prompted many eugenics supporters to retreat from their initial stand in favor of health certificates. Psychiatrist G. Alder Blumer, for example, claimed to have undergone “a certain process of `deSumnerization' as the years have rolled by and experience has given pause and poise.”81
Though eugenicists remained less than enthusiastic about health certificate proposals, voluntary plans such as Sumner's and state laws like Wisconsin's forced them to take stock of the public debate over regulating marriage. Health certificates remained popular with the public in this period, which linked them to broader efforts to improve public health.82 The Chicago Society for Social Hygiene had two divisions, one to fight venereal disease and the other to prevent the propagation of “irresponsibles” who were the target of eugenic campaigns. Although measures such as health certificates were not technically eugenic, the common vocabulary of heredity that eugenics and social hygiene groups shared and their emphasis on protecting unborn children allowed them to meld easily in public discourse.83
In popular culture, particularly entertainments for immigrant and working-class audiences, health certificates suffered a few skeptical blows. A vaudeville romp composed by Aaron Hoffman in 1915 featured a song, “Eugenic Marriage,” that pilloried the pretensions of high-minded, highly educated purveyors of the science of eugenics. The song, sung from the perspective of (p.73) a man who has agreed (in response to an advertisement) to marry a “eugenically fit” woman named Annabel Schmidt, traces the travails of a man caught in a medicoscientific farce:
Every scientific—tiffic—stiff, who could afford a carriage,
Attended the Hygienic church where occurred our eugenic Marriage.
While we stood beside the altar, on a fumigated spot,
An antiseptic minister tied the disinfected knot.
Deodorized and pasteurized and sterilized we two.
On a sanitary bible we swore we would be true.
Much to the narrator's alarm, however, things don't go quite as planned with regard to the fitness of their offspring. His score of children are riddled with ailments, from stuttering to St. Vitus dance, leading him to conclude: “Many a time when I look at that gang, the tears roll down my cheeks. How can a man as eugenic as me, be a father to so many freaks?”84
Eugenicists were more sympathetic to certain other proposals to regulate marriage. Many states attached to health certificate laws provisions requiring the publication of banns (a public announcement of a proposed marriage). Such a plan to prevent “hasty marriages” came before the Georgia state legislature in 1916, and eugenicists gave their support to the bill by noting that it might prevent “ill-considered,” dysgenic marriages.85 They also recognized that health certificate legislation, though not eugenic, in their estimation, did at least serve an educational function by making the public aware of the need to safeguard marriage. An article in the Journal of Heredity called for a new “propaganda of marriage” and asked why society had “ardent crusaders against vice” but few “propagandists of one of its antidotes, marriage.” Efforts such as Sumner's, and even those of state legislators, though not wholly scientific, at least encouraged the public to think of marriage as a “social sacrament.”86
These efforts also bolstered a long-standing assumption of the eugenics movement: Implicit in the movement from its origins and explicit in Galton's calls for the creation of a eugenics religion was an understanding that eugenicists' scientific plans ultimately relied on people's willingness to adhere to certain codes of behavior. Without a broadly accepted and consistent enforcement of certain codes, particularly those relating to marriage, the eugenics enterprise collapsed. For their science to succeed, eugenicists required a means for monitoring human behavior; the institution of marriage provided a ready-made scaffolding on which they could construct their plans to control reproduction. This explains, in part, why scientific eugenicists such as Davenport denounced so vehemently the usurpation of eugenics rhetoric by free-love mavens and sex reformers like Moses Harman, but also why they were alarmed by the public's impulsive pursuit of health certificates.
Most eugenicists, while registering their disapproval of health certificate (p.74) laws, did not necessarily call for their wholesale repudiation. In fact, one can begin to see eugenicists responding more readily to the public's concern with safeguarding marriage. Though no doubt spurred in part by their fears of misinformation emanating from “that underworld of quacks and fakirs,” eugenicists did begin to recognize that on the subject of marriage, the public had strong convictions and even displayed an “emotional tendency” with which their movement had to contend. A contributor to the Journal of Heredity urged scientific eugenicists to emerge from their laboratories to tackle “problems of human interest,” like marriage, which dominated public debate.87
Such suggestions came at a time when scientific eugenicists were broadening their educational campaigns. Science departments at Harvard, Columbia, Cornell, Brown, Northwestern, and Clark Universities all offered courses on eugenics, and the ABA reported that “eugenics societies” were springing up across American college campuses. To encourage this trend, the Eugenics Record Office in 1914 created an extension department that began offering the services of its eugenics lecturers “to all organizations of an educational nature,” including women's clubs, local societies, and churches.88
During the 1912–1913 academic year, a number of eugenicists traveled to colleges and universities to deliver lectures on eugenics. The intention of the lecturers, a group that included leading eugenicists Charles Davenport, H. E. Jordan, and Charles Ellwood, was to explain eugenics in a nontechnical fashion and from a wide variety of intellectual perspectives. Matrimony emerged as the common theme. Dr. Lewellys F. Barker, a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, claimed that “the cultivation of a healthy public opinion regarding marriage and parenthood will, it seems probably, be more efficient in promoting eugenics than anything that can be done by way of legislation.”89
Barker and other lecturers hoped to educate their audiences about the need for eugenic standards in marriage. Despite harboring doubts as to the scientific merits of health certificate proposals, more than half of the eugenics lecturers chose to highlight Dean Sumner's cathedral decree as a positive example. Zoologist Robert H. Wolcott of the University of Nebraska suggested that Sumner's declaration “will accomplish quite as much as legal enactment,” and Dr. H. E. Jordan, an embryology professor at the University of Virginia, believed that “many more churches should follow the courageous example set by the authorities of the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul of Chicago, under the leadership of Dr. Sumner.” Sociologist Charles Ellwood of the University of Missouri and economist Morton Aldrich of Tulane University also praised the dean's proposal.90
It is clear, then, that leaders in the eugenics movement found Sumner's activities useful as an educational tool—despite personal qualms about the plan's effectiveness. The university lectures, delivered at the height of the publicity surrounding Sumner's decree, produced no direct criticism of Sumner or any other religious leader who might enter the debate over eugenics. The (p.75) only misgivings present in these speeches concerned hasty marriage legislation in the states. These eugenicists seemed prepared to welcome the initiative of a religious leader such as Sumner, but they hesitated to endorse the proposals of state legislators. Voluntary efforts by respectable religious leaders met with their tentative approval; crusades by fringe reformers or state legislators did not.
Fears about social and familial decay akin to those that prompted Sumner's marriage decree informed a broad range of other religious reform movements. Since the late nineteenth century, several religious denominations had created and sponsored settlement houses in the growing cities to tackle urban social ills. By 1910, there were more than four hundred settlements, religious and secular, in the country. Settlement house workers, like eugenics fieldworkers, were overwhelmingly Protestant, usually idealistic young men and women who believed that, through proper application of the latest social science methods—information gathering, statistical analysis, edifying educational programs—they could eliminate social evils (Dean Sumner had apprenticed under the most redoubtable doyenne of settlement work, Jane Addams). If settlement house workers did not always gauge correctly the sensibilities of their intended audience, they nevertheless made an earnest effort to expand their horizons. Hull House sponsored performances of Beethoven and lectures on Epictetus by John Dewey, for example.91
Social service–minded Protestants working in the teeming cities in the 1910s sometimes expressed sympathy with the eugenics movement's diagnoses of social problems. One minister and settlement house worker in Brooklyn, Rev. William E. Davenport, became actively, if not wholeheartedly, involved with eugenics. At one level, his connection to the eugenics movement could not have been closer: he was the brother of Charles Davenport, the chief of the Eugenics Records Office (ERO) and the country's leading eugenicist. His intellectual connection to eugenics was more tenuous, however, and his correspondence with Charles captures the struggles the eugenics movement had with social reformers, both religious and secular. Reformers such as William Davenport were willing to support the eugenics movement, but only so long as it did not interfere with the Christian charity that they believed was so important for eliminating human suffering. Reformers—whether motivated by religion, science, or social concern—could not pursue one at the expense of the other.92
Rev. William Davenport directed the Italian Settlement House Front Street in Brooklyn, which listed among its activities “Clubs, Classes, English, Gym, Cooking, Sewing, Counsel, Shelter, Study, Outings, and Naturalization Aid,” all fairly standard offerings in the nation's urban settlements. Italians were a large percentage of the immigrants entering the United States at this time, and some of the poorest. As well, their language, appearance, and customs (p.76) alarmed many native-born Americans. An Italian in Brooklyn was an exotic, the Hottentot of the outer boroughs, and settlement workers cottoned to the notion of “civilizing” these new arrivals.
Although William Davenport shared his peers' assessment of Italians, he remained optimistic about their ability to assimilate and become productive members of American society. Their efforts to do so became fodder for his own inquiries into the interplay of heredity and environment among immigrant populations. Settlement house workers went beyond traditional charity work in that they not only sought to help poor city dwellers by living among them, but hoped to learn from them as well, amateur anthropologists embedding themselves in the mores of transplanted foreign cultures.93 Encouraged by his brother Charles, who sent him blank copies of the ERO's Record of Family Traits, William turned the Italian Settlement into a laboratory, measuring and questioning the many immigrants who availed themselves of the settlement's services.94
In 1912, the ERO published The Family History Book, which Charles Davenport compiled from records and family schedules furnished by ERO fieldworkers, fellow eugenicists, and his brother. Charles reproduced in full William's assessments of the Italian families that passed through the Front Street settlement, praising his brother's work as “a model of such studies.” Like other eugenic family studies, William's analysis of “The A—Family from Sicily” mingled general remarks on physical traits, illnesses, and marriage patterns with opinions of the character and morals of the subjects under observation. William described “Alfonso A—,” for example, as “large-bodied, strong,” of “good sexual habits,” and “socially inclined” but “superstitious and lacking in initiative, reflection and mental force.” Another family member possessed a “cheerful disposition” but “gambled inordinately.”95
Rev. Davenport expressed caution in the conclusions he drew from his family studies. “I believe the study of men and races can never be without pertinence,” he wrote to Charles, but the publication of “poorly demonstrated conclusions” is “fraught with frightful consequences.” Unlike his brother, or his family studies predecessor in the clergy, Oscar C. McCulloch, William emphasized the results achieved by environmental reform efforts like settlement house work, frequently challenging Charles's negative assessments of immigrants by reminding him of the many young men who had been “rated very low mentally by competent examiners” yet who nevertheless demonstrated “excellent capacity in their home relations and social obligations.” William also viewed his religious reform work as similar in spirit, if not always in kind, to Charles's eugenics studies. In one letter to Charles he expressed his desire to “run down to Cold Spring Harbor soon and learn more of your work there, as of course it has the closest relationship with the sort of work our settlement houses are trying to do.”96 Like earlier religious students of heredity, such as (p.77) Rev. Samuel Zane Batten, William Davenport reconciled his faith in Christian social service with the new findings of science through a qualified embrace of eugenics. He tempered his conclusions about the importance of heredity with his experience as a settlement house worker. Having witnessed firsthand the changes a positive environment could bring, he did not adopt the pessimistic hereditary determinism of his brother.
Most eugenicists, however, embraced hereditary determinism, and in the 1910s began delivering their proof in a popular form: sensational accounts of degenerate families. Just as Richard Dugdale and Rev. McCulloch had tapped into public fascination with tainted generations with their Juke and Ishmaelite family studies in the late nineteenth century, eugenicists traced the diseased branches of American family trees to prove the heritability of a range of traits, extrapolating from these few studies to the population as a whole.97
Arthur H. Estabrook, a fieldworker at the ERO, offered a typical example of this method. Estabrook intrepidly set out in 1913 to investigate a feebleminded family in upstate New York. As he reported back to the reform magazine Survey, he was surprised to have his friendly knock on the family's front door answered by a decidedly “animal-like grunt.” Alas, Estabrook's ears had not deceived him; one of the two “apartments” in the family's shack was a pigpen inhabited by a sow and her litter. Of the two rat-infested apartments he said, “Filth abounds everywhere, the two families rivals in this respect, the humans being slightly in the lead.” Estabrook described the several illegitimate children in the family as feebleminded and the seven-month-old as “puny, underfed, syphilitic, and neglected.” He ended his report by revealing that this feebleminded flock were descendants of the notorious Jukes clan, whose misfortunes Richard Dugdale had famously traced in the late nineteenth century.98
Perhaps the most well-known eugenic family study of this period was Henry H. Goddard's The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeblemindedness, which appeared in 1913. Goddard, director of the Training School for the Feebleminded at Vineland, New Jersey, was one of the first psychologists to promote the use of the Binet-Simon intelligence tests. He and his acolytes went about their work with evangelical fervor; contemporaries referred often to the energetic “Vineland Spirit.” In the 1910s he began studying one of the Vineland School's more recalcitrant inmates, a “high-grade feebleminded” delinquent girl named Deborah Kallikak. Goddard traced Deborah's hereditary troubles to the unfortunate sexual escapades of her Revolutionary War–era ancestor, Martin Kallikak. According to Goddard, Martin's brief affair with a feebleminded tavern maid spawned generations of paupers, criminals, and imbeciles, and his later marriage to a eugenically fit Quaker woman produced generations of prominent, respectable citizens. Goddard concluded from this bifurcated lineage that heredity was of far greater importance than environment in determining which traits would be passed to offspring. He also inter (p.78) preted his findings as a warning of the havoc just one feebleminded woman could wreak: despite Martin Kallikak's good hereditary material, the tavern girl's dysgenic traits were the ones passed on to their progeny.99
Eugenicists' growing concern with the threat posed by feebleminded families was perhaps best demonstrated by the studies of Goddard's assistant at the Vineland Training School, Elizabeth Kite. Much of Goddard's work, including The Kallikak Family, would not have been possible without the contributions of Kite, a writer fluent in French who translated the Binet-Simon intelligence test. Kite was also a convert to Catholicism, and although she left no direct discussion of the connections she made between her faith and her eugenic research, her published articles reveal a serious concern with moral and ethical issues, particularly as they related to heredity.100
In addition to writing major portions of The Kallikak Family, Kite published a well-known family study of her own in Survey in 1913. Called “The Pineys,” the study described the hereditary misfortunes of native residents of New Jersey's Pine Barrens region. Kite traced the Pineys back to colonial times, constructing a “moron family tree” whose branches were heavy with “sowers of wild oats.” According to Kite, the typical Piney had existed for generations: “lazy, lustful, and cunning,” a “degenerate creature” whom she likened to a barnacle, feeding off of society. Yet her focus was not primarily on physical traits. Instead, she noted that although the “question of physical degeneracy” was important, it was the “moral element which entering in makes the human degenerate such a profound menace to social order.” In this vein she expressed her desire to “draw out [the] ethical ideas” of local residents.101
Kite wore “spotless white dresses as she rode in a horse-drawn wagon through the woods” in search of degenerate Pineys.102 Her chaste attire contrasted markedly with the questions she posed to her quarry. In her many interviews with the feebleminded residents of the region, she took special care to ask probing questions about illegitimacy and polygamous unions. She even reprinted a question-and-answer session she conducted with a feebleminded Piney woman named Beckie, whose responses likely fulfilled Kite's expectations of her subject: “Tell me, Beckie,” Kite asked, “you people don't think of it as wrong to marry a man when he has another wife?” Perhaps responding to Kite's leading tone, Beckie promptly retorted, “No, we don't think it wrong.”103 Kite embodied the impulses of progressive social reformers at this time. Earnestly, even idealistically committed to improving society, they nevertheless viewed themselves as superior strangers in the land of feeblemindedness and degradation, reporting back to others the goings-on of this underclass, often in a tone of high adventure. Kite was the kind of person who could travel through the poorest stretches of North Africa and later depict its inhabitants as “indescribably picturesque beggars.”104
Kite's impulses were not entirely investigatory; she ended her study of the Pineys with a call to arms: “The time has come for us as an enlightened com (p.79) munity to set about clearing up these `backdoors of our civilization' and to save from the worst form of contagion what remains of moral health in our rising generations.”105 The moral health of future generations evidently concerned New Jersey's governor. After reading Kite's exposé he visited the Pine Barrens region and recommended that it “be somehow segregated from the rest of New Jersey” to preserve the health and safety of the state's population.106
Contained in the family studies of the 1910s is another shift in the eugenics movement's rhetoric about degeneracy. The feebleminded, formerly a problem, had now become a palpable threat to society, a “menace” that must be eliminated. This new tone emerged in part through the efforts of professional eugenicists such as Goddard who were using more sophisticated tests for diagnosing feeblemindedness—and claiming that diagnosis was the task of experts. In describing the feeblemindedness of a young woman from a degenerate family, for example, Kite noted, “She is attractive, and only a trained eye could readily detect her deficiency.” Another researcher from the Vineland Training School, Alexander Johnson, made a similar point about this new class of the “invisible” feebleminded: “Their defectiveness is seldom recognized without careful scientific tests, so that, although they constitute a far greater danger to the social order than their feebler brothers and sisters, comparatively few of them get into institutions for defectives.”107
Although the authors of eugenic family studies focused new attention on the supposed heritability of moral traits and the “invisible” face of feeblemindedness, they overlooked the inherently paradoxical nature of their findings. If moral traits were heritable and desirable, as the eugenic family studies purportedly proved, how could eugenicists reconcile this with the fact that these same moral impulses encouraged churches and social reformers to succor the weak, an inherently dysgenic practice? One eugenicist touched on this dilemma. In his textbook, Heredity and Environment, biologist Edwin Grant Conklin of Princeton University noted that moral strictures limited the scope of the eugenics enterprise. “Human ideals of morality” acted as a brake on the more extreme eugenic proposals, he noted, hence, “mankind will probably never consent to be reduced to the morality of the breeding-pen.”108 Conklin himself considered this a positive development, but his views were exceptional among eugenicists.
Despite the continued challenge posed to the eugenics mission by religiously motivated charitable impulses, religious-eugenic cooperation and mutual interest grew steadily in this period. Among the vice presidents of the First International Eugenics Congress, for example, were British religious leaders such as the bishops of Birmingham, Oxford, and Ripon, and the General Committee of the Congress contained three clergymen. Religious participation in the formal eugenics movement, if not yet numerically strong, was recognizable.109
In 1913, the American Breeders' Magazine published an editorial that ex (p.80) plicitly called on religious leaders to join the eugenics crusade. In the editors' view, ministers had a strong motivation to support eugenics: Once eugenics had cleared degeneracy and feeblemindedness from the “network of human descent,” the clergy would find their spiritual mission easier to pursue because the eugenically fit were more likely to absorb and apply the messages of religion. Employing religious rhetoric, the editors described eugenics as a “racial religion” that strove to achieve “eugenic righteousness.”110
Although the editors were prepared to employ the language of religion in their appeal, they were not fully convinced that the nation's ministers were schooled enough in science to preach eugenics in their pulpits. The editors recommended further education in the form of eugenics courses at all theology schools and “summer courses in eugenics for preachers, Y.M.C.A., Y.W.C.A. workers, and other leaders in religion.” They even provided a “Ministers' List” of recommended readings on eugenics, which included books by Charles Davenport, H. H. Goddard, Havelock Ellis, and Caleb Saleeby.111 Girded with scientific knowledge, ministers could deliver homilies on heredity to their congregations.
Perhaps more noteworthy than the specific attention the eugenicists at the American Breeders' Magazine gave to ministers was the tone they adopted in doing so. Assuming that ministers were interested in eugenics (a sensible assumption given the spate of recent publicity of their support in the wake of Dean Sumner's announcement), they also carefully distinguished them from the “sensation-mongering” amateurs whom they believed had muddled the public's understanding of their science. They placed ministers alongside philanthropists, teachers, and practical scientists as the “conservators of society” who were responsible for spreading the eugenics message. More important, and for the first time, eugenicists acknowledged the need for religious guidance in crafting eugenics philosophy. “The assistance of all churchmen,” the editors said, “will be greatly needed to aid in developing the philosophy along wholesome lines, and in carrying to all the people those facts and rules of practice which will best serve the race.” The preachers are needed to give eugenics “an ethical, altruistic, and religious turn.”112
Such an admission by eugenicists was a clear departure from earlier discussions, which, if they mentioned ministers at all, usually relegated them to a subordinate or innocuous role. Up to this point, eugenicists had not suggested that religious leaders might have something vital to contribute to the development of eugenic philosophy. In essence, eugenicists at the American Breeders' Magazine recognized what religious leaders such as Rev. Meyer and Fr. Thomas Gerrard had remarked on earlier in the century, but which the public's enthusiastic response to Sumner forced them to reckon with: A eugenics crusade that failed to recognize the crucial dynamic of man's spiritual nature and the importance of religious support was likely to fail.
Writing in the Nineteenth Century magazine in 1913, Canon Edward Lyt (p.81) telton (of the Anglican Church) offered similar sentiments about the future of religious-eugenic collaboration: “The eugenist and the Christian are really so near together that there should be no difficulty about co-operation between them.” In fact, Lyttelton suggested, the eugenics movement owed intellectual homage to Christianity for first articulating the idea that the human race could work to perfect itself. What concerned Lyttelton, however, was the eugenics movement's apparent unwillingness to recognize an important distinction: “The first truth for the scientific eugenist is the second truth in the Christian series; it is the unspeakable value of human life; the eugenist starts with it, the Christian treats it as a corollary of something deeper and more mystic which the eugenist may or may not understand.”113 This “mystic something” was the spiritual world, and eugenicists' inattention to it was the source of nearly every religious leaders' hesitation in fully embracing the eugenics movement in this period.
There was evidence that that hesitation was fading, however, especially among Protestants. In addition to supporting the call for eugenic certification of marriages, ministers in several prominent churches launched educational campaigns about eugenics for their parishioners. In the 1910s, Fordham Methodist Episcopal Church in the Bronx sponsored eugenics lectures for its congregation, and the Mount Morris Baptist Church in Harlem offered eugenics classes modeled on those taught in colleges and universities across the country. In June 1913, Rev. A. Edwin Kelgwin of the West End Presbyterian Church in New York City held a Sunday evening “platform meeting” on eugenics. Four speakers, including Kelgwin and Rev. Walter Laidlaw of the New York Federation of Churches, spoke to a “congregation which taxed the capacity of the edifice,” according to newspaper reports; in their presentations the ministers noted the “fearlessness” with which the Presbyterian Church was treating the topic of eugenics. Rev. Kelgwin paid particular attention to marriage in his speech, urging men and women to use eugenics to release themselves from the “shackles of ignorance” and “effect a reform that is vital to the whole human family.”114
Although the content of most of these eugenics lectures, classes, and forums is unknown, the participants' rhetoric, particularly their keen focus on marriage, suggests that, like Dean Sumner's efforts, these “eugenic” meetings blurred the distinction between eugenics and social hygiene campaigns. At Rev. Kelgwin's forum, for example, he was joined on the platform by Richard Bennett, a well-known American actor recently famous for his portrayal on Broadway of the lead role in Damaged Goods.115 Eugenics could serve as a means for justifying greater church control over courtship as well. In 1913, Rev. John Gunn of New York credited the “present awakening of interest in eugenics” with inspiring his proposal for scientifically informed courtship; he turned his church into a social center where “worthy young men and women” could meet each other in a controlled and safe setting. Gunn's intentions were ex (p.82) plicitly eugenic: “Love, courtship, and marriage have too long been regarded as merely sentimental and accidental matters. Cupid should familiarize himself with the facts of science.”116
Finally, these years witnessed continuing interest in eugenics among Reform rabbis. In 1913, the Free Synagogue of New York announced a series of lectures to be given at Synagogue House, the church's social service department, on many current social issues, including eugenics.117 The Free Synagogue was an ideal forum for such discussion. Founded in 1907 by Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, its stated purpose was to “broaden the spirit and form of the synagogue, expound Judaism in the light of the present, uphold liberty of thought and speech, and promote social service.”118 The growing number of churches and synagogues debating eugenics suggests the ease with which liberal congregations embraced the new science; they viewed it as no more radical than settlement house work.
For a time in the 1910s, the debate over health certificates dominated public discussion of marriage and eugenics. Dean Sumner's plan, and the state laws that resembled it, appealed to Protestant ministers and Reform rabbis because of their emphasis on safeguarding marriage and the health of the American family. Health certificate proposals and legislation also succeeded in disrupting the distinction between eugenic reforms (which targeted hereditary traits) and social hygiene campaigns (which emphasized nonhereditary diseases such as syphilis). Although eugenicists remained skeptical of health certificates' effectiveness, the popularity of the measures among social reformers and religious leaders forced eugenicists to examine more closely these marriage regulation proposals. In addition, the publicity provoked by the issue offered points of entry for religious leaders who were eager to explore eugenics questions or pursue eugenic reforms in their own churches and synagogues.
Dean Sumner was the first prominent religious leader to craft and carry through a eugenics program of his own making. Although he didn't decamp to Greenwich Village and embrace radical ideas, and likely would have been scorned by readers of the Village's voice, The Masses, in his own way Sumner challenged traditional thinking about marriage by merging it with modern science. At the most basic level of human psychology, health certificates satisfied a certain need. Certification imbued marriage with a sense of seriousness and lent to the novices embarking on their great connubial experiment a feeling of participating in a broader mission: contributing to the health of the race and nation. With the young in full-blown cultural revolt, at least by their own assessment, confusion over changes in home-grown mores and the fate of marriage as an institution loomed large. “It seems as though everywhere, in that year of 1913, barriers went down and people reached each other who had never been in touch before,” wrote the Village's éminence grise, Mabel Dodge. “The only enemies were tradition and timidity.”119 There is no little irony in the fact that farm girls would soon be yearning to be flappers—and the flapper em (p.83) braced, as part of her modern sensibility, a movement that applied the breeding techniques of the farm to her fellow citizens.
Dean Sumner's rise in the Protestant Episcopal Church hierarchy continued, as did his enthusiasm for eugenics. He left Chicago in 1913 to be consecrated bishop of Oregon. Asked about his support for eugenic reforms seventeen years after he had announced his health certificate plan, Sumner said, “No problem is more worthy of our time and attention.”120 The public agreed. As an editorial in the Medical Times said of Sumner, “His name will always be associated with eugenics in this country, for his determination to regulate marriage in his own parish has given the science an impetus that all good men will endeavor to assist.”121 (p.84)
(1.) “Two `Health Marriages': Chicago Idea for a Perfect Union Meets Quick Response,” New York Times, 11 April 1912, 1. Dean Sumner's statement read in full: “Persons desiring to be married at the cathedral will be expected to conform with the following regulations: (1) Both must have been baptized; (2) neither may have a divorced husband or wife living; (3) someone known to the cathedral clergy must vouch for the identity of each; (4) they must bring at least two persons who know them to act as witnesses of the ceremony; (5) each must present a certificate properly signed by a reputable physician to the effect that he or she has neither an incurable nor communicable disease and is mentally normal; (6) arrangements must be made at least three days before the day appointed for the ceremony, in order that the banns may be published at three public services of the cathedral.” See The Churchman 107 (25 January 1913): 116.
(2.) “The Restriction of Marriage,” The Outlook 100 (6 April 1912): 760. Sumner's activities have been virtually ignored by historians. One exception (although Sumner is mentioned only in passing) is Diane B. Paul, Controlling Human Heredity: 1865 to the Present (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 1995), 10.
(3.) Sumner later earned a D.D. from Northwestern University. Biographical information from Johnson and Malone, Dictionary of American Biography (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1943), vol. 21, supplement 1, 678–679; Who's Who in America (Chicago: Marquis Publications, 1966), 1: 1206; The Churchman 149 (15 September 1935): 25.
(4.) John Henry Hopkins, D.D., S.T.D., The Great Forty Years in the Diocese of Chicago, 1893–1934 (Chicago: Centenary Fund, 1936), 125. Sumner was also involved with the Chicago Board of Education's efforts to teach sex hygiene in the public schools, a campaign spearheaded by superintendent Ella Flagg Young; on this campaign, see Jeffrey P. Moran, “Modernism Gone Mad: Sex Education Comes to Chicago, 1913,” Journal of American History 83 (September 1996): 481–513.
(5.) “Dean Sumner,” pamphlet, Redpath Chautauqua Collection, University of (p.205) Iowa Libraries [19-?]: http://sdrcdata.lib.uiowa.edu/ libsdrc/ details.jsp?id=/ sumner/ 1, accessed 3 August 2002.
(6.) Chicago Vice Commission, The Social Evil in Chicago: A Study of Existing Conditions (Chicago: Gunthorp-Warren, 1911); Graham Taylor, “Police Efficiency the First Effect of Vice Inquiries,” Survey 28 (1912): 136, 139. See also Louis Filler, The Muckrakers (1939; reprint, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1976), 286–287, 242; Allan Brandt, No Magic Bullet: A Social History of Venereal Disease in the United States Since 1880 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 50.
(7.) Winston Churchill, The Inside of the Cup: ftp://ftp.ibiblio.org/ pub/ docs/ books/ gutenberg/ etext04/ wc27w10.txt, accessed 9 September 2002. See also May, The End of American Innocence, 49.
(8.) Brandt, No Magic Bullet, 8, 19, 50–51. Antivice crusades must also be understood in the context of society's concern over the sexuality of young unmarried women in the cities, as Mary Odem has shown in Delinquent Daughters: Protecting and Policing Adolescent Female Sexuality in the United States, 1885–1920 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), especially ch. 4, “The `Delinquent Girl' and Progressive Reform.”
(9.) Brandt, No Magic Bullet, 47–48. Walter Lippmann, A Preface to Politics (New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1913), 135–136.
(10.) “Must be Normal and Well to Wed,” New York Times, 25 March 1912, 3. Information on Anderson from Hopkins, The Great Forty Years in the Diocese of Chicago, 62, 69.
(11.) “Must be Normal and Well to Wed,” 3.
(12.) Evangelical (conservative) Protestants had different concerns about Sumner's plan and related liberal proposals for social reform, which I discuss later.
(13.) “The Restriction of Marriage,” 760. Fallows was enthusiastic about eugenics. In 1904 he wrote the introduction to a hefty book about eugenics that went through five printings. In it he declared eugenics a “profound and far-reaching question” of human nature. Truitt, Eugenics, ch. 1.
(14.) “Bishop Whitehead Approves,” New York Times, 26 March 1912, 11.
(15.) “Should Ministers Marry the Physically Unfit?” New York Times, 2 June 1912, 10; “Pastors for Eugenics,” New York Times, 6 June 1913, 10.
(16.) “Should Ministers Marry the Physically Unfit?” 10; “Eugenics Supported by the Church,” Current Literature 52 (May 1912): 565; biographical information on Hirsch in Bernard Martin, “The Social Philosophy of Emil G. Hirsch,” American Jewish Archives Journal 6 (1954): 151–165.
(17.) Rudolph I. Coffee, “Pittsburgh Clergy and the Social Evil,” Survey 29 (1912–1913): 815; Survey 35 (1913): 97; biographical information from National Cyclopedia of American Biography, vol 42.
(18.) “Will Marry Healthy Only: 200 Chicago Pastors Indorse Plan to Have Doctor's Certificate,” New York Times, 28 May 1912, 1.
(19.) “Eugenics Supported by the Church,” 565.
(20.) “Should Ministers Marry the Physically Unfit?” 4.
(21.) “Will Wed Only the Sound: Montclair Pastor Will Insist on a Certificate of Good Health,” New York Times, 5 May 1913, 1; “Only Healthy Can Marry: Montclair Pastor Told to Perform Ceremony for None Other,” New York Times, 15 May 1913, 1. (p.206) Rev. Weirs later became head of the New York Liberal Ministers' Association Committee on Eugenics, mentioned earlier.
(22.) “Pastor Favors Eugenics: The Rev. R. C. Hull Will Ask Congregation to Adopt His Views,” New York Times, 14 July 1913, 7. Rev. Charles L. Walworth of the Morrow Memorial Methodist Church in Maplewood, New Jersey, publicly advocated eugenic marriage, and in New York, two ministers who, according to the New York Times, performed the “largest number of fashionable marriages” in the city (Rev. Charles Slattery of Grace Church and Rev. William P. Merrill of Brick Presbyterian Church) endorsed Sumner's proposal. See Eugenical News 1 (March 1916): 18; “Pastors for Eugenics,” 10.
(23.) “Pastor Adopts Eugenics: Won't Perform Marriages for the Physically Unfit,” New York Times, 26 May 1913, 1.
(24.) “Must Prove Health: No More Weddings at Fort Washington Church without Certificates,” New York Times, 3 June 1913, 9; “`Health Marriages' More Frequent,” Literary Digest (21 February 1914): 384.
(25.) “Eugenists Taking Courage,” New York Times, 22 May 1913, 10.
(26.) “Bishops Approve Plan to Apply Eugenics to Marriage,” New York Times, 31 March 1912, 1.
(27.) The Literary Digest reported that “churches all over the country are discussing and voting on the question”; see “Health Marriages More Frequent,” 384; “Apparently the Plan Works Well,” New York Times, 11 April 1913, 8.
(28.) Judging by the number of special sermons he preached in various churches and the many requests for his presence at religious conferences and meetings, Sumner's standing and prestige in the Protestant Episcopal Church were not diminished by his eugenic reform activities. During the Lent and Easter seasons that immediately followed his March 1912 decree, he spoke on subjects ranging from poverty, the social evil, and childhood education to the development of industry and “Dependent, Defective, and Delinquent Children” at several venues in Chicago; Albany, New York; Concord, New Hampshire; and Charleston, South Carolina. His support for eugenic marriage also led to his appointment in 1915 to the Eugenics Committee on Education and Extension of the American Genetic Association (formerly the American Breeders' Association). Sumner's many activities are chronicled in the pages of The Churchman 107 (1 February 1913): 147; (15 February 1913): 212; (8 March 1913): 312, 314; (15 March 1913): 343; (29 March 1913): 420; (3 May 1913): 586; see also Journal of Heredity 5 (August 1914): 340.
(29.) Walter T. Sumner, “The Church and Moral Progress,” in Social Service at the General Convention of 1913 (New York: Joint Commission on Social Service of the Protestant Episcopal Church, Church Missions House, 1913), 23, 25–26.
(30.) “A Bishop's Indictment of Present-Day Christianity,” Current Literature 51 (July 1911): 65–66; biographical information on Williams from obituary in New York Times, 15 February 1923, 19.
(31.) The Outlook 105 (1913): 466, 520–521.
(32.) William McGuire King, “The Emergence of Social Gospel Radicalism: The Methodist Case,” in Marty, Modern American Protestantism, 6: 223.
(33.) The Churchman 108 (November 1913): 690.
(34.) Joint Commission on Social Service of the Protestant Episcopal Church, So (p.207) cial Service at the Episcopal Church (New York: Church Missions House, 1914); The Churchman 108 (November 1913): 736.
(35.) Social Service at the General Convention of 1913, appendix D.
(36.) The Churchman 107 (5 April 1913): 454.
(37.) Survey 31 (1913–1914): 95; Huggins, Protestants against Poverty. The New York Federation of Churches, for example, sponsored an extensive data collection project in Manhattan. Federation workers and volunteers gathered statistics on the character of Manhattan's population, including the number of foreign-born whites and the extent of the problem of “defective children” in the area. By 1913, Congregationalists had created a supervisory Commission on Social Service that included as part of its draft objectives “to study the social waste caused by vice, crime, and bad economic conditions.” See “Telling the Churches Where They Are,” Survey 29 (1912–1913): 689–692; Congregationalist information reprinted in White and Hopkins, The Social Gospel, 191–192.
(39.) John M. Glenn, “The Church and Social Work,” The Churchman 108 (23 August 1913): 247. This is a reprint of an address Glenn delivered at the National Conference of Charities and Corrections held in Seattle that year.
(40.) Survey results reported in Szasz, The Divided Mind of Protestant America, 43.
(41.) The Churchman 107 (24 May 1913): 681; (7 June 1913): 1278; (14 June 1913): 777; (21 June 1913): 800, 809; (28 June 1913): 842; (30 August 1913): 280.
(42.) The Churchman 107 (21 June 1913): 809; (14 June 1913): 777.
(43.) “Petitions, Resolutions, and Memorials,” The Churchman 108 (18 October 1913): 520.
(44.) “Health Certificates for Matrimony,” Literary Digest 46 (7 June 1913): 1278.
(45.) Reform Jewish support also rested on a similar embrace of the secular social reform impulse, despite the fact that their theology was distinct in many ways from the Protestant Social Gospel.
(46.) “Gibbons on Health Test: Against Requiring Doctor's Certificate from Couples before Marrying,” New York Times, 29 March 1912, 10.
(47.) “Wildcat Eugenism,” America 9 (30 August 1913): 495. For a more detailed exposition of Catholic views on marriage at this time, see H. A. Brann, “The Catholic Doctrine of Marriage,” American Catholic Quarterly Review 8 (July 1883): 385–404: “As marriage is a sacrament, though having the nature of a contract, the Catholic Church claims exclusive control over it, and permits the State to legislate only with regard to its civil effects. If the State does more than this, the Church considers it an intrusion.”
(48.) “Eugenics Supported by the Church,” 566; Pernick, The Black Stork, 101.
(49.) “Health Certificates for Matrimony,” 1278–1279.
(50.) For expressing his opposition, Campbell was pilloried as an antiscientific reactionary by the New York Times. In a June 1913 editorial, the paper said that by “refusing to lead their flocks” and rejecting the “newer light” science had shed on marriage, ministers such as Rev. Campbell endangered the health of the race. See “Has No Use for Eugenics: Methodist Says Churches Are Running Riot on Marriage,” New (p.208) York Times, 10 June 1913, 8; “His Question Needs Amendment,” New York Times, 11 June 1913, 8.
(51.) Bell was a well-known leader in the Protestant Episcopal Church, a prolific writer, and president of St. Stephen's College from 1920 to 1933. In 1946 he became canon of the Cathedral where Dean Sumner had made his mark, SS. Peter and Paul in Chicago. For biographical information, see National Cyclopedia of American Biography, 43: 202–203. B. Bell, “Social Service and the Churches,” 164; Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture, 92.
(53.) The years 1910–1915 also witnessed the publication of twelve volumes called The Fundamentals, meant to stand as evangelical Protestants' “Testimony to the Truth.” Szasz, “Protestantism and the Search for Stability,” 98; Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture, 86, 118–119.
(54.) “Marriage and Physical Examinations,” The Presbyterian 83 (2 July 1913): 8. “The Brotherhood Convention,” The Churchman 108 (11 October 1913): 481–485; Rt. Rev. David Greer, “The Redemption of Social Service,” The Churchman 108 (12 November 1913): 69; Rev. G. A. Carstensen, “The Church Congress,” The Churchman 108 (12 April 1913): 476.
(55.) “A Warning Safely Disregarded,” New York Times, 29 May 1913, 10.
(56.) Survey 28 (1912): 766; eight states prohibited marriage by imbeciles and the feebleminded; fifteen states barred the idiotic; nine prohibited epileptics from marrying; and four states prohibited those with venereal diseases from contracting marriage. Kansas and Connecticut allowed marriage if the afflicted woman was over 45 years of age. Jesse Spaulding Smith, “Marriage, Sterilization and Commitment Laws Aimed at Decreasing Mental Deficiency,” Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology 5 (September 1914): 364–370; Stevenson Smith et al., A Summary of the Laws of the Several States, Bulletin of the University of Washington, No. 82, Bailey and Babette Gatzert Foundation for Child Welfare, May 1914.
(57.) Dr. A. Mjoen, “Legal Certification of Health before Marriage,” Eugenics Review 4 (January 1913): 356–362.
(58.) Fred S. Hall, Medical Certification for Marriage: An Account of the Administration of the Wisconsin Marriage Law as It Relates to the Venereal Diseases (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1925), 13, 81.
(59.) Ibid., 17.
(61.) “Wisconsin Ousts Cupid!” Peterson v. Widule (Wisconsin, 17 June 1914, 147 N.W. 966), in “Decisions of State Courts on Points of Public Law,” American Political Science Review 8 (November 1914): 680. The original 1913 law was replaced by a revised law in 1915, which provided free laboratory services by the state and gave the examining physician more discretion in determining whether laboratory tests were needed.
(62.) New York Times, 23 March 1915, 1; 27 March 1912, 8; “The Cost of Eugenics,” The Nation 97 (14 August 1913): 137. Rhode Island also passed a resolution, but (p.209) it linked eugenic marriage and miscegenation; the resolution “prohibited the marriage of Caucasians with Negroes” and required health certificates for marriage for all potential brides and grooms. In 1917, New York passed a eugenic marriage law that required sworn statements to the effect that the contracting parties did not have communicable diseases. Falsification of such statements was considered perjury under the law. See “Only Healthy May Wed,” New York Times, 18 May 1917, 12.
(63.) “Eugenic Marriage Plan for Paterson,” New York Times, 5 November 1915, 9; The Survey 29 (1912): 348; “Eugenic Marriage Law for Virginia,” New York Times, 17 January 1914, 18.
(64.) Judge Sabath's evidence for the incompetence of one of these women was the fact that she appeared confused in the courtroom and “made no objection when the physician summoned by the City Psychopathic Laboratory stuck a pin in her forehead.” See “Need for Eugenics Law,” Survey 34 (1915): 532. As early as 1912, the Illinois State Conference of Charities and Correction had a Eugenics Committee that passed resolutions in favor of marriage restrictions for the feebleminded. Judge Goodnow quoted in Michael Willrich, “The Two Percent Solution: Eugenic Jurisprudence and the Socialization of American Law, 1900–1930,” Law and History Review 16 (spring 1998): 101. On the issue of delinquent girls and feeblemindedness, see Odem, Delinquent Daughters and Rafter, Creating Born Criminals.
(68.) New York Times, 26 March 1912, 12; emphasis added.
(69.) “Doctor Ridicules Laws for Eugenics,” New York Times, 21 June 1914, 14.
(70.) Charles Davenport, “Marriage Laws and Customs,” in Problems in Eugenics: First International Eugenics Congress, 1912 (London: Eugenics Education Society, 1912), 154. Charles Davenport, State Laws Limiting Marriage Selection Examined in the Light of Eugenics, Eugenics Record Office Bulletin No.9, Eugenics Record Office, New York, 1913.
(71.) Samuel G. Smith, “Eugenics and the New Social Consciousness,” in Problems in Eugenics, 482; Alice Hamilton assessed Conklin's Science essay in “Heredity and Responsibility,” Survey 29 (1912–1913): 866; Caleb Saleeby's thoughts on health certificates were discussed in a book review in Survey 28 (1912): 106. One eugenicist, Roswell Johnson of the University of Pittsburgh, seized on the “selectional aspect” of venereal disease to argue that efforts like Dean Sumner's prevented nature from taking its course among the immoral. By engaging in immoral behavior and contracting disease, Johnson reasoned, these individuals proved their inferior quality and often brought sterility upon themselves; hence, “the decrease of their racial contribution is directly a gain rather than a loss.” Roswell Johnson, “Eugenic Aspect of Sexual Immorality,” Journal of Heredity 8 (March 1917): 121.
(74.) Kimmelman, “The American Breeders' Association,” 190.
(75.) Editorial in the Medical Record, reprinted in Journal of Heredity 5 (February (p.210) 1914): 91; condemnation issued by State Charities Commission of Illinois in its Fourth Annual Report, reprinted in Journal of Heredity 5 (October 1914): 430.
(77.) C. Davenport, Heredity in Relation to Eugenics, 258.
(78.) In one of his speeches on health certificates, Sumner quoted part of a poem written by Ella Wheeler Wilcox which placed the blame for feeble children squarely on the shoulders of men:
Folks talk too much of a soul
From heavenly joys debarred
And not enough of the babes unborn
By the sins of their fathers scarred.
Walter T. Sumner, “The Health Certificate: A Safeguard against Vicious Selection in Marriage,” in Proceedings of the First National Conference on Race Betterment (Battle Creek, MI: Race Betterment Foundation, 1914), 509, 513. Dowling, “The Marriage Health Certificate,” 1141; Edward L. Keyes, “Can the Law Protect Matrimony from Disease?” Social Hygiene 1 (December 1914): 10, 13.
(79.) Bernard C. Roloff, “The `Eugenic' Marriage Laws of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana,” Social Hygiene 6 (April 1920): 233–234. The Wisconsin Supreme Court clarified provisions of Wisconsin's Uniform Evasion Act, as this part of the law was called, in a 1920 case, Lyannes v. Lyannes, 177 N.W. 683. See “Eugenic Marriage Law Has No Extraterritorial Effect,” Social Hygiene 6 (October 1920): 619–620.
(80.) Roloff, “The `Eugenic' Marriage Laws,” 230–231.
(82.) Larson, Sex, Race, and Science, 100; Larson notes that along with segregation, sterilization, and immigration restriction, the public considered marriage restrictions a major element of the eugenics movement.
(83.) Pernick, The Black Stork, 51, 53.
(84.) Aaron Hoffman, “Does Anybody Want a Comedian: A Monologue,” part 3, 1915, Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division: http://memory.loc.gov, digital ID (h)varseps38313, accessed 3 August 2002.
(88.) A. E. Hamilton, “Eugenics,” Pedagogical Seminary 21 (March 1914): 35–36; American Breeders' Magazine 4 (1913): 63. By 1916 the list of colleges and universities offering courses in eugenics included Agnes Scott, Antioch, Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Columbia, Colgate, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Indiana State, Louisiana State, MIT, Missouri Wesleyan, Monmouth, Northwestern, Oberlin, Ohio State, Penn State, Princeton, Radcliffe, Rutgers, Smith, Swarthmore, Tulane, the Universities of California, Chicago, Denver, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, (p.211) Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, Vassar College, Wellesley, and Yale. Eugenical News 1 (1916): 18.
(90.) Ibid., 73–74, 135–136, 228, 314–315.
(91.) Allan F. Davis, Spearheads for Reform: The Social Settlements and the Progressive Movement, 1890–1914 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), 12, xii. Ray Ginger, Age of Excess: The United States from 1877 to 1914 (New York: Macmillan, 1965), 90.
(92.) Correspondence in Davenport Papers, APS. The Davenport brothers came from a devout family. Their father was a temperance advocate and an ardent abolitionist, as well as a founder and elder in Henry Ward Beecher's Plymouth Congregational Church in Brooklyn. The family began each day with prayer. See Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics, 49–50, 52. Kevles mentions William Davenport but neglects to discuss the eagerness with which he applied himself to compiling eugenic family studies.
(93.) Higham, Strangers in the Land, 119. Higham also notes, “The Italians were often thought to be the most degraded of the European newcomers. They were swarthy, more than half of them were illiterate, and almost all were victims of a standard of living lower than that of any of the other prominent nationalities. They were the ragpickers and the poorest of the common laborers” (66).
(94.) William Davenport to Charles Davenport, 8 March 1919; 24 March 1911; Charles Davenport to William Davenport, 7 June 1911, Davenport Papers, APS.
(95.) Charles B. Davenport, The Family History Book, Eugenics Record Office Bulletin No. 7 (Cold Spring Harbor, NY: Eugenics Record Office, September 1912), 46, 48–49, 50–51. Charles also used data gathered by William in his study Inheritance of Stature (Cold Spring Harbor, NY: Eugenics Record Office Bulletin No. 18, 1917), originally published in Genetics 2 (July 1917): 313–389.
(96.) William Davenport to Charles Davenport, 22 October 1921; 18 February 1922, Davenport Papers, APS.
(97.) The definitive guide for these studies was Charles Davenport and Harry H. Laughlin, How to Make a Eugenical Family Study (Cold Spring Harbor, NY: Eugenics Record Office Bulletin No. 13, 1915). ERO fieldworker Wilhelmine E. Key, for example, wrote a series of articles for the Journal of Heredity on “Better American Families” which mapped out a plan for building eugenic families. See “Better American Families, 1–3,” Journal of Heredity 10 (January 1919): 11–13; (February 1919): 80–83; (March 1919): 107–110. On the eugenic family studies, see Rafter, White Trash.
(98.) A. H. Estabrook, “The Two-Family Apartment,” Survey 29 (1912–1913): 853–854. On Dugdale, see ch. 1. Eugenicist Arnold L. Gesell offered a similar family study called “The Village of a Thousand Souls” in American Magazine that same year. Gesell constructed a “eugenic map” of the unnamed town, marking houses with symbols for feeblemindedness, insanity, alcoholism, epilepsy, suicides, criminal tendencies, eccentricities, and tuberculosis. One of the eccentricities he gave particular attention to was religious fanaticism. See Arnold L. Gesell, “The Village of a Thousand Souls,” American Magazine 76 (October 1913): 11–15.
(99.) H. H. Goddard, The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeble Mind (p.212) edness (New York: Macmillan, 1913), 12, 18, 81–85. On Goddard, see Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics, 77–79; Degler, In Search of Human Nature, 36–40. Degler incorrectly lists Goddard's name as “Herbert H. Goddard” rather than Henry Herbert Goddard; he also challenges Stephen Jay Gould's interpretation of Goddard's hereditarianism. See Stephen Jay Gould, The Mismeasure of Man (New York: Norton, 1981). Also see Leila Zenderland, Measuring Minds: Henry Herbert Goddard and the Origins of American Intelligence Testing (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 15.
(100.) On Elizabeth Kite's conversion and eugenics activities, see Patrick Allitt, Catholic Converts: British and American Intellectuals Turn to Rome (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997), 134–141.
(101.) Elizabeth S. Kite, “The `Pineys,'” Survey 31 (1913–1914): 7–13, 38–40.
(103.) Kite, “The `Pineys,'” 38–40.
(104.) Kite quoted in Zenderland, Measuring Minds, 160.
(105.) Kite, “The `Pineys,'” 40.
(106.) “The Week: New Jersey,” The Churchman 107 (13 September 1913): 349; McPhee, The Pine Barrens, 52. On Kite's Piney study, see also Rafter, White Trash, 164–165.
(107.) Elizabeth S. Kite, “Unto the Third Generation,” Survey 28 (1912): 791; Alexander Johnson, “Wards of the State” Survey 31 (1913–1914): 355. Johnson was another convert to eugenics. In 1913, he resigned from his position as general secretary of the National Conference of Charities and Correction to become head of the new Extension Department of the Vineland Training School. The Extension Department was a “publicity and propagandist agency.” Johnson had gained experience working with the feebleminded when he was an administrator at the Indiana School for Feebleminded Youth at Ft. Wayne in the 1890s. He named his lakefront Indiana home “Yggdrasil,” the term for a huge ash tree in Norse mythology that overspreads the world and binds earth, hell, and heaven together. See “A New Force in the War on Feeblemindedness,” Survey 29 (January 1913): 487–491; see also E. M. East, “Hidden Feeblemindedness,” Journal of Heredity 8 (May 1917): 215–217.
(109.) Problems in Eugenics, xi–xiv.
(111.) Ibid., 64, 66–67.
(112.) Ibid., 63, 64.
(113.) E. Lyttelton, “Eugenics, Ethics and Religion,” The Nineteenth Century 74 (July 1913): 157.
(114.) “Eugenic Marriage Topic of Pulpits,” New York Times, 9 June 1913, 9; “Pastors for Eugenics,” 10. Both Kelgwin and Laidlaw were representative of the Protestant social service reform impulse. Laidlaw, as executive secretary of the New York Federation of Social Service, oversaw an extensive compilation of statistics on New York neighborhoods whose purpose was to foster more efficient church social service. See “Telling the Churches Where They Are,” 692.
(115.) The play (also known by its French title, Les Avaries) was a commercial suc (p.213) cess in its stagings in New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. See John C. Burnham, “The Progressive Era Revolution in American Attitudes toward Sex,” Journal of American History 59 (March 1973): 892–893, 905–906.
(116.) Survey 29 (1912–1913): 338; “The Crusade for Purity,” Literary Digest 47 (2 August 1913): 176–177. Rev. Gunn's denominational and church affiliations were not given in the article.
(117.) Survey 31 (1913–1914): 170.
(118.) Information on Wise and the Free Synagogue from National Cyclopedia of American Biography; obituary in New York Times, 20 April 1949, 28. See also Carl Hermann Voss, ed., Stephen S. Wise: Servant of the People (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1970).
(119.) Dodge quoted in Ronald Steel, Walter Lippmann and the American Century (Boston: Little, Brown, 1980), 50.
(120.) Survey 33 (1914–1915): 348; “In Praise of Eugenics,” Eugenics 2 (February 1929): 36. Scientific eugenicists eventually embraced marriage health certificates, at least in part. In 1928, the American Eugenics Society, in a joint meeting with the Eugenics Research Association, resolved to support legislation that would require written statements that “neither of the contracting parties have a father, mother, sister, brother, or cousin who was born blind.” In the absence of such written assurance, couples would have to post a $1,000 bond as insurance against future children who became burdens on the state. Though this proposal initially targeted hereditary blindness, it was later extended to include other traits. “Dr. Howe's Resolution; Minutes of the Joint Session of the AES and ERA,” 2 June 1928, American Eugenics Society Papers, American Philosophical Society Library. See also Mehler, “A History of the American Eugenics Society, 1921–1940,” 95.
(121.) Editorial quoted in “Dean Sumner,” Redpath Chautauqua Collection.