Indiana and Eugenics
Before the Nazis started using the "science" of eugenics Hoosiers had begun perfecting it. Indiana after all was the first state in the country (or the world for that matter) to pass a eugenic bases forced sterilization law in 1907. However even before the law was passed the Hoosier state had already begun forcibly neutering its "undesirables".
Much like Hitler's Nazis, the Hoosier State used its first sterilization law to target the socially undesirable. Among the list were "confirmed criminal", "idiots", "compulsive masturbaters", "imbeciles", and "rapist". The mentally ill or handicapped were the main targets however.
And like all things eugenic, the Hoosier law was designed to weed out the "2 percent of Indianans" who were "mentally defective". In other words, those the law deemed unfit to reproduce on the grounds that they were a burden to society would be fixed. The aim was to create a state that was free of the "undue burdens" that were holding Indiana's economy and society back.
Now to be fair 22 other states would follow Indiana's lead by implementing similar laws. However Indiana stands out for the fact that it struck down the first law in 1921 only to re institute it in 1925. And the second of the Hoosier eugenic laws would last till 1974 when it was finally repealed.
In all the sterilizations would amount to 2,424 people being sterilized under the guise of Eugenic "Science". Out of those 2,424 people there would be 1,167 males sterilized and 1,257 females sterilized. Of these 1,751 had been sterilized under the ruling that they had been found "mentally deficient while the remaining 667 were found to be "mentally ill". Dr. Harry Sharp however had done several hundred forced sterilizations before the law had passed so it is difficult to say how many people had been sterilized in Indiana for certain (Dr. Sharp was a eugenic believer and was estimated to have sterilized around 800 people before the law passed in 1907).
Of the people sterilized it is believed that poor whites from Kentucky and Tennessee were targeted due to their "social backwardness" and lack of ability to adapt to a modernized world. This tendency to target the "mentally deficient" allowed followers of the "Eugenic Science" to throw a wide net around any group they deemed "deficient" due to their economic standings. After all, eugenics teaches that the poorer classes are economically lacking simply due to their genetic inefficiencies.
This part of the history of Eugenics is not really talked about much or even studied in Indiana. Once can guess why. However in 2007 a marker was erected on the east lawn of the Indiana State Library in Indianapolis Indiana to commemorate those who were forcibly sterilized under the Indiana Sterilization Act. It reads:
"By late 1800s, Indiana authorities believed criminality, mental problems, and pauperism were hereditary. Various laws were enacted based on this belief. In 1907, Governor J. Frank Hanly approved first state eugenics law making sterilization mandatory for certain individuals in state custody. Sterilizations halted 1909 by Governor Thomas R. Marshall."
Continued on the reverse side:
Indiana Supreme Court ruled 1907 law unconstitutional 1921, citing denial of due process under Fourteenth Amendment. A 1927 law provided for appeals in the courts. Approximately 2,500 people in state custody were sterilized. Governor Otis R. Bowen approved repeal of all sterilization laws 1974; by 1977, related restrictive marriage laws repealed."
The related restrictive marriage law had forbid the marriages of people deemed to be "mentally deficient", those with a "transmissible disease", or the "habitual drunkard". This too had been enacted under the influence of eugenics (naively believing that only married people have sex).