Washington History

Government Documents

1909 Sterilization Law

1912 State v. Feilen

1921 Sterilization Law

  • Enacted March 8, 1921: Chapter 53, Laws of 1921, p. 162
  • Text of the law (Rem. Rev. Stat., § 6957 et seq.) [.pdf]
  • Comparison of the 1909 and 1921 laws, from Harry Laughlin, Eugenical Sterilization in the United States (Psychopathic Laboratory of the Municipal Court of Chicago, 1922) [.pdf]

1942 In the Matter of the Sterilization of Hollis Hendrickson

  • Decided March 5, 1942, overturning the 1921 sterilization law: Supreme Court of Washington: 12 Wn.2d 600

Washington State Archives. Online finding aids, http://www.secstate.wa.gov/archives/.

The State Government (Olympia) and Northwest Regional Branch (Bellingham) archives hold some administrative records and correspondence pertaining to the forced sterilizations done from 1921 to 1942 in the three state mental hospitals and two custodial schools for the so-called "feebleminded." Researchers should contact the archivists in advance of visiting to explain what materials you are looking for and how you will use them, because of legal privacy concerns.

Published Primary Sources

  • Dechmann, Louis. Within the Bud; Procreation of a Healthy, Happy and Beautiful Child of the Desired Sex: A Biological Teaching of Eugenics. Seattle: Washington Printing Co., 1916.
  • Laughlin, Harry H. Biological Aspects of Immigration: Hearings before the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, House of Representatives, Apr 16-17, 1920. Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1921. [Committee chaired by Representative Albert Johnson, Washington.]
  • Owens Adair, Bethenia. Human Sterilization: Its Social and Legislative Aspects. Portland: Metropolitan Press, 1922.
  • Smith, Stevenson, Madge Wilkinson, and Lovisa Wagoner. A Summary of the Laws of the Several States Governing 1.—Marriage and Divorce of the Feeble-minded, the Epileptic, and the Insane. II.—Asexualization. III.—Institutional Commitment and Discharge of the Feeble-minded and the Epileptic. The Bailey and Babette Gatzert Foundation for Child Welfare. The Bulletin of the University of Washington, no. 82, May 1914.

Secondary Sources

  • "Bethenia Owens-Adair (1840-1926)." The Oregon History Project, 2002. http://www.ohs.org/.
  • Boag, Peter. Same-Sex Affairs: Constructing and Controlling Homosexuality in the Pacific Northwest. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.
  • Eccleston, Jenette. "Reforming the Sexual Menace: Early 1900s Eugenic Sterilization in Oregon." Undergraduate Research Paper. Dept. of History, University of Oregon, 2007.
  • Geranios, Nicholas. "Study Finds Hundreds in State were Involuntarily Sterilized—More than 550 Operations Done." Seattle Times , May 9, 1993, B1.
  • Glenna, Leland, Margaret Gollnick, and Stephen Jones. “Eugenic Opportunity Structures: Teaching Genetic Engineering at US Land-Grant Universities since 1911.” Social Studies of Science 37 (2007): 281-295.
  • Going, Aaron. "Johnson, Albert (1869-1957)." HistoryLink.org: The Free Encyclopedia of Washington State History, Essay 8721, Sept. 3, 2008. HistoryLink.org.
  • Jones, Stephen. “Zoology 61: Teaching Eugenics at WSU.” Washington State Magazine, Feb. 2007.
  • Largent, Mark. "'The Greatest Curse of the Race': Eugenic Sterilization in Oregon, 1909-1983." Oregon Historical Quarterly 103 (2002): 188-209.
  • Manganaro, Christine. "Eugenicist as Patient Advocate: Therapeutic Sterilization in Washington State." Undergraduate honors thesis, University of Puget Sound, 2003.
  • Musso, Louis. "'Less Children from the Unfit': Eugenic Sterilization in Washington State, 1909-1980." Graduate research essay, Central Washington University, 1993.

United States History

Online Resources on National and State Eugenics Movements

Secondary Sources

  • Baynton, Douglas. "Disability and the Justification for Inequality in American History." In Paul Longmore and Lauri Umansky, eds., The New Disability History: American Perspectives. New York: New York University Press, 2001.
  • Black, Edwin. The War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2003.
  • Kevles, Daniel. In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995.
  • Kline, Wendy. Building a Better Race: Gender, Sexuality, and Eugenics from the Turn of the Century to the Baby Boom. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.
  • Largent, Mark. Breeding Contempt: The History of Coerced Sterilization in the United States. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2008.
  • Lombardo, Paul. Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court, and Buck v. Bell. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.
  • Paul, Diane. Controlling Human Heredity, 1865 to the Present. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1995.
  • Pernick, Martin S. The Black Stork: Eugenics and the Death of "Defective" Babies in American Medicine and Motion Pictures since 1915. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • Reilly, Philip. The Surgical Solution: A History of Involuntary Sterilization in the United States. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.
  • Schoen, Johanna. Choice and Coercion: Birth Control, Sterilization, and Abortion in Public Health and Welfare. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005.
  • Snyder, Sharon and David Mitchell. Cultural Locations of Disability. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.
  • Stubblefield, Anna. "'Beyond the Pale': Tainted Whiteness, Cognitive Disability, and Eugenic Sterilization." Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy 22 (2007): 162-181.
  • Trent, James. Inventing the Feeble Mind: A History of Mental Retardation in the United States. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.

Teaching Materials


Joanne Woiak, overview of the history of eugenics, PowerPoint presentation