This is an archive of the one-day public symposium held on Friday, October 9, 2009, at the UW Tower Auditorium, presented by the UW Disability Studies Program

Eugenics and Disability: History and Legacy in Washington

The symposium provided a forum for opening up dialogue about Washington’s eugenic past and its present-day implications for the lives of people in our communities. It featured local and national speakers, and ample time for audience discussion.


  • Welcome: Judith Howard, Divisional Dean of Social Sciences, College of Arts & Sciences, University of Washington
  • Opening Remarks: Dennis Lang, Associate Director of the Disability Studies Program, University of Washington
  • "Situating the Washington Eugenics Movement," Joanne Woiak
  • Roundtable I: Disability in the History of Eugenics, speakers Mark Largent, Steven Jones, Michael Rembis, Ileana Rodriguez-Silva, moderator Phillip Thurtle
  • Lunch
  • "Remembering Washington Eugenics 100 Years Later," Wylie Burke
  • Roundtable II: Perspectives on the Relevance of Eugenics Today, speakers Sherrie Brown, Emily Rogers, Robert Resta, Anna Stubblefield, moderator David Carlson
  • Closing Remarks: John Lemus, Self-Advocacy in Motion coalition and Director of Abilities Consulting, Spokane

Support and Planning

Sponsored by

  • University of Washington Center for Genomics and Healthcare Equality
  • DBTAC Northwest ADA Information Center
  • University of Washington Disability Studies Program
  • University of Washington Office of the Provost
  • Seattle Children’s Hospital Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics

Support from these University of Washington programs


  • Joanne Woiak, Dennis Lang, Sherrie Brown, Paul Steven Miller, Janalee Morris-Wales (Disability Studies Program)
  • Kurt Johnson, Gaby de Jongh, Lee Olsen, Alan Knue, Thad Jackson, Mark Harniss (Center for Technology and Disability Studies)
  • Wylie Burke, Dana Gold (Center for Genomics and Healthcare Equality)
  • Tammi Olson, Susan Bonnell (DBTAC Northwest ADA Information Center)
  • Benjamin Wilfond, Nita Chambers (Seattle Children’s Hospital)


Sherrie Brown is Research Professor in Education Leadership and Policy Studies in the College of Education at University of Washington. She is Acting Director of the UW Disability Studies Program and Associate Director of the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, UW Center on Human Development and Disability. She specializes in special education law and is researching the legal rights of children and individuals with disabilities in Southeast Asia.

Wylie Burke is Professor and Chair of the Department of Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Washington, and Director of the Center for Genomics and Healthcare Equality. She is the former President of the American Society of Human Genetics, and is a nationally recognized expert on the ethical, legal, and social implications of human genome research.

David Carlson is Associate Director of Legal Advocacy at Disability Rights Washington, a private non-profit that provides free advocacy services to people with disabilities.

Stephen Jones is Professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at Washington State University, and Director of the WSU Research and Extension Center at Mt. Vernon. He teaches the history and ethics of genetics, and has researched how eugenics was taught and popularized in American universities.

Mark Largent is Assistant Professor at James Madison College at Michigan State University. He focuses on the history of biology and medicine, including the history of the evolution-creation debate and the history of the eugenics movement in Oregon. In 2007, he published Breeding Contempt: The History of Coerced Sterilization in the United States.

Michael A. Rembis is Visiting Scholar in the Departments of History and American Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He specializes in the history of disability and the history of eugenics. His forthcoming book is Disabling Sex: Gender, Eugenics, and Juvenile Delinquency in the United States, 1890-1960.

Robert Resta is Clinical Coodinator and Geneticist for the Swedish Cancer Institute’s Hereditary Cancer Clinic, and Director of Genetic Counseling Services, Perinatal Medicine, Swedish Medical Center. He was Editor of the Journal of Genetic Counseling, and is a member of the editorial board of the American Journal of Medical Genetics.

Ileana M. Rodriguez-Silva is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of Washington. She specializes in Latin American history and labor history. Her forthcoming book is Conspiracy of Silence: Blackness, Colonial Regimes, and National Struggles in Post-Emancipation Puerto Rico (1850-1920).

Emily Rogers is Self-Advocacy Coordinator at The Arc of Washington State, and was Chair of Self-Advocates in Leadership (SAIL), a coalition of over 200 people with disabilities interested in shaping public policy.

Anna Stubblefield is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Rutgers University, Newark. She is the author of Ethics Along the Color Line, and her current research is on the intersection of disability, race, class, and gender in the United States, and on ethical issues relating to disability.

Phillip Thurtle is Associate Professor in the Comparative History of Ideas Program and the Department of History at the University of Washington. In 2008, he published The Emergence of Genetic Rationality: Space, Time, and Information in American Biology, 1870-1920.

Joanne Woiak is Lecturer in the Disability Studies Program at the University of Washington. She focuses on the history of biology and medicine, including the British eugenics movement and the sterilization laws in Washington.