1924 February 14

New Jersey Health Official Opposes Marriages of People With Below Average Intelligence


Dr. Thomas Lee, President of the New Jersey State Board of Health on this day declared his opposition to marriage among people with “below average intelligence.” He also advocated the sterilization of criminals and “imbeciles,” and also birth control for people in those categories. He also explained the poor people commit crimes because they have the largest families and do not have enough money to purchase the luxuries they desire.

The most notorious event regarding sterilization in American history was the Supreme Court decision in Buck v. Bell on May 2, 1927, in which the Court upheld the sterilization of Carrie Buck. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes justified the decision saying, “Three generations of idiots is enough.”

Learn more about the ugly history of forced sterilization: Harry Bruinius, Better for All the World: The Secret History of Forced Sterilization and America’s Quest for Racial Purity (2006)

Read the acclaimed new book on Buck v. Bell: Adam Cohen, Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck (2016)

And more: Randall Hansen and Desmond S. King, Sterilized by the State: Eugenics, Race, and the Population Scare in Twentieth-century North America (2013)

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