The 1927 Supreme Court Case Buck v. Bell occurred during the Second Wave of sterilization laws and was the ruling of sterilization of the “unfit” that were regarded as feeble-minded. In order to categorize someone as feeble-minded, intelligence tests were used. During the first wave of sterilization laws, Virginia passed a law that made involuntary sterilization legal for medical reasoning including the mentally disabled. J. H. Bell was superintendent of the state colony for epileptics and feeble-minded while Carrie Buck was a woman who was categorized as moral imbecile ordered for sterilization.
This case made an impact on gender history as it was regarded as a negative eugenics campaign and contributed to the increase in involuntary sterilization on women and individuals of color during the 1930s. It also depicted how society was able to control women’s reproductive rights through immigration laws, marriage restriction laws, and sterilization laws that specifically targeted women of color.
Charity Girls were referred to as New York working class women that were involved in being treated by men.
According to Kathy Peiss in her, “Charity Girls and City Pleasures” treating was referred to as the act of men who treated working class women to fun by paying for their admission tickets for dance halls, purchasing drinks, and theater tickets. In return, men expected these women to treat them with sexual favors that ranged from flriting to sexual intercourse. Most working class women were unable to afford leisure life and therefore had to rely on men’s higher economic income/status to experience leisure culture.
Additionally, Charity Girls made an impact on gender history as it altered the cultural norms and institution of sexuality, where it promoted heterosexual activity in public settings. Also, cultural style shifted beyond immigrant roots and family traditions as Charity Girls engaged in different styles and behaviors that expressed their sexuality.
Kinsey Report: The Kinsey Report was the first large scale scientific survey created to discover what people do sexually. Differences in sexual behavior were measured by sexual experience in terms of orgasm. The Report investigated sexual activity during the 1940s and 1950s and changed how society viewed sex as well as also challenging female and male sexuality myths. The Kinsey Report marked a significant shift in gender history as it allowed society to become more open about their sexuality regardless of judgement. It also created normalization of sex viewing it as another aspect of human behavior. Though, 78% approved and 10% disapproved the report, Kinsey later received relentless criticism and was besieged by the press.
Eugenics was invented in the 19th century and was the notion that all social problems are biological and was traditionally derived from the marriage of humanitarianism. It was regarded as a broadly accepted movement that was viewed as a humane alternative to other harsher prescriptions that could solve social problems with science. Additionally, it was the embodiment of both Herbert Spencer’s and Sir Francis Galton’s idea of “survival of the fittest” vs. “unfit”. They both believed that society should let the “unfit” starve and to keep the “unfit” from being born in the first place. Two kinds of eugenics were prevalent in society: positive eugenics tried to breed better people while negative eugenics prevented bad people from reproducing. Charles Davenport was also part of the Eugenics movement as he created the Eugenics Record Office (ERO) in 1910 which researched family history in order to analyze American family genetics and traits. Also, Mendel’s Law: A Better Plea For Men ” written by Joseph Spencer DeJarnette tackles the topic of eugenics.
He discusses how individuals are reproducing recklessly and how defective people have become, in contradiction to how farmers have discovered how to perfect animal reproduction. Eugenics specifically targeted women of color and poor women. Society believed that these women were worsening overpopulation problems. “Sterilized in the Name of Public Health” by Alexandra Minna Stern discusses the politics of involuntary sterilization procedures in California that were influenced by gender norms and female sexuality. The first sterilization law was introduced in 1907 and was influenced by eugenic family studies, but beginning in the late 1910s sterilization practices began to increase significantly. Most of these procedures were conducted on African American women and Mexican women who were also either working class or lower middle class. For example, the Madrigal v Quilligan case that occurred in 1975 regarded a working class Mexican American women who experienced sterilization abuse. California eugenics viewed Mexican women as careless breeders who were “illegal aliens.”
Stern recognizes that it was many people’s intent to stop providing services for women of color as they did not want them reproducing on American soil and changing U.S. demographics which also contributed to the idea of marriage and immigration restrictions that were depicted in the Expatriation Act of 1907. Eugenicists attempted to “quarantine” hereditary disease by implementing segregation, marriage restriction laws, immigration restrictions, and sterilization laws. The Expatriation Act of 1907 exhibited marriage restriction laws as an American woman who married a foreign man had to claim their husband’s citizenship and were stripped away of their American citizenship rights. There were two waves of sterilization laws. The first wave of sterilization laws were from 1907 to 1913 and in 1924 Virginia made involuntary sterilization legal for medical reasons. The second wave of Sterilization laws occurred after 1927 where the court upheld constitutionality of sterilization laws which was seen during the case of Buck v. Bell. Through these different strategies, eugenics were successfully applied within society where women faced involuntary sterilization and discrimination in order to improve “the future of the race.”
New Womanhood was from the 1880s to 1920s, and it was a new form of femininity, where women began to pursue higher education and entered the workforce, including new patterns of private life. Prior to the early 20th century, Gibson Girl classified the image of an independent “new woman” in modern society. Gibson Girl was created in the 1890s by Charles Dana Gibson which became the romantic ideal of the age. It was a new representation of women that set the standard for beauty, fashion, and manners but it was highly commercialized since it was part of consumer culture. These women were depicted as being respectable and poise wearing corsets and long skirts. Oftentimes, women of color would dress up as Gibson Girls in order to gain political leverage and recognition. This persona depicted during the 1890s marked an impact on gender history as it paved the way for a new image of women in the early 20th century known as the flapper.
As the United States entered World War One, and men began to leave for war, women started to enter the workforce where they gained a new form of independence that the Gibson Girl did not exhibit. These “new” women were referred to as flappers, who were a sexualized form of representing a woman during the roaring 20s where they were part of the middle class, personal pleasure, and music. Flappers were often seen as a white women who were young and in upper and middle classes that held the most power out of all women. Additionally, the figure of the flapper combined existing practices in American subcultures beyond the American middle class. Similar to the Gibson Girl, women of color were not portrayed in the image of flappers and were once again disregarded. As public outings and leisure activities were becoming more popular as flappers were known to dance, drink, and smoke, lower class working women also wanted to adopt this cultural style but most were unable to experience New Womanhood on their own.
Known as Charity Girls, these women were part of the working class and were unable to afford living a leisure lifestyle as they were unable to earn a “living wage” and in order to gain this experience they were involved in being treated by men. According to Kathy Peiss in her, “Charity Girls and City Pleasures” treating was referred to as the act of men who treated working class women to fun by paying for their admission tickets for dance halls, purchasing drinks, and theater tickets. In return, men expected these women to treat them with sexual favors that ranged from flirting to sexual intercourse. Most working class women were unable to afford leisure life and therefore had to rely on men’s higher economic income/status to experience leisure culture. As leisure culture became predominantly popularized within society defining New Womanhood, similar to Charity Girls women of color were also unable to experience this era. New Womanhood marked a significant change in culture as behavior and clothing shifted significantly from what it once was before during the Gibson Girl era. Overall, cultural style was altered as women began to distance themselves from immigrant roots and family traditions.