Sunday, March 02, 2008

The "Progressive" Movement in Wisconsin

Oh, yeah, to be "progressive" actually means something. And the ironies abound, folks.

This article describes the origins and ultimate passage of a 1913 law empowering state officials to sterilize inmates of state mental and penal institutions. It opens by discussing the eugenics movement in general before describing its growth in Wisconsin during the 1890s. At the height of the Progressive Era, it was backed by a coalition of clergy, doctors, legislators, and Univ. of Wisconsin faculty that included Progressive policy maker Edward A. Ross (1866-1951) and UW President Charles Van Hise (1857-1918). Alfred W. Wilmarth (1855?- ?), director of the state Home for the Feeble-Minded in Chippewa Falls, Chippewa County, and Dr. Frank I. Drake (1864-1930), of the Wisconsin Hospital for the Insane, are discussed at length. (13 pages)

The President of Whitewater Normal School (now UW-Whitewater), backed by the Wisconsin Teachers' Association, insisted on creating a Home for the Feeble-Minded--largely to prevent them from "reproducing." Those who were 'feeble-minded' were such because of heredity, which was connected with "moral degeneration" according to the Progressives.

The Progressives were also convinced that epilepsy was transmitted through genes--thus the creation of Southern Wisconsin Center (a companion to the Progressive-created Chippewa Falls facility)

The MDs bought into mandatory sterilization of criminals and the insane--one of the major proponents was a Dr. Arthur W. Rogers of Oconomowoc (familiar name, anyone?)...along with Dr. Washburn of Milwaukee, and Dr. Frank Drake, of the Wisconsin Hospital for the Insane, who for practical purposes worshipped Galton, the eugenecist-footman of Darwin, the Evolutionist. The State Medical Society's member, Tosa MD George E. Hoyt, (later a State Senator and banker from Menomonee Falls) authored the bill which mandated sterilization. The bill failed by one vote--this time.

It should be noted that invocation of "individual liberties" was anathema to these fine folks.

Bascom Hill was populated by Eugenecists--thus, it is no surprise that Charles Van Hise, President of the UW, also advocated Eugenics. (It happens that the UW School of Criminology was founded to pursue Eugenics thought).

Hoyt wrote another bill, endorsed by the Madison Democrat newspaper, to forcibly sterilize the inmates of the State's prisons and mental institutions. This was opposed by the Archbishop of Milwaukee--who was immediately raked over the coals by the Milwaukee Free Press for his position. To their credit the Milwaukee Socialist Party (Dan Hoan & Co.) also opposed the legislation, although 4 members of the Social Democrat (Socialist) Party voted for the bill.

The Progressives, aided by the Republicans in the Legislature (almost all of them voted FOR the bill) which Gov. F. E. McGovern signed into law on July 30th, 1913.

The Progressives won the battle based on their concept of society as a 'collective.'

Some of you will now understand the natural antipathy of Catholics to the Republican Party; others will be amazed at the massive "field-reversal" done by the Democrats and Republicans in (roughly) the late 1960's.

Interesting stuff, history, no?

HT: Liberal Fascism


Headless Blogger said...

Yes indeed. Today's "progressives" need to take as much blame for the bad, as they take credit for the good, that their predecessors did.

I'm still waiting for someone to name a single new idea from the progressives in the last 75 years.

Clare Zajicek said...

at least we know where Hitler and Margaret Sanger got their ideas from..

Anonymous said...

Wisconsin Judicial / Prison Reform Please Read and Link at
This legislation would allow citisens to control the government in Wisconsin Again. Not Lawyers