Elizabeth Troutman and I have a paper up at ssrn on the North Carolina eugenics movement. This was inspired by the North Carolina legislature's compensation program, but what we're really interested in (more than the contemporary movement for compensation) is to understand the movement in North Carolina. How did the movement for sterilization arise, how was North Carolina largely a dependent variable in that national movement, and then how did it function in our state. Getting at the last issue involves difficult questions, like who was selected for sterilization and how did the administrative state process petitions for sterilization. To me one of the most haunting aspects of all of this is that the state supplied pre-printed forms to be used in preparing petitions for approval by the state Eugenics Board. That is, the state was ready to assist -- indeed to push -- for sterilization.
But one of the most interesting aspects of this is that almost everyone who was approved for sterilization had either themselves "consented" or had family members who "consented." And that raises a very important question of what "consent" looked like -- and just how the state coerced individuals and their family members to "consent." This is hard to reconstruct now, because the individual records are sealed -- and even if they were open, it looks unlikely that they would show the level of coercion in much detail. Many of the Eugenics Board's biennial reports reflect the concern over getting people to agree to sterilization. They note in particular that men were particularly resistant -- and in fact over time, the percentage of men sterilized decreased dramatically. Perhaps that reflects the increasing resistance of men; it may also reflect that over time the percentage of institutionalized people who were sterilized decreased, and men in the community were harder to coerce than women. At any rate, the state was deeply interested in coercing individuals into accepting sterilization.