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Wisconsin Magazine of History, Autumn 2013


Young women training for domestic occupations at Northern Colony.

An involuntary sterilization program existed in Wisconsin for more than half of the 20th century. The program was the result of a socio-scientific movement called eugenics, the pseudoscience of "fit" individuals breeding "better" humans and the prevention of the "unfit" from reproducing. Many supporters of eugenics laws believed the most straightforward way to achieve these goals was sterilization of the most easily identifiable segment of the "unfit" population — the impoverished, sexually "wayward" woman. Armed with an active eugenics program solution, those in authority were more willing to pass social and legal judgments on these women who had little means for legal protection.

Deemed mentally deficient and a social and financial burden on the state, these so-called wayward women were committed to the Northern Colony, once the Wisconsin home for the Feeble-Minded. The institution, located in Chippewa Falls, was the site where the women underwent sterilization procedures. The vast majority of those sterilized in Wisconsin were women, most of whom were merely vulnerable to prejudice that subjected them to sterilization without compassion, understanding or aid in their circumstances. Author Phyllis Reske tells the poignant tale of these women in 'Policing the Wayward Woman: Eugenics in Wisconsin's Involuntary Sterilization Program' in the autumn 2013 issue of the "Wisconsin Magazine of History."

Other Stories in the Autumn 2013 Issue

The cover of the autumn 2013 issue of the "Wisconsin Magazine of History"
This issue also includes articles on the streamlined industrial designs of Brooks Stevens; the origins and growth of Wisconsin's cranberry industry; and the life and prolific career of longtime official photographer for the Green Bay Packers, Vernon Biever. Also included is an excerpt from the Wisconsin Historical Society Press book, 'Wheel Fever: How Wisconsin Became a Great Cycling State.'

Award of Merit Winner

The "Wisconsin Magazine of History" is the proud recipient of a prestigious 2010 Award of Merit from the American Association of State and Local History's Leadership in History Awards. The awards are presented for excellence in history programs, projects and people when compared with similar activities nationwide.

Wisconsin Magazine of History a Benefit of Society Membership

The 'Wisconsin Magazine of History' is a benefit of Society membership. Individual issues are available through our online store. Sign up for membership today and start receiving this fine quarterly magazine.

:: Posted September 16, 2013

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