Derived from the Greek word eugenes, meaning ‘in good birth,’ eugenics was first broadly defined by Francis Galton as something that “takes cognisance of all influences that tend in however remote degree to give the more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing speedily over the less suitable than they otherwise would have” (What Is Eugenics? pg3). The experts during this era believed that certain traits, such as being healthy, smart, emotionally stable and good-natured, were directly transmitted through genes from one’s parents. However not only were these positive traits transmitted hereditarily, but so were negative traits like insanity, criminality, and alcoholism. It was then believed that if these traits existed due to the presence of certain genes, we could breed humans so that the favorable traits prevail, and ultimately wipe out the unfavorable traits.
As a result, women became the perfect candidates for the application of eugenics. Because women have the ability to bear children, they were a primary focus in ‘weeding out’ the bad traits and continuing the reproduction of the good traits. This is why eugenics plays such a big and important role in the topic of women’s studies. The movement in applying the principles of eugenics had such a profound impact on women in general, that it is considered a very significant part of the shaping of women throughout history. By analyzing the eugenics movement, one can understand how the belief of eugenics is connected with privilege and gender, and finally how race ties in to both matters.
To say one is privileged is to say that one comes from a high social class; meaning one enjoys the benefits of a rich life, and typically a white life. People of higher social classes were more likely to be well educated, courteous, and healthy. With these characteristics, upper middle class and first class citizens automatically qualified as fit and suitable, according to the principles of...