Historians want to mobilize reparation efforts for California sterilization victims who suffered under a government-mandated program in the early 1900s.
A new American Journal of Public Health report titled, “California’s Sterilization Survivors: An Estimate and Call for Redress,” examines the scope of the state’s sterilization recommendations.
Sterilization was an option spurred by eugenics––a controversial practice aimed at controlling the genetic population by encouraging reproduction among those with traits deemed “desirable.” Back in the day, eugenics leaders advocated for population control solely based on intellectual acumen and race.
Alexandra Minna Stern, a University of Michigan professor who led the study’s research efforts, began searching for answers after uncovering more than 20,000 sterilization recommendations in a Sacramento government office, dating back to 1919 through 1952.
One of the most startling letters of recommendation was written for a 7-year-old, according to the study. Stern and her fellow researchers found that out of the 20,000 victims, including men, women and children, an estimated 830 could still be alive, with the average age being 88, the report says.
“The California statute provided the legal framework for the most active sterilization program in the U.S.,” the study says, and the law remained on the books until 1979. California was also the third state to practice sterilization, performing one-third of the nation’s estimated 60,000 forced sterilizations, according to the study.
While former California Governor Gray Davis apologized in 2003 for the practice, researchers believe government officials have a responsibility to do more and should offer financial settlements to living victims, following the lead of states like Virginia and North Carolina, which paid out $25,000 and $20,000 respectively, to survivors.
SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty