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EUGENICS: The Laws of Sex Life and Heredity…

EUGENICS: The Laws of Sex Life and Heredity

by T. W. Shannon

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Of all the old, bizarre and quirky books we've collected, this has to be the wackiest. Manuals For Life exhorting the Rosy-cheeked Maiden, the Noble Youth and the Confused Newlyweds to greater cleanliness, modesty and Christian virtue are ten a penny; books that do all this and encourage you to breed so as to ensure the strength and vigour of the American WASP race are pure, solid gold.

Until the 30s, the USA was the world's most eugenics-friendly nation, largely because of the alliance of eugenics with temperance, anti-immigration and social-reform movements. Thus, most of Eugenics has nothing whatsoever to do with actual eugenics - there are guides to polite conduct and etiquette, lectures on the horrors of drink, immense sections on the care of disease - but here and there are sprinkled implications that all this will influence heredity, and dire warnings about the personal and social ills that can result from Bad Breeding.

Motherhood, f'rinstance, is the most glorious ambition any woman could hope to dream of, and children are sacred wonderful beams of light without which no home is complete. The best people should have as many children as possible; most of the remainder should produce three or four. Women who are too mentally or physically feeble to endure pregnancy and child-rearing are to be excused the duty, as are imbeciles, the diseased, criminals, the poor, etc. We are exhorted to Christian pity on their account, of course. (Also, artificial forms of contraception will give you horrible unspecified diseases, and abortion is murder, so only middle-class, married, sober, healthy white Protestants should have sex at all. Everyone else gets our Christian pity, though!)

Also, no wanking. Retained semen is the source of Manly Vigor, says some random doctor.

This book was first published while the Lamarck-Mendel debate was still current, though Lamarck was clearly on the way out. Ideology-ridden pop-science tends to lag behind real science, however, and Eugenics is a model of that. ( )
  Ashwell | Nov 17, 2006 |
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