A former U-32 student is back in Vermont to make a movie about the state’s infamous eugenics era.
Luke Becker-Lowe, fellow film students from Emerson College in Boston and a cast of 20 were at the Center for Arts and Learning on Barre Street Saturday and Sunday, filming scenes that staged the sterilization of subjects.
The film is based on the Vermont Eugenics Program that followed a 1931 law legalizing the sterilization of “idiots, imbeciles, feeble-minded or insane persons residing in state institutions.” Vermont’s eugenics program, headed by University of Vermont Prof. Harry F. Perkins, led to the sterilization of 253 people, mostly women, between 1931 and 1957, according to UVM’s website.
Becker-Lowe said growing up on dirt roads in central Vermont gave him an appreciation of backwoods life, unique characters and the challenges they face. He is also a fan of 20th century period films that reflect social and cultural shifts over time. Their project, “Dormancy,” was a response to and a reflection of a new era of political and social intolerance in America that serves as a sobering lesson, he said.
Read the full article by Stephen Mills in the Rutland Herald.
Link to the GoFundMe site for this production.
August 11, 2017 at the Root Social Justice Center, 28 Williams St., Brattleboro, VT
In the larger struggle against racism, we invite Judy Dow, an Abenaki educator, artist, and researcher to discuss the VT Eugenics Survey and it’s connection to the Dorthy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award. She will be joined by local librarians and teachers to reflect on the legacy of colonialism in our society today.
Join Brattleboro Solidarity in supporting the struggle led by Judy Dow to change the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award. This last minute event is very time sensitive as the Vermont Department of Libraries will be deciding any day now whether or not to change the name. Please come to show your support.
Following the talk there will be light refreshments and actions steps to be taken.
The eugenics movement is a dark chapter of Vermont’s history, and now one local author’s alleged role in that movement is under intense scrutiny.
Dorothy Canfield Fisher was a prolific local writer, and her namesake rests at various institutions in Arlington today including Fisher Elementary School. In 1957 a Vermont children’s literacy program was established in the author’s honor, and the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award has recognized outstanding children’s writers over the last 60 years.
Fisher’s reputation has been questioned in recent weeks, as Essex educator and artist Judy Dow has led the fight for the removal of Fisher’s name from the award. Dow, who has both French Canadian and Abenaki roots, claims that Fisher not only stereotyped French Canadians and Native Americans in her extensive works, but played an active role in the eugenics movement as well.
Read the full story in the Bennington Banner.
VPR’s Vermont Edition devoted June 7th’s broadcast to an interview with Dartmouth College senior Mercedes de Guardiola. Mercedes spoke on the State of Vermont’s Eugenics Survey at the State Archives just the week before (see Sokoki Sojourn’s post here). The original 6/7/17 VPR article includes 34 minutes of audio – please listen carefully by clicking here.
Vermont’s prominent role in the American eugenics movement of the early 20th century is an often overlooked part of the state’s history. The state’s brutal history of sterilization, forced institutionalization, and racist pseudoscience is the focus of a new academic paper by our guest.
We’re joined by Dartmouth College senior Mercedes de Guardiola. Her thesis covering the eugenics movement in Vermont is “Blood has told”: The Eugenical Campaign in the Green Mountain State.
Broadcast was live on Wednesday, June 7, 2017 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.
Click here for the audio on VPR News’ The Frequency.
In the early 20th century, Vermont was among a group of states that had policies on the books based on eugenics — the idea that the human population could be controlled to bring out what were considered “desirable” characteristics.
Mercedes de Guardiola, a student at Dartmouth College, wrote her senior thesis on the history of eugenics in Vermont. Though the study of eugenics has since been discredited, when the policies were in effect, they resulted in the sterilization of some Vermonters.
De Guardiola is presenting her work Wednesday evening at the Vermont State Archives in Middlesex. [Note: this took place last night, 5/31/2017]
VPR’s Henry Epp spoke with de Guardiola about the origins of Vermont’s eugenics policy, its lasting effect on the state and what’s been done in the years since to reckon with this period in Vermont’s history.
Link to pdf for event announcement: eugenicspresentation_20170531
“Eugenics and the Vermont State Hospital are subjects with which we, as a state, continue to wrestle,” says Secretary of State Jim Condos. “Archival records provide context for these chapters of our government’s past, some of which are dark. We are pleased to have the opportunity to host two presentations that illustrate how these and other historical records help shed light on these matters.”
May 31 — “Blood has told:” The Push for a “Eugenical Solution” in the Green Mountain State. Scholarship on Vermont’s eugenics movement has largely focused on the Eugenics Survey of Vermont of the 1920s, even though state officials proposed eugenical policies as early as 1912. Mercedes de Guardiola, a senior at Dartmouth College majoring in history, examines why eugenics emerged in Vermont and its impact on Vermont’s eugenical policies over the course of the twentieth century.
From the press release from the VT Secretary of State’s office, which is hosting the event. Full copy here.