(Residential Fellow, 2017-18)
The Incorrigibles: Eugenics and Sterilization in a Juvenile Girls’ Reformatory
Ry Marcattilio-McCracken is historian specializing in the history of science and medicine in the United States. He works as a Lecturer at Oklahoma State University as well as an Adjunct Professor at Southwest Minnesota State University. He has taught both survey and specialty courses, and in the past seminars on the history of evolutionary theory, magical realism in literature, and composition and rhetoric.
He is currently working on a book he’s calling The Incorrigibles: Eugenics and Sterilization in a Juvenile Girls’ Reformatory. In late 1935 the current superintendent of a reform school in north-central Kansas (the Beloit Girls’ Industrial School) began an eighteen-month program of sterilizations much more aggressive than ever before, eventually reaching forty-two percent of the girls then incarcerated. This project sheds light on lived experiences of girls incarcerated and sterilized at the GIS. As a window into the politics and practices of sterilization in the mid-twentieth century, their stories help to illustrate the elasticity and longevity of eugenic practices and ideas with respect to a population where the distinction between “fit” and “unfit” cannot be so easily drawn. This social history uses this incident at the GIS as a framework to illustrate the concatenations of class, gender, and race in Kansas’ state welfare institutions, the formidable power of carceral, reform, and medical superintendents, the interplay of the juvenile court and attendant legal apparatuses, and the potency of clinical diagnosis, psychological testing and bureaucratic habituation in Kansas driven by social welfare practice. In doing so, The Incorrigibles tells for the first time the story of eugenics in Kansas from 1894-1955 as it intersected with the populations the state identified as delinquent and defective.