Eugenics Organizations

return to Themes list

In addition to the Eugenics Record Office (ERO), several national organizations promoted eugenics at professional and popular levels. The American Breeders Association (ABA) was established in 1903 as an outgrowth of the American Agricultural Colleges and Experiment Stations. It was one of the first scientific organizations in the United States that recognized the importance of Mendel's laws, and its Section on Eugenics was the first scientific body to support eugenic research.

With a membership of about 1,000 established scientists and agricultural breeders, the ABA played a major role in legitimizing the American eugenics movement but avoided popular campaigns and legislative lobbying. However, it shared members and officers with several other organizations that had wider social agendas - notably the Race Betterment Foundation, the Galton Society, and the American Eugenics Society (AES).

The Race Betterment Foundation was founded in 1911 in Battle Creek, Michigan with money from the Kellogg cereal fortune. The Foundation sponsored three national conferences on race betterment (1914, 1915, and 1928) and started its own eugenics registry in cooperation with the ERO. The Galton Society, founded in New York City in 1918, was the most overtly racist of the American eugenics organizations. Its members used physical anthropology to confirm their bigoted notions about the supposed superiority of the Nordic race.

Formed in 1923, AES quickly gave rise to 28 state committees that worked to bring eugenics into the mainstream of American life. Under the direction of Mary T. Watts, the AES education committee used state fairs to popularize eugenics. Exhibits illustrated Mendel's laws and calculated the societal costs of continued breeding by "hereditary defectives," while the Fitter Families Contests showed the results of breeding good human stock. AES also lobbied for broader use of intelligence tests on immigrants and students. For many years, the AES co-sponsored Eugenical News with the ERO.

return to Themes list