This post is the first in a series revealing that the Political Left is only one part of the social wars ravaging our world and taking multiple forms. From Islamic Terrorism to Trump Derangement Syndrome, they are all part of the same pandemic sweeping our world; The Latter Days.
None of these things happen in a vacuum. They have long roots into the past which bears new fruit in each season. Knowing history is only part of understanding the problem.
The Progressive American Left’s bloody Eugenics program—must not—be forgotten. Over 60,000 people were sterilized for the betterment of society. It goes together with the Big Lie which is tearing our society apart today. That is why I have recorded this painful memoir of my family history. The Steifel Family Eugenics tragedy, is the first post in the series.
The Steifel Family’s Journey Through the American Eugenics Program
My maternal grandparents, Ernest and Katie Steifel, were born and lived in Kansas until the late1950’s. Of my mother and two aunts and an uncle, only my mother escaped being sterilized by the State of Kansas. The following is the account as I pieced together over the years. Nobody wanted to talk about it.
My grandparents, Ernest and Katie Steifel were dirt-poor farmers in Kansas in the area between Salina and Abilene. One of several paths of the Chisholm Cattle Trail led past their farm. Ernest, a hard-working uneducated man, suffered from poor eyesight due to inherited congenital cataracts. In the 1920’s they had four children, (in order) Fern (my mother), Viola, Julia, and Rolland. Of the four children, all except Fern had eye cataracts from birth (an exact case-ratio of Mendelian inheritance).
In the case of Rolland and Julia, each was, what we currently call, legally blind and could only see at close distance with thick glasses. Viola could see better with strong glasses but far from fully sighted. Fern wore regular glasses for normal astigmatic reasons. Grandpa could see well enough to farm but could barely read large print (I never knew him to have glasses). In the evenings they listened to the radio, or Katie and Fern would read to the family from newspapers, the Saturday Evening Post, Good Housekeeping, Sears catalogs, schoolwork, and the Bible. Katie often had to go to the field to assist grandpa in reading the back of seed bags and the like. He could drive a horse team but not a car.
The children attended school in a one-room schoolhouse. They were seated in alphabetical order, and being Steifels they were in the back row. Only Fern could see the blackboard. Katie asked for the children to be seated in the front of the class where they could see the board for themselves. She was told, “No, that’s not allowed.”
In the case of Rolland and Julia, each was what we currently call legally blind and, could only see at close distance with thick glasses. Viola could see better with glasses but far from fully sighted. Fern later wore regular glasses for normal astigmatic reasons. Grandpa could see well enough to farm but could barely read large print (I never knew him to have glasses). In the evenings they listened to the radio, or Katie and Fern would read to the family from newspapers, the Saturday Evening Post, Good Housekeeping, Sears catalogs, schoolwork, and the Bible. Katie often had to go to the field to assist grandpa in reading the back of seed bags and the like. He could drive a horse team but not a car.
The real issue was that blind kids were considered deficient if not “idots” and “morons” and a drain on society. My mother recollects ridicule and scorn from the other students, excepting a few of the neighbor kids they walked to school with. As the Steifels always did, they “made do” with every situation that came their way. My mother Fern wrote down the day’s work from the board and read it to her siblings at home at night. She would help them record their homework to hand in the next day. The teacher claimed Fern was doing their homework for them, and that it was useless as they were retarded. This is regardless of the fact Rolland had a very high IQ with a phenomenal memory (almost eidetic) and perfect hearing. He could recite the day’s lessons in precise vocal imitation down to every burp, fart, yawn or laugh in the class.
One day, when my mother was fourteen years old (1936) and absent from school for illness, the other children failed to come home from school. Worried, Katie walked to the neighboring farm to see if the kids were there. The neighbor girl told Katie that the Sherriff came to school and took the three away. Katie and the neighbor husband (who had a car) picked up Ernest and went to the school and confronted the teacher. She told them she had reported the children to the Sheriff under the State’s Eugenics Laws in place since 1913 and revised and expanded in 1917.
The Cause: Progressive Eugenics in the Rural Midwest
“In total, between 1921 and 1961 when the law was stricken, 3032 individuals were sterilized in Kansas. In terms of the total number of sterilizations, Kansas ranks 6th in the United States. Many more people with mental illnesses (2,063) than people who were considered “mentally deficient” (856) were sterilized.
“From another angle, if you lived in Kansas’ …you had roughly a 1 in 718 chance of being sterilized. Men were sterilized at a higher rate than women in Kansas, at a ratio of about one and a half to one. When combined with Nebraska and Oklahoma, the southern plains region enjoys the dubious distinction of contributing roughly seven percent (4,490) of the total number of persons eugenically sterilized in the United States (~63,000). Kansas accounts for a full sixty-eight percent of those on the southern plains.
Unlike its neighbors to the south and north, however, Kansas passed a revision in 1917 which eliminated both the need for court approval and circumscribed the ability of those marked for sterilization to appeal via the court process. In Kansas after 1917, then, jurisdiction and decision-making authority over the girls’ bodies lay effectively in the hands of the superintendent of their institution and the (often sympathetic to the latter) state boards of examiners and probate courts. This effectively meant that there existed little recourse for those who were recommended to undergo the procedure.
[Underline added] Ry Marcattilio-McCracken, Phd
[This article has been removed from the web.]
Kansas was at the forefront of the Progressive’s Eugenics movement. Several notable women, especially Dr. Florence Brown Sherborn, began a popular segment of “Human Betterment of Society” by the Fitter Families programs and contests. In the rural Midwest, it was no stretch to apply the self-evident utility in the proper breeding of livestock to that of the human family. Combined with the Progressive wave including efficiency, industrialization, and a whole slew of pseudo-scientific social endeavors, the social environment was ripe for acceptance of a positive application of healthy breeding practices among people. Yet with it came the darker side of prevention versus Fitter Families’ more positive view. While the positives for those who wished to be a Fitter Family were openly acceptable, the negative is the forceful sterilization of those who had niether the interest or ability to prevent passing on their “bad germ plasm” to the next generation. Anna Derrell The Women of Reform: Kansas Eugenics
The following is from A Brutal Chapter In North Carolina’s Eugenics Past
Exactly how Mecklenburg [North Carolina] came to sterilize more than any other county has to do with the way the state referred people for sterilizations. Other states left the referral process to doctors working in prisons and mental hospitals, but only North Carolina gave that power to social workers.
A lot of people were wrestling with this question back then. Some powerful elites, including heirs to Procter & Gamble, Hanes Hosiery and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, formed a group called the Human Betterment League. They published glossy brochures that said things like this:
“North Carolina offers its citizens protection in the form of selective sterilization.”
“The job of parenthood is too much to expect of feebleminded men and women.”
“Morons,” the league called them. The Human Betterment League made social workers and doctors and public officials feel like humanitarian heroes for sterilizing people.
[Note: the Link in the above article is no longer accessible. This is a common occurrence in researching American Eugenics ]
The question was, who defined what was “bad” and who were those to be sterilized? Nobody then seriously questioned the involuntary castration of pedophiles, or the hopelessly mentally deficient. But what about physical defects such as blindness? The lack of controls in the revised 1917 Kansas Eugenics laws allowed local boards to make the determinations on who to be sterilized without any of what we would consider now to be due process. But in the case of my family, no such finding by a Board of Health. There is little acknowledgment that unreported sterilizations took place outside of the official records in Kansas, though other states have, such as North Carolina.
Alexandra Minna Stern “We Cannot Make a Silk Purse Out of a Sow’s Ear: Eugenics in the Hoosier Hartland
[Note: this Link is no longer accessible]
My two aunts (15 and 13) and my uncle (11) were taken out of school by the Sherriff. They–including my mother (16) who was home sick that day–were judged by a one-room school teacher to be a burden and detriment to society because of their “inheritable disorder” of congenital cataracts. They were removed at her request by the Dickinson County Sherriff without due process or parental notification! Within days, without being told why, they were strapped to a table, given ether, and awoke to find themselves neutered: Julia had a complete hysterectomy, Viola’s tubes were tied and Rolland castrated.
Now being a fugitive from the law, my mother was immediately sent into hiding with relatives while my grandmother quickly packed the children’s belongings into a friend’s truck. My grandfather was driven to Topeka (capital of Kansas), where they tried to find where the children had been taken. After approximately four days (and too late) they heard they were in the Kansas State Institution for the Education of the Blind in Wyandotte (now a suburb of Kansas City, Kansas). My grandfather found a sympathetic worker who arranged for a late-night entrance into the kitchen where the three had been brought. They hobbled into the back of the truck and escaped to Oklahoma.
My grandparents had attended the Belle Springs Brethren in Christ Church (formerly the River Brethren of Lancaster County, Pa). President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s grandfather, Jacob, gathered the first Kansas based church in his home at Belle Springs soon after 1878 (My Grandfather Ernest was born (1898) a few miles from the Eisenhower homestead). Abe Eisenhower, Dwight’s uncle, founded the Jabbok orphanage near Thomas, Oklahoma, which later became the Jabbok Bible and Missionary School (1924) (which had dormitories). Jabbok Bible and Missionary School
With help of the church, my mother joined Viola at Jabbok while Julia and uncle Rolland went to a school for the blind (I don’t know where). Grandma Katie and Grandpa Ernie returned to the farm in Kansas, where they worked hard to support the children. It was through the generous help of the school, church, relatives, and others that made life possible for them.
Life After Sterilization
Viola went on to finish college, traveled to Europe, and married a Forest Service Officer in Oregon, eventually settling in Southern California and adopting two children. Julia married, not adopting any children. Rolland married, became a Master Piano Tuner (he had perfect pitch) and had a foster daughter. My mother, (not having been sterilized) eventually married her Jabbok High School sweetheart, Raymond Claude Bailey from a nearby Brethren in Christ Church family, and had three children, Vivian, Lucille, and me, the baby of the family.
I and my sisters would not exist if my mother had been sterilized.
Uncle Rolland is a survivor’s success story. As a boy, because he could not read, he listened to the radio for hours. He loved vaudeville memorizing hundreds of jokes and patter. He could sing and play the piano just by hearing the music once. When Rolland graduated from the school for the blind, my mother was as a selected contestant on the (then radio) show Queen for a Day with host Jack Bailey (no relation). She won by telling the family’s hardship story of a poor-sighted farming family (nothing about sterilization of course!) and asking for her brother to have a set of piano tuning tools and go to piano tuning school. She won, and not only did he receive a complete set of premium tools, but to attend the School of Piano Technology for the Blind in Vancouver with a complete scholarship. He eventually became a top Master Piano Tuner living in Pittsburgh, PA, under contract to the Carnegie Mellon University system. He was also under contract with Steinway & Sons, traveling to other cities, including New York’s Carnegie Hall, to tune concert and artist pianos. Liberace was one of his clients whenever he came to the northeast (all his piano’s including his famed mirrored and rhinestone pianos had to be tuned when arriving at the venue). Sometimes if Uncle Rolland came to visit us in California, my dad would drive him to Las Vegas to tune Liberace’s pianos at home. Not bad for a Bad-Egg as the Fitter Families had called Rolland.
The effects of sterilization had lifelong effects on my aunts and uncles. All of them suffered from various levels of mental and physical side-effects. This is in addition to the struggles of poor eyesight. Being deprived of hormones during puberty caused many physical issues. Being forcibly sterilized is even worse on a teenager’s psyche than rape. Psychological counseling was not even thought of in those days. Much of my family’s life centered around taking care of Julia, and or one of the other’s family issues.
Julia seemed to suffer the most from depression and disability and was never able to hold a job, though she was an adept gardener. She passed away in 2013 of age-related heart failure. Rolland faired best mentally but suffered physically from a lack of testosterone. He was painfully thin with fragile bones. He passed away in 1993 from complications of a fall by tripping on an air hose on the floor of a repair shop. Aunt Viola seemed to have suffered less than the other two yet struggled in many ways other than with eyesight. She is still living in a care home, having Alzheimer’s disease. She is so sweet as every visit is “Oh, Raymond! I haven’t seen you in so long!” with a light in her eyes behind her thick glasses and a smile on her lips. It is amazing to me how positive and happy aunt Viola and Uncle Rolland were despite their disabilities. Their attitude was much that of my grandfather, who was always upbeat and positive no matter how rough things became.
My mother was very concerned about cataracts with the birth of each of us but me, especially, as I was born two months prematurely (Jan 1, 1953). I went into an incubator (which in those days pure oxygen). When I finally opened my eyes, they were clear of any cataracts. This despite the fact modern-day research has found 100% “free” oxygen can cause cataracts in premature babies and nasal cannulae are now used.
We were never told the story of what happened to our aunts and uncle even as adults. Now I look back on it and can put the pieces together on the various issues other than sight that plagued the family. When Grandma Katie died, I traveled to Idaho with Mom and uncle Rolland for the funeral. He had never talked about it, so I asked him how he felt about what happened. What he said showed how much he was like his father Ernie. I can’t remember the exact words he said, as he was wont to make jokes and asides throughout any conversation, but this is close:
“I was born in the Depression and I’ve been depressed ever since!” (his standard joke), then, “I can’t blame anybody for it. If I did, I’d have to blame the world. As far as I’m concerned there is evil in the world and we can’t fight it. That’s the Lord’s job. We just do what we can to show his love and goodness. I forgave them a long time ago. I not mad at anybody.”
Uncle Rolland and grandpa Ernie’s attitude is the same attitude I got from my mother. Coming from the depression days and having survived everything else, their attitude was to just put their head down and survive! “We always make do!” is my mother’s constant catchphrase.
That is a laudable and very common attitude for that generation. I also agree to have a forgiving attitude as it is part of my Christian faith. But that attitude is also what has successfully allowed the Progressive Left to create and sustain the Big Lie! We are bamboozled and bedazzled by the constant lies of the Progressives.
The pain of it is, congenital cataracts are now easily fixed with laser surgery on an outpatient basis. Nobody would dare dream of sterilizing somebody on the basis of congenital diseases now. But the damage is done.
I love my family, and my heart aches for the pain they have suffered at the hands of do-gooder elites who think they have the right to maim and kill children with not so much as a by-your-leave. Abortion is an abomination, and sterilization is a form of proactive abortion! Once the Progressives lost the Eugenics programs, they turned to abortion.
Let us remember the living legacy of the more than 60,000 people sterilized for our nation’s “well-being”. It is the least we can do for my beloved Aunts and Uncle.
Next Post: Eugenics and the Big Lie