Eugenics and Malaga Island
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CitationDavenport, Melissa. 2020. Eugenics and Malaga Island. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractIn 1912, the state of Maine removed a multi-race community from Malaga, a tiny island off its coast. The state paid some islanders to leave their homes, and institutionalized others. Contemporary researchers cite eugenics as a factor in the eviction. In 1925, Maine passed a eugenic law that allowed forced sterilization, nearly 13 years after the Malaga eviction. What happened before 1925 that would give eugenics, manifested in this extreme policy, a foothold in the state?
My research focused on primary, historical sources in law, medicine, and media. Maine poverty law, carried over from Elizabethan Poor Law, emphasized local town responsibility for the poor through legal settlement, which directly affected the Malaga Island eviction. Maine law regarding people with developmental disabilities emphasized state responsibility and made provisions for expansion of institutional care at the state level. Maine joined the push to create institutions to contain the feebleminded.
Maine Medical Association journals showed the arrival of hereditarian thought, including references to popular eugenic family studies. The journals also reflected the national trend toward state jurisdiction over public health. Newspaper articles described Malaga Island using eugenic language and pressed for state-level solutions. Government and institutional reports before and after the Malaga eviction used eugenic language and confirm eugenic goals of segregation. Therefore, based on this research, I concluded that legal, political, and social frameworks in Maine were hospitable to eugenic policy and actions by the time of the Malaga Island eviction.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365642