Kennedy, Angie C. "Eugenics,“degenerate girls,” and social workers during the progressive era."

The Impact of the American Eugenics Movement on Urban Residents during the Progressive Period

The purpose of this essay is to assess how the American Eugenics Movement affected urban residents' quality of life during the progressive period. As Americans sought to lessen and eventually eliminate social problems, eugenics became more and more popular during the progressive period. Eugenics sought to identify individuals with desirable personality traits, foster their survival and prosperity, and restrict that of individuals with undesirable personality traits. Social workers' duty in the progressive period was to spot those who possessed the desired characteristics and encourage them to start families. The social workers were also responsible for making sure that those who were socially unsuitable did not have any children. When determining the unfit, the social workers mostly focused on the adolescent and young adults who are poor and non-Anglo-Saxon living in the urban areas. Thus, I think that eugenics had adverse effects on the urban dwellers during the progressive era.

Faking of Identities

First, the urban dwellers were forced to fake their identities. Considering the heredity degeneration theory that posits that children can inherit bad traits from their parents, people are forced to drop their true character seeking to be what the society needs. For example, those from the criminal lineage had to struggle to be upright seeking to impress the social workers.

Increased Immorality

Again, immorality increased among the urban dwellers. Considering that the non-Anglo-Saxons were not allowed to have children, they were forced to cohabit with the whites so that their children would be considered fit in the society. As a result, the Whites and the Anglo-Saxon flooded in the urban areas reaching out for the non-Anglo-Saxons, as they were readily available for manly satisfaction.


In addition, urban dwellers especially the immigrants felt stigmatized. The feeling that they were not needed in propagating a socially moral community generated a feeling of worthlessness in them. In addition, the feeling that the urban dwellers were a race suicide threat propagated enmity between the whites and the immigrants. The whites perceived the immigrants as dangerous, which fostered the immigrants' stigmatization.

Considered Feebleminded

Furthermore, the urban dwellers were considered feebleminded. They were described to be morally, socially, and mentally deficient. This generalization robbed the urban dwellers the pleasure of life. It lowered their self-esteem, and they considered themselves good for nothing. For the girls and women living in the urban areas, their desire to have children was cut short, as they were considered the mothers to the illegitimate.

Rise of Lesbianism

Moreover, adolescent girls and young mothers were considered as prostitutes. As a result, men were not willing to associate with girls and women in the urban areas, which fostered lesbianism among urban dwellers. Only a woman would understand what a fellow woman was going through and finally, the women coupled.

Increase in Young Single Mothers

Again, the rates of young single mothers among the urban dwellers increased. The perception that the urban women dwellers were unfit to raise moral families scared men away. As a result, the women and young girls became desperate in life, and they were comfortable with bearing children and raising them singlehandedly. For them that had already got married, rates of divorce increased, and the women were forced to raise their children without men support.


Therefore, eugenics in the Progressive era degenerated girls living in the urban areas. Young girls were considered unfit to raise health and moral families. As a result, men lost interest in the young girls who reside in the urban areas, which adversely influenced the character traits of such girls. Eventually, young girls gave up on struggling to maintain moral uprightness, as the social workers would not consider them fit.

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