"‘A Coldly Scientific Venture’: Unwed Mothers and the Eugenic Baby Panic"
Friday, March 30, 2018 - 3:35pm
155 Nicholson Hall
HSTM Alumni Lecture
Susan Rensing
Department of Women's & Gender Studies
University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh

In January of 1928, the New York World set off a firestorm of controversy with a front page story about a wealthy widow, Grace Burnham, who had “mated lovelessly” as a eugenic experiment. Newspapers rushed to seek out stories of other women who were conceiving eugenic babies by selecting a man purely for reproduction, not for marriage. Unlike the wholesome eugenic babies that won ribbons in Better Baby Contests at state fairs, these eugenic babies were portrayed as potential Frankensteins--creations of science run amok. Moral condemnation raged in editorials across the nation as experts weighed in with their opinions about this alarming trend. This talk will use the eugenic baby panic as a cultural lens to examine fears about science bereft of morality in the late 1920s and early 1930s.