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Synopsis

During the last decades of her life, Victoria Woodhull claimed to be the first of either sex to promote eugenics throughout the United States and Great Britain. Even more surprising, she claimed to have been doing so in the early 1870s, three decades before the cause was taken up in earnest by Francis Galton, the eminent scientist that eugenists claim as their founder. It's obvious why eugenists have adjusted their history. Francis Galton was the respectable, well-bred, well-educated cousin of Charles Darwin. Victoria Woodhull was a twice-divorced woman of uncertain breeding and limited education, a woman with a reputation for sexual and political radicalism. Unfortunately, historians have followed the eugenists and credited Galton rather than Woodhull. This book investigates Woodhull's claim and presents evidence from her published speeches that she was right. She was speaking on eugenics to large audiences at least as early as 1871, and by the mid-1870s eugenics, which she called "stirpiculture" and "scientific propagation," formed a major part of speeches she was making across the United States and (after 1876) in Great Britain. By his own admission, Galton did not take up the cause until after 1900. This book includes one of her earliest speeches in favor of eugenics, newspaper reports of speeches from the 1870s, and five easily read facsimiles of speeches that until now were available only in a few research libraries. Even more important, what Woodhull said about eugenics appealed to the same two groups that would later support Margaret Sanger's birth control movement, wealthy and highly educated women. Her speeches and writings laid the eugenic foundation for the forced sterilization laws passed in over thirty states from 1907 on. When the U.S. Supreme Court declared such laws constitutional in 1927, the New York Times reported that Woodhull praised the decision and said she had "advocated that fifty years ago." This book has the full text of the printed edition of Lady Eugenist and has no digital rights management restrictions on the reader's ability to print or cut-and-paste.

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