University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

History of Science and Technology/Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science Colloquium

Friday, March 30th 2018
Speaker: Susan Rensing, Department of Women's & Gender Studies, University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh
Subject: HSTM Alumni Lecture - "‘A Coldly Scientific Venture’: Unwed Mothers and the Eugenic Baby Panic"
Refreshments served at 3:15 p.m.

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.

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