WHAT NORTH CAROLINA DID TO THESE WOMEN
From 1929 to 1974, North Carolina saw the forced sterilization of young white
and Black poor women, some as young as 13 and 14, as the "self direction of
human evolution," according to a newspaper editorial cartoon of the time.
Incredibly, no less that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Virginia's eugenics program in 1927. Researchers say that state deliberately used forced sterilizations to "preserve white racial purity.
What it was, in fact, was a state-sponsored attempt to control certain segments of the indigent populations, using mental illness, physical maladies, anti-social behavior, sexual promiscuity, or even homosexuality as the reason.
"Some people requested sterilization, but many of them were forced against their will," the 2004 NCDHHS Eugenics Study Committee Report noted. "In some cases, victims were children as young as 10 who had no knowledge or understanding of the procedure."
North Carolina's eugenics program is being chronicled and examined in an exhibit titled
"Why Me?" at the N.C. Museum of History. The exhibit will then travel the state, starting in August.
Nial Cox Ramirez, 59, Elaine Riddick, 53, and Mary Frances English, in her early fifties, are three of the over 7,600 people subjected to the state-sponsored sterilizations, who shared their painful story with a museum audience during the exhibit's unveiling on June 19.
In Ramirez's words to the museum audience:
It's wrong to take away what God gave me because they through I was
feebleminded. I worked at the hospital for twelve years. How could I be
I took care of myself. I took care of my daughter. But they said I'm
Ramirez was one of the first to come forward publicly and tell how, in 1965, at the age of 17, the Washington Country Dept. of Welfare forced her to be sterlized the day after she had her first and only child. If she didn't, according to Ramirez, the social worker told her that her family would be kicked off welfare. In 1973m Ramirez tried to sue the state for what had been done to her, but the case was thrown out on a technicality.
A sterilization compensation bill which was filed in 2003, and would pay $50,000 in compensation to each verified eugenic survivor, remains stuck in the House Apprporiations Committee.
Whilst money will not make Rameriz, Riddick and English feel better, they say "we should be compensated for what we've been through."