Sunday, July 08, 2007


From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Following is an excerpt from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (8 July 2007) about Louise Jones, who was sterilized in 1950 at the Gracewood Training School in Augusta as a result of Georgia’s state-imposed sterilization program. Georgia’s involuntary sterilization law was signed into law in 1937 and came 30 years after Indiana’s, the country’s first. The Georgia law authorized a state Board of Eugenics to decide which inmates of mental institutions should be made unable to conceive.

Georgia’s law stayed on the books until 1970, when legislators mandated consent of a patient’s parent or guardian before any sterilization.

Records that Jones requested recently from the Georgia Department of Archives and History show that on May 29, 1950, the acting superintendent of Gracewood applied to the State Board of Eugenics to sterlize Jones, described as an “inmate of the Georgia training school for mental defectives.”

The application described her as a “mental defective, low grade moron” – a term at that time that was acceptable to describe someone with mild to moderate developmental disability.

The letter continued to say that "if released without sterilization," Jones "would be likely to procreate children who would have a tendency to serious mental or nervous disease or deficiency."

After leaving Gracewood in her early twenties, Jones married twice and was widowed both times. Both husbands had been at Gracewood, and both were also sterilized there.


At Gracewood, Jones shared a room with several other girls. She attended classes and worked in the kitchen, shucking corn, snapping beans, shelling peas and serving employees' plates.

She once tried to run away to see her mother in Milledgeville, but a nurse's husband saw her and picked her up. It would be years before she saw her mother again.

After a few months at Gracewood, Jones said, officials took her without warning to the infirmary, telling her she would have to have surgery to tie her Fallopian tubes.

Although some other applications to the eugenics board from the time described patients as "oversexed" or having a "sexual perversion," Jones' file does not indicate that the surgery was justified because of any sexual activity.

The board approved the application on June 13, 1950. Because her mother was institutionalized and her father was dead, notification went to the solicitor general of Henry County.

Jones said she "wanted a baby bad," but she put up no argument.

"Down there you didn't have no says-so," she said. "You couldn't just go up and say 'I don't want to be sterilized.' In their mind, you need it."

Both brothers at Gracewood were also sterilized, she said.

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Like several other states, Georgia has expressed regret over its involuntary sterlization policies.

An exhibit called "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race," on display at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through August 10, explores the link between the eugenics movement that sterlized Jones and thousands of others in the United States - and the Holocaust that killed millions in Germany and Poland.

The exhibit, which draws on 40 archival sources from around the world, features original artifacts, photographs and Holocaust survivor testimony. On loan from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, it is co-sponsored by the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum.