Eugenics in the community : the United Farm Women of Alberta, public health nursing, teaching, social work, and sexual sterilization in Alberta, 1928-1972
This dissertation examines the historical relationship between eugenics, the United Farm Women of Alberta (UFWA), and the gendered professions of teaching, public health nursing, and social work in Alberta. In the wake of the Leilani Muir trial, scholarship on Alberta’s Sexual Sterilization Act (1928-1972) has tended to centre on male medical professionals, and the largely male run provincial psychiatric institutions. When a female is mentioned she tends to be someone in a position of power, including members of the Famous Five whose feminism and support for eugenic thought have often been viewed as incompatible. The historiography has consequently constructed an image in which male medical professionals, and a few exceptional women controlled the reproductive rights of largely female patients, overlooking the women that served on the program’s frontlines. By recasting the province’s eugenic sterilization program within a broader public health framework, and focusing on the UFWA, teachers, public health nurses and social workers, this dissertation not only provides a more comprehensive understanding of how the legislation functioned at the ground level, but also challenges prevailing ideas about maternalism, feminism, women’s professional work, and eugenics in Canada. It offers an alternative reading of eugenics in Canada by moving beyond formal institutions to the significant role played by gendered political organizations and health, welfare, and education professionals in the community. The Canadian mental hygiene and eugenics movements, which were fundamentally connected, provided them with an opportunity to maintain and extend their authority, and to meet their political and professional goals. The gendered, classed, and ethnic stereotypes that defined public nursing, teaching, and social work allowed them to define a niche for themselves within the eugenics program, but also limited the extent to which they operated as authorities of mental hygiene and eugenic science.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
CommitteeKorinek, Valerie; Horwitz, Simonne; Dickinson, Harley
Copyright DateDecember 2014