Targeting America's Defectives: the Exclusion of Deaf People from State Sterilization Programs

ID: 3087
School: School of Arts and Humanities
Program: History
Status: Ongoing
Start date: January 2016
End Date: October 2022


Harry H. Laughlin, best known as the expert on sterilization in the United States, drafted a model sterilization law for states to consider adopting. Laughlin identified people with deafness as a target for sterilization. However, none of the states that adopted sterilization laws in the United States included the deaf on the list. What is the rationale for leaving deaf people out of state eugenic programs? Why was deafness, a condition typically a category eligible for sterilization, never actually in the law? This project seeks to explore the processes of excluding deaf people, and its rationale, as a target of sterilization.

Principal investigators

Priorities addressed

Funding sources

Approved Products


Brian H. Greenwald, Erin Timberlake, and Tammy Wilson. "Deaf Education During the American Eugenics Movement: A Preliminary Analysis and Case Studies from CSD - Berkeley" Virtual Presentation April 21, 2021.

Scholarship and creative activity


Greenwald, Brian H. "Two Centuries of Deaf Education and Deaf Agency in the United States" in Discussing Bilingualism in Deaf Children: Essays in Honor of Robert Hoffmeister" Eds. Charlotte Ennis, Jonathan Henner, and Lynn McQuarrie. New York: Routledge Press, 2021, pp. 3-16.