Girl Power: Feminism and Class Stratification in the British Eugenics Movement

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Student Biography

Author: Luke Ulvestad Foley

Foley is a graduating senior in the class of 2016 from Silver Spring, Maryland. Foley is in the Maxwell School majoring in History and Citizenship & Civic Engagement. 

What interested you in this topic?

I first became interested in Eugenics during Professor Marhoefer’s Nazi Germany class in which we discussed the Nazi principle of rassenhygiene, or racial hygiene. 

What original research did you conduct?

To find out more about the British Eugenics movement, I turned to the British Periodicals database, as well as JSTOR, both of which provided me with journal articles, book excerpts, and memorandums written by British politicians, lobbyists, and feminists. 

Did you encounter any obstacles?

This wealth of resources made it initially difficult to choose a direction for the thesis, but I found the prominent commentary of women interesting, and decided to pursue feminism and eugenics. Because it was my senior seminar, the entire class was structured around the paper, which I found very helpful. The first half of the semester provided a comprehensive background on eugenics, while the second half allowed me to repeatedly revise the paper and incorporate the advice of Professor Marhoefer.

Professor Comments

Professor Laurie Marhoefer

This paper makes a unique contribution because it considers the class politics of British feminists’ involvement in eugenics. I was impressed by the research, the sophisticated analytical approach, and the quality of the writing. The history of eugenics is relevant today because we face similar issues with respect to biology and technology.

Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, 

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