The Incorrigibles


The Incorrigibles

Eugenics and Sterilization in the Kansas Industrial School for Girls

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

238 pages
2 photographs, 1 illustration, 13 tables, 1 graph, index


October 2023


$60.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

October 2023


$60.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

October 2023


$60.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Between September 1935 and June 1936, sixty-two girls from a reformatory in north-central Kansas were sterilized in the name of eugenics. None of the girls were habitual criminals, had multiple children, were living on social welfare, or were found to have IQs below seventy; in other words, almost none of them fit the categories usually described by eugenicists as justification for sterilization or covered by Kansas’s eugenic sterilization law. Yet no one at the time—including the reform school superintendent who ordered the procedures performed—had trouble defending the sterilizations as eugenically minded. The general public, however, found the justifications significantly more controversial after the story hit the newspapers.

In The Incorrigibles Ry Marcattilio-McCracken interrogates the overlooked history of eugenics in Kansas. He argues that eugenics developed alongside Progressive social welfare reforms in public health, criminal deterrence, child welfare, and juvenile delinquency. Between 1890 and 1955, ideas about rural degenerationism and hereditarianism infused the mission of “progressive” reformers, who linked delinquency, incorrigibility, and immorality to inheritable traits. Marcattilio-McCracken shows how the era’s institutional overcrowding, landmark Supreme Court cases, and the economic downturn of the Great Depression contributed to the sterilization of the students from the Girls’ Industrial School in Beloit, Kansas.

Author Bio

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken is an associate director for research at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. He is also an adjunct professor of history at Oklahoma State University.


“An important contribution to the large corpus on eugenics but especially to the expanding niche of case studies of the application of eugenic ideas in particular contexts. Marcattilio-McCracken’s book provides a well-documented and contextualized case study that demonstrates how pseudoscientific theories of eugenics were reified into policy and translated into action, fundamentally altering the lives of innocent girls. Deemed ‘incorrigibles’ by the state, the girls were denied the ability to reproduce—a fundamental human right.”—Marsha L. Richmond, coeditor in chief of the Journal of the History of Biology

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
1. The Waters Must Be Purified at Their Source
2. To Stem the Ever-Increasing Tide
3. Deprived or Depraved?
4. September 1935–June 1936
5. Aftermath
6. The Beloit Case in Context

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