The Influence of Gender Constructs on The Development of the American Eugenics Movement Between 1880 and 1940 Nationally and on Montana State Level: The Traditional American Family VS Modernizing Gender Roles
Wit, E. de
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Between 1880 and 1940, eugenics in America transformed into a national movement, with a distinction between positive and negative eugenics. At first, the American eugenics movement was based on racial issues and the fear of hybridization, but the concerns shifted towards degeneration and mongrelization of the American people through hereditary diseases and genetic deficiency. The construct of American gender roles had a very influential role in the development of the American eugenics movement. Gender structures changed between 1880 and 1940 on a national scale due to modernizing influences such as urbanization, industrialization, and immigration. Before, the American family had been the nucleus of society, but this notion was now threatened by people who attached importance to other values in life besides the family. Women were believed to be more virtuous than men; therefore it was their duty to raise their children but also to look after their husbands and their moral inclinations. Eugenicists were alarmed because if the traditional American family was no longer the cornerstone of society, then the progress of the American race was in danger. The eugenics movement was also present in Montana society. Here, gender constructs were not subject to as much change between 1880 and 1940 because urbanization and industrialization had considerably less impact in this rural state than in many other states in America. Because gender constructs remained traditional, eugenicists did not experience such a large threat with regards to the degeneration of Montana society. Within the negative eugenics movement, eugenics in rural areas such as Montana was generated from fears generated in the more urban areas, however positive eugenics flourished largely in rural areas because of the traditional gender roles of especially women.