Eugenic feminist ideas in Canada as elsewhere crossed a broad spectrum, from birth control to sexual sterilization of the so-called “unfit,” but all these ideas were represented with reference to the “natural” disposition of women to have the best interests of the society at heart: not self-preservation but “race” preservation; not personal advancement but the advancement of the “race.” (Cecily Devereux; Salon.com)
This example above illustrates but one of the numerous arguments that aligned – disturbingly, for a modern audience – notions of feminism and eugenics that were rampant in North America at the beginning of the 20th century.
In other words, “Some feminists found a good fit in eugenics in part because of the strong correlation between cleaning up as an ideologically feminine impulse and practice and eugenic ideas of mental, moral, social, and “racial” hygiene.” (Cecily Devereux)
Social Darwinism was a belief held by many prominent suffragists, including Dr. Emily Stowe and Nellie McClung. How will this impact Dr. Augusta Stowe-Gullen, and Flora MacDonald Denison? We begin to dig deeper into this controversial side of early Canadian feminist politics and see how that colours our perspective on the social advances these women made.
As we now know too well, such ideas about ‘racial hygiene’ only gained traction in America in the 20s, and eventually influenced a few notorious individuals to the point where 6 million Jews were murdered a few decades later.