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Forced Sterilization and Race Suicide As tragic as Elaine Riddicks experience with a forced tubal ligation is, her

story is not unique. Thousands of women, and disproportionally women of color, were sterilized in her state of North Carolina alone between 1929 and 1974. This phenomon of forced sterilization was unfortunatly widely practiced as a result of relics of eugenic theachings and an effort to reduce the number of welfare recipients who were disproportionally minorities. During the 1960s and 70s, communities of color struggled with how to respond to the white, feminist movements push for legal abortions and access to birth control during a time when, in 1970 black women were sterilized at over twice the rate of white women (Nelson 67). The black community, in particular, experienced political and gendered division over how to combat forced sterilization in the context of the birth control, family planning, and abortion movements. With the increased militancy of the civil rights movement in the late 1960s and the rise of the Black Power movement, many aspects of Black Nationalist movements attempted to subjugate women as merely producers of soldiers for the movement, rather than capable participants (Nelson 57-58). Black feminists criticized Black Power men for failing to recognize that sexism often perpetuated inequalities among men and women that paralled the racism experiened by blacks (Nelson 59) and spoke out in favor of birth control and legal abortions attempting to empower themselves by fighting for both racial and gender equality. Many black feminists also differed from the white feminist movement. While white feminists wanted birth control to determine when it was convenient to have children, black feminists argued that women of color needed to

control their fertility so they could provide better care for their children and reduce poverty (Nelson 64). Although Black Nationalist men and black feminists differed in regards to gender roles, they were united in their vehement opposition to sterilization abuse of women of color. Some women of color experienced forced sterilization after a physician had agreed to preform an illegal abortion (Nelson 65), while others were pressured and coerced into a sterilization procedure or not informed at all, as in Riddicks case. In 1973, the case of Minnie Lee Relf, aged 12, brought mainstream attention to forced sterilization. Minnie, like Riddick, was deemed incompetent and given Depo-Provera to control her fertility. When the clinic she went to no longer administered that drug, her illiterate mother was asked to sign a consent form she understood to be a continuation of her daughters current treatment. Later, however, it was discovered that Minnie had been sterilized (Nelson 66). Cases such as Relf v. Weinberger and NWRO v. Weinberger, and Dolores Madrigal et al. v. E.J. Quilligan drew national attention to the issues of sterilization procedures performed disproportionally on women of color and women receiving welfare; seemingly indicating that some doctors pushed sterilization on women they deemed unworthy of the right to reproduce (Nelson 67). This attention also highlighted laws proposed in 13 states aimed at reducing the numbers of illigitimate children by mandating that a woman had to choose between losing her welfare or undergoing sterilization after her second child (Nelson 69). Where black feminists and Black Nationalist men were divided on this issue was in their response to the larger issue of fertility control.

Many groups such as the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam proclaimed that birth control clinics were tied up in the genocidal conspiracy of forced sterilization and were a plot by the white power structure to keep down the number of blacks (78). Thus, it was not until black women gained more prominent roles in these movements that such groups supported legal abortions. While black women largely supported access to birth control and legal abortion, few could support it without acknowledging the dangers of sterilization abuse (80) and advoated for stricter laws regulating sterilization procedures during a time when many white women had difficulty finding a doctor who would sterilize them (74). Furthermore, many black women and men argued that to achieve true reproductive freedom, women of color needed access to broader health care reforms that more affluent white women already enjoyed such as quality prenatal and postnatal care and adequate nutrition before they would accept family planning programs, which they argued were superfluous. . .when basic health care needs had not been met in poor communities (82). Many of the genocidal conspiracy theories that were circulated in regards to birth control, abortion, and family planning delayed the support of white feminists in the antisterilization campaign (100), as they negatively reacted to such conjecture. This delay in support further underscored the divide between the white and black feminists goals and understandings of what needed to chage to achieve equality. As black feminists eventually changed the rhetoric and goals of the militaristic civil rights movements, they brought their unique perspectives and obstacles to the mainstream feminist discourse, and eventually defeated much of the sterilization laws still on the books.

Working Women after the 19th Century As attitudes towards womens roles changed over the 19th and 20th centuries, more and more women were free to work outside the home. However, the flood of women in the working world had some unforseen consequences for poorer women in terms of labor rights and changes to working conditions, in addition to welfare. Some of these changes changes in attitude and risks in working conditions translate to today, as evidenced by the prevalence of women turning to clinical trials some with significant health risks not covered by insurance to make extra money while caring for their children. In the early 19th century, about 15% of households were headed by women (Clement 36), the main cause of which was widowhood due to the Yellow fever and cholera outbreaks. These women struggled to make ends meet and support their families due to the low pay typical of work reserved for women sewing and washing - and because factory work meant they could not care for their children all day (36). These women often had to turn to private charity or outdoor aid to survive. However, attitudes towards charity changed due to the teachings of Malthus, who taught that welfare increased the number of poor dependent on it (42), causing many public funds to be cut, increasing dependence on racially, religiously, and morally discriminatory private funds (44), Another factor influencing attitudes towards charity was Social Darwinism, which made the case that charitable contributoins encouraged laziness and argued on evolutionary grounds for a sexual division of labor that allocated. . .childcare to women (46). Thus, many private charities instituted rigorous acceptance criteria including race, religious beliefs, an upstanding moral character, and good childcare and sexual habits in

order to weed out lazy or unfit candidates (51). Additionally, a result of Social Darwinisms and the Cult of Domesticitys popularity, many private charities run by affluent and middle class women reinforced domesticity by training them exclusively for home work, such as plain sewing and domestic service (48) seemingly ignoring the fact that this line of work was not enough to support women and their children financially and that many home servant jobs permitted only one child to live with their mother. In this way, welfare programs of the time were limited by gender roles for women, and it became more and more difficult to obtain necessary assistance. When women did work in factories, they were faced with long hours, dangerous machinery, low wages, and harsh working conditions. Many labor and womens rights activists faught to improve these conditions as workers began to strike. One such famous indicent occurred in the Lowell, Massachusetts textile mills. The young women who were recruited to work and live at the mill were upset about unfair wages and long working hours (Robinson). In a landmark Supreme Court decision, Muller v. Oregon, the courts upheld a ten hour working day for women; largely a result of social attitides towards women as the bearers and rearers of children. The Supreme Court argued that a ten hour workday was necessary for women, as a health measure (Webster 16). Louis Brandeis, working as an attorney for the state of Oregon in the case, made many arguments about women and work using studies on fatigue, work environment, illness, and productivity. He contended that the noise, monotonous and rapid work that women experienced in the factory lead to fatigue on top of what they experienced due to long hours (Webster 10). Furthermore, poor ventilation and lighting, and the high humidity of many shops contributed to workers fatigue as well (11). Many advocates of a shorter

working day also posited that fatigue causes irritability and economic insecirty which leads him to attempt to deaden his fatigue by excesses of various kinds, such as tobacco, alcohol, exciting amusements (12), which would ruin the character of a worker, who needed legal reform rather than charity to cope. Studies were conducted that showed an increased output by female workers with shorter workdays even with the same equiptment and work environment (13). Proponents of the ten hour workday also argued that the number and time of accidents (15) decreased and workers were less susceptible to general and infectious diseases (16). Although the outcome of the Muller case provided women with a shorter working day, some feminists argued that it still reinforced gender stereotypes because so much of the decision was based on the fragility of women and the importance of their health relating to bearing and rearing children. However, the decision itself was a landmark case and did pave the way for future workplace reforms that kept all workers safe. Clearly, attitudes surrounding acceptable roles and work for women changed dramatically over the course of the 19th century. Welfare agencies inability to sufficiently provide for women drove many to work in urban areas. As more young women were recruited to work in the textile mills and factories, the issues surrounding their health and safety gained national attention. Similarly, the clinical trials many women engage in today out of economic necessity and to free their time to care for children, carry risks tied to the economic freedoms they provide.