CRUEL AND UNUSUAL: EUGENICS IN THE INDIANA STATE REFORMATORY, 1899-1909
Description of the video:
Hi everyone. My name is Admiral S. Wieland and I'm going to be talking about my haystack Scholars Project for the 20192020 year cruel and unusual eugenics in the Indiana State reformatory, 1899 to 1909. To start us off, I'm going to introduce myself again. I'm Admiral. I'm a second year PhD student in US history at Indiana University Bloomington and my pronouns, are they, them and theirs. Before coming to Indiana University, I received my Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, where I majored in Gender and Women's Studies, minored in African-American studies, and received the LGBTQ studies certificate while they're in 2016. I started on my current research path of eugenics programming in the American Midwest during the progressive era, roughly 1890 to 1920. When I chose to attend Bloomington, I decided to situate my field of study in Indiana, which became the first state in the nation to enact eugenic sterilization legislation in 1907. In my US history seminar class in the spring of 2019, I found Dr. Harry C. Sharp, who had been the head physician at the Indiana State reformatory and Jefferson Ville, Indiana from 1896 until 1909. While in that role, he personally sterilized 456 male inmates through surgical intervention with eugenic justifications. I knew through my previous research that men are often not seen as victims, though they also experienced forcible eugenic sterilization. And that the story of eugenic programming is often seen through a medical lens rather than a punitive one. Recognizing that I had found a population and place which epitomized gaps in the current historiography. I decided to pursue research about the vasectomized men at the Indiana State reformatory. For pre dissertation research. I became familiar with the HASTAC Scholars Program by attending a presentation by Dr. Kalani Craig, co-director of the Institute for Digital Arts and Humanities and a faculty member of the History Department here at IU Bloomington. I was inspired to think critically about how I could start using these kinds of methodologies and my research and decided to apply to the program. Originally, I proposed starting a mapping project which could help us visualize geographical distributions of Indiana's eugenically sterilized population. However, after the fall 2019 semester started, one of my mentors here at Bloomington, dr. maria B64, encouraged me to reach out to a colleague of hers in Indianapolis, Dr. Elizabeth Nelson. Dr. Nelson has been asked to continue the research done by the Indiana eugenics legacy project for the centennial of Indiana's eugenic sterilization law in 2007. This work would include rebuilding and restructuring publicly accessible websites which held the results of the project's findings, as well as conducting new research. After speaking with Dr. Nelson, we decided it would be ideal for me and a small group of students also researching Indiana eugenics history to assist with that larger legacy project while also being able to conduct our own research. This was an opportunity I couldn't pass up, and that Dr. Craig fully supported. In the late fall of 2019, the state of Indiana officially clarified language into legislation regulating access to medical information from individuals within Indiana State institutional systems. According to Vicki cast steel and archivist at the Indiana State Archives, who participated in the first incarnation of the Indiana eugenics legacy project. >> The rule, as it is currently interpreted, is that researchers can access medical records and patient files with permission from a governing body such as an institutional review board through HIPAA, if the requested documents were created within a 50-year timeframe from when the request is made. After the 50 years has expired, the documents are sealed and accessible only to the patient and immediate family unless the researchers are granted official permission from the patient or the patient's family. Given this new ruling, the continuation of the Indiana eugenics legacy project is currently on indefinite hold. This development forced me to rethink my project. The one piece of good news to come out of this was assurance from cast steel that because I'm working with a Correctional Institution population, I would still have access to inmates administrative files which would contain some medical information, but not all. Additionally, she assured me that the archives has a list of inmates who were sterilized from the Indiana State reformatory after the January haystack meeting where we talk through peer and faculty feedback on our project charters. I felt more confident and restructuring my project to fit my own research. The digital humanities methods most interesting to me were database construction, mapping and data mining. I intended to use information from the administrative files to begin painting a picture of who the victims of the reformatory sterilization program were. And if there are any discernable patterns to that data, for example, where there are large samples from a particular geographical area. Were there large samples from particular demographic categories such as ethnicity, religion, housing situation, or education level. These are all questions that haven't yet been fully explored and the existing historiography. I was able to begin some of this work after being sent some preliminary documents and files cast steel had in her own collection from her work on the Indiana eugenics legacy project. One of these documents included note, she had taken her record book, which is not currently digitized, record of the Board of Managers of the Indiana State reformatory, 1904 to 1908, dv 28. Volume to these notes are fragmented and incomplete, but they do contain a list of surnames, an inmate numbers from men selected for sterilization at the reformatory by sharp. Using these two pieces of data, I search the Indiana archives and records administration digital archives, which provide historical institution records for 16 state run facilities, including the reformatory. These records held inmates full names, information about their crimes and sentences when and if they were released or transferred. From this information, I compiled a database which includes 65 men approved for sterilization and 21 men who were nominated but had no corresponding approval. And cast steels notes, this is a total of 86 inmates, if sharp sterilized 456 men between 18991909 and if those 21 men were ultimately approved for sterilization by the board, I potentially have information for almost 20% of sharps victims. However, the Indiana State Archives had been closed to the public and definitely since Governor Eric Holcomb stay-at-home order in mid-March. Once I am able to return to the archives and continue this work and after verifying the data I currently have to the historical records, I intend to use an arc GIS mapping program in order to plot the information of where victims originated inside and outside the state. I also intend to explore tools to best analyze my data to reveal possible patterns buried in the hundreds of files I'll be collecting Right now. I'm most curious what Gephi or a Python-based solution could look like. Well, this year brought many unforeseen obstacles of which we're still feeling the effects. I can say that Dr. Craig, Sarah Duke, and the entire staff at the Institute of digital arts and humanities have provided unending support and helped me adapt in the face of these challenges. Through the haystack Scholars Program, I have learned about several digital humanities methods that will not only enhance and add new dimension to my personal research, but will help contribute something new to the existing historiography and the field of public knowledge of the subject. I would also like to thank Dr. Judith Allen and Maria book were from Indiana University Bloomington. Dr. Elizabeth Nelson from IU PUI, Vicki cast steel and the Indiana State Archives. And finally, my fellow haste occurs at Indiana University Bloomington. Thank you to each of you for your knowledge, assistance, and encouragement throughout this year. And thank you for your time.
• Image Credit: “Harry Clay Sharp,” Indiana Disability History Project,
• Harry C. Sharp, “Vasectomy as a Means of Preventing Procreation in Defectives,” Journal of the American Medical Association LIII, no. 23 (December 1909), 1899.
• Lutz Kaelber et al., “Eugenic Sterilizations in Indiana,” Eugenics: Compulsory Sterilization in 50 American States, University of Vermont, accessed September 18, 2019, http://www.uvm.edu/%7Elkaelber/eugenics/IN/IN.html.
• Vicki Casteel, Notes from Record of the Board of Managers of the Indiana State Reformatory, 1904-1908 (DV28, Vol. 2), Accessed March 2020, Indiana State Archives, Indianapolis.