Inspiration from Real-life, Heart-wrenching History

We Americans, like many other people, don’t like to acknowledge our less honorable moments. I found inspiration from real-life, heart-wrenching history while writing my novel, My Soul to Keep. I’m talking about Eugenics. Specifically, Negative Eugenics.

Negative eugenics is the type we associate with the Nazis. Unfortunately, America has a long, dark history of negative eugenics that pre-dates the Nazis’ use.

An Act to Regulate Immigration

It began in 1882 with the passage of “An Act to Regulate Immigration.” That act established criteria for allowing immigrants into the United States. The act included the right to deny any passengers entry into the country if they appeared to be lunatics, unable to care for themselves, or convicts.

The Father of Eugenics

Photograph of Sir Frances Galton, Darwin's cousin who coined the term eugenics part of my inspiration from real-life heart-wrenching history for my book, My Soul to Keep.
Sir Frances Galton, public domain image from Wikimedia Commons

Sir Francis Galton, Darwin’s cousin, coined the term eugenics in 1883. In it’s simplest form, eugenics means “well-born.” More to Galton’s concept, it meant “the science which deals with all influences that improve inborn qualities.” Galton studied the upper classes of Britain. He concluded that their social positions were due to their superior genes. Selective marriage was his recommendation. He hoped to end poor genetics by having more healthy and above average intelligence producing more children. This type of genetic manipulation is considered positive eugenics. Many countries practiced or encouraged positive eugenics. In the 1880’s, the United States was, like many other countries, afraid. There was a perceived degradation of society. People pointed to rising populations in prisons and institutions for the feeble-minded and predicted “racial suicide.”

The Laws

Connecticut was the first state in the U.S. to pass a eugenics-type law regulating marriage in 1896. It prohibited marriage for anyone who was epileptic, imbecile, or feeble-minded.

In 1887, Michigan became the first state to propose a law to sterilize criminals and the feeble-minded. The law did not receive enough support and did not pass.

The First Sterilizations

Dr. Albert Ochsner documented the first known vasectomy performed on criminals in 1899. He suggested sterilizing all hardened criminals to stop the procreation of criminals.

Photograph of Charles Davenport an American eugenicist who was part of my inspiration from real-life heart-wrenching history for my book, My Soul to Keep.
Charles Davenport, public domain image from Wikimedia Commons

In 1904, Charles Davenport, an American eugenicist, and biologist became the director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory located in Cold Spring Harbor, New York. He set up a biological experimentation station to study evolution through testing done on plants and animals. It was this research that eugenists used as a basis for and to support their research. Davenport eventually set up the Eugenics Record Office (ERO) in Cold Spring Harbor.

Indiana became the first place in the world to pass a sterilization law in 1907. Eugenics-based, it allowed for compulsory sterilization of institutionalized individuals who were “unfit to reproduce.” Shamefully, many states followed suit.

More Heart-Wrenching History To Come

I hope you’ve enjoyed this installment of my Inspiration series of posts. This is only the tip of the inspiration from real-life, heart-wrenching history I used in writing My Soul to Keep. Did you know about the practice of eugenics in American’t history? Next week, there will be more about sterilization laws, the ERO, who in America who supported eugenics, and the shocking length of time eugenics has been practiced in the US. Stay tuned for more Inspiration from Real Life Heart-wrenching History, Part II and learn how I used the inspiration. My Soul to Keep is available on Amazon, and many more online stores.

Glorious Mistakes or Wave of the Future?

Yikes! This week’s Mashup demonstrates to me that I’d better write faster. Some of my stories are about become reality – well, sort of. . . . I hope you enjoy these links. What do you think they are Glorious Mistakes or Wave of the Future?


Buck Gordon illustration
Buck Gordon illustration by Robert Burrows

If you’re ‘into’ space exploration, you already know about the success of Dragon, the privately funded and created space vehicle that successfully delivered supplies to the International Space Station a few weeks ago. This editorial I came across suggestions that Elon Musk may be the Howard Hughes of Space Exploration.
What a story idea!

In our lifetime! Tourists can take XCOR suborbital flights from Mojave, California beginning June 2014. If you could easily afford to buy a ticket on this rocket-plane, would you?


Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. Read about the Robot Fish! Do you think this might be a sign that humanoid robots interacting with humans is in our new future?

Did you know that there was a Registry of Eugenics in America? Learn more at the eugenics archive. Kind of creepy, huh? Eugenics is one of the subjects I explore in the novel I am revising, My Soul To Keep. But, you know what would be creepier? Eugenics in the future. This NY Times article talks about testing parents to map the genes of a fetus. What do you think?  Is gene mapping of a fetus the eugenics of the future?  Or will gene mapping lead to less suffering due to genetic mistakes?


I am saddened by the passing of Ray Bradbury. His books scared me, delighted me, painted pictures in my head, and inspired me. Here is an inspired tribute by William Orem, Farwell, Rocket Summer, one of the many, many tributes to this Grand Master of Science Fiction. What was your favorite book or story by Ray Bradbury?

This video of Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech is long at 19 minutes, but it is full of wonderful advice and inspiration about more than just writing, it’s advice on how to live a glorious life: Make Glorious Mistakes, Make Good Art. I encourage you to make time to listen to this.

Do you aspire to make Glorious Mistakes?

INSPIRATIONS offered by my WANA friends

Debra Eve‘s website, Later Bloomer is always full of inspiring stories of people who, later in life, followed their dream to success. This book review and introduction to later bloomer, Angela Artemis of Powered by Intuition, is no exception.  Be sure to read the comments as well for more inspiration.

Colin Falconer delves into history and finds a real-life disease that explains . . . vampires and Why Vampires Will Never Die. What reality do you think is behind the myth of the vampire?

On A Personal Note:

Since I launched this blog I have had more health and personal issues to deal with than stars in the sky. Okay, not really billions of problems, but a lot of things have come up and made blogging on a regular schedule difficult.  But the mistake would be to give up, for then I’d have to give up connecting with each of you.  And connecting with you is something I treasure.

Because of all the ‘lost’ time, not only am I behind on blogging but I am way behind on the revisions of my book, My Soul To Keep. With issues slowly resolving, I am focusing on getting that book done, which is why you’ve seen so few posts from me.

I am anticipating a change in day-job responsibilities at the end of the summer. It is my hope and prayer that this change will give me more time to write fiction and blog.

I hope you find inspiration in these links, that you will make Glorious Mistakes and Great Art. Please leave a comment and feel free to share a link where you’ve found inspiration or fascination. I love hearing from you! Just remember, only one link or you’re likely to end up in the spam can.