Eugenics and the Brandon Training School

Dublin Core


Eugenics and the Brandon Training School


intellectual disability
institutions for intellectually disabled people


The Vermont Eugenics Survey and the Vermont State School for Feeble-Minded Children were deeply intertwined. The School opened in Brandon in 1915, serving so-called "feeble-minded" children aged 5-21. Due to eugenicists' concerns that so-called "feeble-minded" women were reproducing at alarming rates, the institution increased the age of admission for female inmate to 45 years in 1919. When the Vermont Eugenics Survey formed in 1925, one of its first undertakings was a pedigree study of persons on the waiting list for the Vermont State School. The Eugenics Survey, though a private organization headed by University of Vermont Professor Henry Perkins, exerted an inordinate influence over all of Vermont's state institutions throughout its years of operation, which ended in 1936.


Holly Allen, Middlebury College


Middlebury College




Gilly Moore, Matt Donohue, Harman Singh



Collection Items

Brandon Training School Memorial Marker
Unclaimed bodies of deceased persons at the Brandon Training School were buried in a special section of the Pine Hill Cemetery across the road from the institution. After the institution was closed, a memorial was erected in memory of those…

"State Unable to Care for All of its Feeble-Minded," Burlington Daily News, Friday, February 11, 1921, p.1-2.
Opened in 1915 and expanded to include “adult feeble-minded women of child-bearing age” in 1918, the Vermont State School for Feeble-Minded Children was perennially overcrowded. In the heyday of eugenic ideology, this led to newspaper reports such…

“Sterilization Bill Called State Need," Rutland Daily Herald, Wednesday, March 9, 1927, p. 2.  Retrieved from
In support of the sterilization bill, one Vermont State Senator asserted that “the children of the feeble-minded ‘breed like rats’ … and become public charges.” He predicted, “we shall reach the point where we cannot afford to give our bright…

“Reports Problems of the Feeble-Minded More Serious Than Generally Realized,” Burlington Free Press, January 27. 1941, p. 2. Retrieved from
Even as eugenic ideology began to wane nationally in the 1930s, Vermont eugenicists such as Lillian Ainsworth continued to insist “that the problem of feeble-mindedness in this state is far more serious than the average person realizes.” She…

"Vermont's Mental Disease Picture One of Worst in Country," Burlington Free Press, April 1, 1947.  Retrieved from
The 1940s were a tumultuous time for public psychiatric hospitals and training schools both in Vermont and throughout the nation. In this article, psychiatrist Frederick C. Thorne raises the alarm about Vermont's particularly dire mental health…

Site plan for the Brandon Training School campus, as of 1980.
This site plan shows how large the Brandon State School had become by 1980. A point of interest is the arrangement of dormitories according to inmates' ages and degree of impairment. For example, women deemed to have the most significant…

"The Care of the Handicapped" (1931)
The Vermont Commission on Country Life was an offshoot of the Vermont Eugenics Survey, and it was Henry Perkins who submitted this chapter of the book, Rural Vermont. In a concluding section titled "The Eugenic Aspects," Perkins writes, "Eugenics .…

Biennial Report of the Superintendent of the Vermont State School for Feeble-Minded Children for the term ending June 30, 1924.
In the Biennial Report for 1922-1924, Superintendent Truman J. Allen stressed the need for "hereditary defectives" to "go to institutions and remain there as long as necessary" to prevent them "from transmitting [their] decadent stock" (14). It is…

Outline of Proposed Long-Term Building Program for Brandon Training School from the Committee for Mental Health Meeting 1946
A report of the current and planned uses of dormitory buildings in 1946. To be used for future planning purposes.
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